For one month only, London’s Amazónico is taking guests on a journey along the Amazon with an exclusive menu created by internationally acclaimed Brazilian chef Manoella ‘Manu’ Buffara, best known for her eponymous restaurant, Manu.
Developed in collaboration with Amazónico’s Venezuelan executive chef, Vitelio Reyes, the menu is a fusion between the two chef’s signature styles, as well as the flavors of their home countries. “With this menu, I tried to base it on Amazónico and what they already do,” Buffara says. “We can’t bring Manu here, as it’s totally different but we tried to bring some of our Manu dishes to London.”
The resulting menu is, according to Buffara, an elevated take on Brazilian cuisine with traditional dishes crafted into an accomplished tasting menu. The Bobo de Camaron, for example, which features tiger prawn in a coconut rice stew, is a twist on a classic family-style dish served in south Brazil. “I wanted to put it inside this menu so people could understand how you can do comfort food in a tasting menu,” she explains.
To achieve the distinct flavors that Manu has become known for, Buffara and her team brought along specially selected Brazilian spices and ingredients, including honey from native stingless bees, that is used in the Hamachi Tiradito dish of sliced yellowtail tuna, citrus, sour nut milk and coriander. They also brought Priprioca, an Amazonian root, to spice the delicate yet decadent dessert of Kent strawberry cream, yogurt ice cream and Oscietra caviar.
There’s also a deconstructed taco with buttery lobster complemented perfectly by a sour cashew cream, and a moreish crispy chicken liver pâté served on silky bok choy with orange syrup and peanuts. Another highlight is the Pulpo Parillado: grilled octopus served with sour bean cream and squid ink.
Naturally, creating a new menu for a different restaurant in an entirely different country is no mean feat. To launch it, Buffara has descended on Amazónico’s kitchen for seven short days. “It’s different at Amazónico,” she says. “I have a restaurant with five tables, and we do 20 covers a day, but they do 400. It’s insane. I tried to bring some dishes that will be easy for them [to do on a big scale]. [Reyes] explained how the kitchen works and the process they take and how busy they are.”
Buffara’s description of Amazónico London is of course entirely correct: it is insane but in the very best way. A world away from the low-key interior style that so many eateries opt for, the restaurant is a lesson in maximalism. Lush foliage suspends artfully from the ceiling, kitsch but perfectly chosen lampshades hang over the cozy booths and plush jewel-colored velvet covers every seat. The private dining room has thick green carpet from floor to ceiling, broken up only by randomly placed mirrors. It’s bonkers, but it works.
However, showy doesn’t have to mean obnoxious, as Buffara’s menu is proving, which has been created in line with her steadfast zero-waste principles – a culinary movement that she has been hailed as a pioneer of. “I think today, in the world that we live in, you have to be zero waste,” she says. “All restaurants, all big companies, everyone, we all need to think about what we are doing to the planet.”
While many restaurants see successfully donating or adapting surplus ingredients as a great solution, Buffara believes achieving zero waste needs to be attempted at the root cause: “You have to only buy what you are eating and serving, no more. You don’t need to stock up, you need to organize the system.”
The residency at Amazónico London is but one event in what is shaping up to be a very busy year for Buffara. Later this year will see the start of a year-long pop-up at Soneva Fushi – a Maldivian resort with a penchant for hosting the world’s best chefs – before Buffara embarks on what could easily be the biggest challenge of her career: a New York City restaurant.
Designed to showcase the other half of Buffara’s personality, Ella (as in, Mano-Ella) will be rooted in the same flavor combinations that have become her signature, but with a focus on sharing plates. “The menu won’t be huge – just around 15 dishes – but even a table of two could order the whole menu,” she explains.
“New York is New York,” she adds. “It could change our life and I’m excited… I think for a lot of people it will be intriguing because in New York you can find Brazilian cuisine but it’s usually more casual, comfort food, not fine dining. People will be intrigued by Brazilian fine dining. It’s a way for us to show our cuisine in a new way.”