Review: Prima Donna, Brixton

I’m pretty sure you can eat your way around the world in Brixton Market. Whatever floats your culinary boat, be …

Prima Donna’s vegetarian escondidinho

I’m pretty sure you can eat your way around the world in Brixton Market. Whatever floats your culinary boat, be it Jamaican, Mexican, Italian, Thai or Pakistani, all you need do is pick a country and you’ll soon be tucking into it’s flavours. Or at least a perfectly decent south London take on them.

Prima Donna in Market Row is flying the flag for Brazilian fare and invited us down to check out their recent revamp. We took took a seat outside, primed to enjoy an unexpectedly – and appropriately – warm late summer’s evening.

Inside the restaurant itself the décor is clean and sharp, with newly added Brazilian-themed murals and red dangling pompoms adding that burst of colour. It definitely looks an enticing option for a casual caipirinha and a bite of South America.

The “clean and sharp” interior of Prima Donna

The evening menu is in three parts – small dishes, house specialities and salads. The small dishes range from skewers to rib croquettes, and you can opt for an individual plate, or a set price option of one or two dishes accompanied by a salad and a side.

Marketing itself as “Brazilian inspired”, this part of the menu hits that nail loosely, with only some dishes with a clear Brazilian influence. On the plus side there’s something for everyone, albeit minimal options for vegetarians who are limited to a pumpkin and ricotta tortellini. As nice as this sounds it isn’t inspired by any part of Brazil I know, so being vegetarian I looked elsewhere on the menu for my Brazilian fix.

The three house specialities are all Brazilian. Bingo. We chose two out of the three – I went for the vegetarian escondidinho (meaning “little hidden one”) and my meat-eating friend chose the chargrilled beef back ribs.

The chargrilled beef back ribs

Brazilians love their food and Prima Donna embraces this. The portion sizes are not for the faint-hearted and the plates are a meat lover’s dream. The impressive chargrilled beef back ribs were plentiful and, my friend confirmed, held their grill flavour throughout. They came with a tasty mollo de churrasco sauce (or smokey BBQ for those newbies on the Brazilian block) and a handful of cassava chips, which were definitely enough considering the size of the ribs. The sauce, my friend reports, pulled the dish together and added a great kick.

The vegetarian escondidho looked the part, with a layer of garlic infused vegetables hidden among two layers of potato. The flavours were there but thinner layers of potato would have given this carb-celebration a helping hand, and an accompanying sauce may have eased the overload. But it was refreshing to see a vegetarian take on a traditional dish.

We ended our meal with a slice each of the two homemade cakes on offer – a rich chocolate coconut and a mixed berry. Splashed with cream they were indulgent, rustic and followed suit from the main course to ensure we left feeling like we’d been fed-up by a Brazilian grandma, or more accurately the Brazilian influenced, half-Portuguese, half-Venezuelan hospitable Maurillo, and his equally welcoming team.

Relaxed, friendly and right in the thick of the cool market vibe, if you fancy a good Brazilian, Prima Donna is worth a go. You definitely won’t leave hungry.

Words and photos: Isla Gray

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Prima Donna, 25-27 Market Row, Brixton, SW9 8LD.

Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Around £25 per head, with wine.

Below the River rating: 7/10

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