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Pleasure of the flesh is a winning formula; Taste Test MARC WADDINGTON visits Fazenda to train for the festivities.

Byline: MARC WADDINGTON

JUST as an athlete will eat a mountain of slow release carbs before embarking on some massive trial of endurance, so I thought I should be sporting about the challenge ahead of me and get in training for the food extravaganza that was to be Christmas Day.

We all know what Christmas dinner is like, and as you read this now, two days later, you'll not need me to spend too many column inches on reminding you how worn out you feel from your festive feeding feats, nor how hard the rich blood in your veins is trying to do its laps around your body.

So, wanting not to let my dear mother down and not be able to partake of the banquet she was preparing, and knowing that I had a restaurant review to write, I thought that on the night before Christmas Eve I'd limber up, rub on the deep heat and jog round to a venue which I thought would offer the closest experience to what I was to undergo two days later.

Needless to say, my running mate and I found ourselves at Fazenda in Exchange Flags, the newest "rodizio" experience, exponent of the fast-growing trend for the relentless provision of top-of-therange cuts of steak, lamb, pork, etc. direct to your table until you either cross the line in victory or limp to the kerbside. A sort of meat marathon, if you will.

The restaurant itself you may have seen. Its location is the mirror image of the ill-fated Oriental restaurant in Exchange Flats that existed so briefly I can't even remember its name. There is the decking outside, the big warming flame heaters and the awnings to keep off the rain. When we arrived, with the rain beginning to fall, it was straight inside to the impressive bar, with its terracotta walls and low hanging lights giving it a warm, welcoming glow.

A couple of energy drinks later (well, gin and tonics), we were shown to our table. But not before having had demonstrated to us what was to be one of the most elaborate of practical inventions I've ever seen.

Close to the bar sits a huge, Heath Robinson-type contraption, a mass of interweaving brass pipes which, we were told, was a corkscrew. We watched in amazement as the bottle, which had been placed on its stand before the furious winding of a cog, was relieved of its cork (which was dropped by the mechanism into a little tray) before being lifted up through an arc to pour a perfect measure into a glass on a nearby ledge. Apparently, this ginormous invention is one of only three of its kind in the world, and even were it ubiquitous, you wouldn't lose it in the bottom of the kitchen drawer.

But, on to the top billing, the main event: the food. We slid into our booth and had the house rules explained. First, to the salad bar before the meat would come round and round and round.

Largely because my girlfriend is vegetarian I had brought a friend instead. But looking at the sheer size and array of the salad bar, she could very easily have happily parked up there for the night. One lap round it felt like it took nearly as long as a trip round the Brands Hatch circuit, and I'd filled a whole main course plate with its colourful leaves, tomatoes, onions and peppers. And for anyone who was unaware, or reckless, as to what the rest of the programme was to hold, there were cold meats and cheeses too.

We settled back into the booth and the waiters began to bring round the skewers of meat. On the table next to each of us was a paddle, red on one side and green on the other. The cuts came round in quick succession: succulent steaks, beautiful minted lamb, chicken, pork, a sliver of each sliced off and lain on the plate to devour. Each and every one was top quality, and by no means were the offerings on the stingy side. To be honest, with a few artfully arranged vegetables on the plate and a couple of these cuts, one could have expected to be paying close to the same price tag elsewhere, but without the option of calling forth as much meat as you could handle.

Come lap seven or eight, even my very experienced teammate's hand was slowly lifting the paddle and turning it to red. Whereas I felt I needed a marshal to wave the red flag and send me back to the pits.

We were, in short, happily defeated. And while we were not standing on the podium spraying Champagne as victors of this particular Brazilian race, we were both, as we stumbled out into the bracing air of Exchange Flags, in pole position for the long slog of Christmas Dinner up ahead in the distance.

Foodie Facts Venue: Fazenda, Horton House, Exchange Flags, Liverpool Tel: 0151 227 2733 Website: fazenda.co.uk/liverpool Details of meal: PS71.40 (two rodizios PS25.90 each and bottle of Argento Malbec PS19.60) Service: Excellent, swift service Value: Superb quality and overall experience. Cheaper lunch deals available Disabled access: Disabled access available

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Dec 27, 2013
Words:888
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