PETER MARTINI discovers it's green for go at Vaqueiros, York

GREEN for go, red for no thanks I’m about to have a heart attack.

That’s pretty much what you need to remember when visiting Vaqueiros, the Brazilian eatery which opened at the bottom of Micklegate at the end of last year to bring a new dining experience to York.

For eatery, read meatery. Fundamentally, this place is a steakhouse, but not the normal kind, rather a traditional Brazilian Rodizio (or cowboy food).

Here, meat is cooked in a churrasco style (barbecue grill) on site and offered bountifully to diners throughout their meal. And we do mean bountifully. As much as your cholesterol levels can handle, for £24.95 a head at dinner, or £11.95 (Monday-Thursday)/£14.95 (Friday-Sunday) at lunch. That includes an excellent all-you-can-eat buffet salad bar too, for a bit of much-needed leafage.

The green and red comes into it via cards given to diners. One side is green and the other red. Leaving your card green up means you’d like more meat whereas red means you’re having a breather, are finished or are about to have a cardiac arrest.

Passadores (meat-wielding waiters) walk around the restaurant with skewers of various types of cuts and, upon seeing green, slice a piece for you at your table.

They’ll tell you what meat it is, and how it’s been cooked. If you don’t want that cut, just wait a short while for the next chap. It’s all very relaxed and welcoming. You can even request the meat to be more raw or more well done on their next visit.

The meats are varied as well – 16 of them in fact, including eight cuts of beef. The quality was decent too, and the food is apparently sourced locally, which is good.

The sirloin steak was my least favourite – tasty enough but a bit chewy. The chicken in bacon was a nice change from the red meat but a bit too bacony, especially for the red wine we’d opted for.

The rump steak, though, was very good, the chicken was barbecued well, and the chilli steak was perfectly cooked and with just the right amount of kick. That was Mike’s favourite. The lamb, too, went down a bit too well for the old trouser belt.

The venison was my pick – really tasty and succulent. I wish I’d had more of this before getting too full. The chicken heart was lovely too – a flavoursome cross between heart and, er, chicken.

This Rodizio is no place for a vegetarian. There is the aforementioned salad bar – fresh and varied it is too – but several of these dishes have meat in. There’s even a few meat stews here and some dry salted cod. You can also get chargrilled veg on a skewer, but, for £25, veggies aren’t going to get their money’s worth, even if the rest of us do.

The staff won extra bonus points from us at the salad bar, though. Mike had wanted another helping of one of the dishes (Brazilian pulled chicken croquette I think) but it needed replenishing. A member of the kitchen staff, already on with restocking the main tray, went to the trouble of bringing a bowl over to our table too.

Talking of staff, the passadores were very efficient, while Georgina, who showed us to our seats, explained how it all worked and helped us with our drinks too.

Talking of which, there is a decent enough wine list. There are five whites (from £16 to £30), two rose (£16 or £18) and a few sparkling, from a £20 prosecco to an £80 Perrier Jouet. It would seem more appropriate to go for red though, and there are 13 from which to choose.

If you’re feeling flush, the priciest is a 2005 Amarone Classico, that kingly tipple from Italy, at £75. (It was spelt Amaroni on the menu but we can call that the Brazilian way.)

There is a rare Brazilian wine (a Tannat at £29) and a few Malbecs from neighbouring Argentina which traditionally pair with steaks, while the cheapest bottle was a Valdivieso Merlot from Chile (£18).

On a budget, we went with the £16 house carafe and couldn’t complain – a meat-friendly Montepulciano from Italy.

There are also cocktails to choose from, including Brazilian ones, and, in addition to the two draught lagers (Sagres and Amstel) there are three Brazilian beers in among the bottles.

Oh, and there’s pudding too – homemade Brazilian desserts – not that we could manage one.

One downside for us, albeit perhaps appropriate for a meatery, is this part of town suffers on a weekend from the occasional drunken meathead, stag or hen. Right on cue, a bit of fisticuffs rolled past the windows as we ate.

Obviously this is no slight on the venue itself, which is bright and airy, with music at the right volume and enough going on to keep you entertained.

One imagines it’s pretty authentic too. Co-owner Richard Beal is York-based but he’s collaborated with head chef Eduardo Caetano, a Brazilian who was keen to bring a taste of his heritage to the York food scene.

We’ll certainly be back, even if it means avoiding all red meat for a fortnight beforehand to prevent angina.

Vaqueiros, 1 Micklegate, York

Tel: 01904 622737


Food: succulent 4/5

Service: welcoming 5/5

Ambience: okay 3/5

Value: very good for meateaters (especially at lunch) 4/5