Located in WestQuay, Cabana, the home of Rio’s street food, is amongst the best restaurants in Southampton that provides a cultural experience for all food lovers.
From the moment you enter Cabana, you’re hit by the beautiful Brazilian aromas that flow from the open kitchen and through the whole of the restaurant.
What we love about Cabana is its communal set-up and how they encourage customers to enjoy the Brazilian experience in a family environment. Everywhere you look, there are more inventive pieces like their striking lampshades that is made of summer straw hats glued together. When you look up, you will spot an array of colourful wine bottles stacked together and forming a neat visual aesthetic.
The restaurant has a strong South American spirit around you.This amazing atmosphere is complemented by the friendly customer service which persists throughout the entire experience. In the centre of the restaurant, there is an open bar with the neon-lighted blazoned words ‘Caipirinha Bar.’ With high-cushioned stools and a great open view to witness cocktails being made for you, we believe Cabana is the perfect place to chill and meet up with friends.
The restaurant also features its own swing area inside for those who want to try something different and sip their cocktails there!
Our favourite feature is the fantastic open balcony with wooden chairs and cushions that overlooks WestQuay, the fountain, the Sky View Observation Wheel in Bargate and the castle ruins. Because Cabana is located at the secluded side of WestQuay, the restaurant feels more private, in its own world of Brazilian culture.
Cabana offers a wide range of drinks suited for all, including non-alcoholic refreshing tropical drinks often mixed with their homemade tea! For those who like a simple, classic drink, we tried the Agua Fresca, which is an ice-cold passion fruit and mint infused spring water drink. It had a refreshing cool cucumber minty taste and was a great drink to kickstart the day.
Cabana seems to encourage an all-year round summertime vibe with their drink selections and brings a summery, calming atmosphere to their restaurant. It’s as if you are relaxing by the sea on a warm day, which is fitting, since ‘Cabana’ literally translates to a cabin or a hut at a beach.
Cabana’s drinks selections include a line of tasty cocktails. We asked the staff for Cabana’s popular cocktails and settled it down to two flamboyant cocktails; the sweet and flavoursome Jungle Fever, a fabulous golden-amber drink with gummy worms, and the Island Life, which balances sweet and refreshing flavours with a kick of Russian vodka in an artificial coconut cup.
These drinks fall under their 2 for £12 option when you order the same drink, while another range of cocktails falls under their 2 for £10 option. Soon, they will be offering 40% off cocktails on Monday and Tuesdays. A brilliant bargain!
What we like about Cabana is that they offer meat, vegetarian, and vegan dishes. However, we would like Cabana to introduce more variety to their main dishes, though they serve various vegetarian and vegan side dishes.
We tried the Flame-grilled Chicken Skewer that were three 24-hour marinated chicken thighs, which were then grilled and added with the Superkick Spicy Malagueta, the highest spice level. We felt it wasn’t hot enough and the chicken was a little dry, but the spicy taste was delightful! We were slightly disappointed with the presentation of the salad, so it could have been improved with more variety of vegetables. However, the chips had an excellent seasoning that pulled out the interesting flavours when combined with the chicken. Overall, it was a tasty dish!
The Guavacue Wings were tender chicken wings coated in a sweet and sticky barbecue sauce before flame grilled. Despite having small burnt patches, it is worth it for the gorgeous smokey flavour. This was accompanied by a side of Biro-Biro Rice.
The Churrasco Fried Chicken Wrap that was filled with lettuce, red onions, freshly cut avocado, coconut slaw and mayo as well as a side dish of sweet potato fries. If you are a picky eater, you will still end up liking this meal as it had a mixture of flavours and was filling.
The vegetarian Chargrilled Halloumi Burger was a juicy marinated halloumi sitting with a mix of portobello mushrooms with Rio beans, salad, matchstick crisps, mayo and drizzled with chimichurri green sauce between soft buns. We felt that the halloumi could have been sliced a little thinner, but the vegetables really pulled the burger together. This was accompanied with side dishes of the mouth-watering Churrasco Onion Rings that was peppered with spices and herbs, and the delectable cool slaw topped with coconut flakes – we highly recommend.
The Chimichurri Grilled Cauliflower was served on a bed of quinoa with roasted peppers and almond drizzle that was accompanied with a side dish of white rice. This healthy, vegan dish is for those who want to try something different.
Finally, we ended the day with a taste of four different desserts. We highly recommend the deliciously tasty Vegan Coconut and Chocolate Ice Creams that was surprisingly scrumptious! We had the Brazilian Overload sundae that has chocolate chip and vanilla ice creams with velvety chocolate fudge balls topped with smooth caramel sauce filled with lots of flavour! The third dessert was the appetising crispy Caramel Churros with a caramel dipping sauce, which we discovered was too sweet for us! Lastly, we had the Amazon Chocolate Cake topped with caster sugar and a drizzle of warm caramel sauce. It was a very sweet, dense chocolate cake and it seemed a little pricey for one slice, but it was filling.
Cabana also understand the struggles of student life, so they offer a 20% off food with a valid student or NUS card.
By Bhinduka Yokalingham & David R Mincer
Photography by Georgina Smith & Akash Beri