The Brazilian meat barbecue carnival that is Cabana is widely regarded as one of the industry’s most exciting brands to watch right now and, when you see the level of detail that goes into planning its restaurants, it’s not hard to see why. Co-founders Jamie Barber and David Ponte have visited the South American country for inspiration on numerous occasions, often returning with the kind of nuggets that add true authenticity to proceedings.
One thing that doesn’t need a lot of tweaking is its kitchens — which ultimately rest on the efficiency of two key pieces of equipment: a Clay Oven robata grill and a Rational combination oven. The robata grill stands as the focal point on which all skewers are cooked and presented from, explains Cabana’s long-serving chef director David Rood, who develops all the chain’s recipes. “From a practical point of view, because of its flexibility in delivering levels of heat and ease of basting the meats with marinades and glazes, it is ideal for the skewer-based food offering. Visually, at the front of the kitchen, it also offers a point of theatre.”
The combi, meanwhile, has proved itself to be invaluable for pre-steaming chicken to allow speed of service and product consistency. “Having the capability to affect a normalised cooking ambience and accurate self-monitoring temperature control, it ensures a safe and consistently-cooked product, which is essential in any multi-site operation,” adds David.
With plans to open five stores a year for the next three years, the group’s ambitions are clear. It has just launched its largest and most expensive site yet: a 6,000 square foot, 220-cover restaurant in Manchester’s Corn Exchange costing £1.5m. You can assume the kitchen will be its most dynamic to date, too, given the chain’s ethos of improving upon each site it opens. “The layout has evolved and each site has taken into account any learning points from previous openings, to the point where we have gone back into the earlier sites and revised the kitchen structure in light of ongoing experience,” reveals David.
“Each site has taken into account any learning points from the kitchen structure at previous openings”