[Disclosure: I was invited for a complimentary meal at Rodizio Rico in Coventry. We paid for some of our drinks, but everything else was free]
Back in early 2020, I was invited to a brilliant party at the newly-opened Rodizio Rico in Coventry. There was endless meat, a huge buffet boat and men in mankinis entertaining the diners. It was a blast, and the future for Rodizio Rico seemed bright. There were already other branches in Birmingham and the O2 in London so the concept was tried and tested. All it had to do was spend a few months establishing itself in Coventry.
Then a few weeks later we went into lockdown and, like so many other hospitality businesses, Rodizio Rico’s future looked more than a little uncertain. No chance to build a customer base, no momentum after that fabulous launch night. Just the hope that it could make up lost ground when some semblance of normality finally returned.
Fast forward almost exactly two years since that fabulous opening party in 2020 and I wasn’t sure what to expect when I walked through Rodizio Rico’s doors. It had managed to survive, yes, but would it be offering a good experience or merely clinging on by a thread?
Happily, as we stepped inside it almost felt like the party had never stopped. A full complement of diners on a Saturday night, drinks flowing, meat being carved, the buffet being snaffled, all to the soundtrack of laughter, conversation and the bustle of a restaurant living its best life.
For anyone who doesn’t know (and maybe skipped the previous blog post), the concept is simple. You pay a set price, which varies depending on whether you’re an adult or child, whether you’re adding dessert, and whether it’s lunch or dinner.
For that, you get unlimited visits to the huge boat that sits pride of place in the middle of the restaurant, forming an expansive buffet to rival any all-inclusive hotel on the Costa del Sol (in choice and quality). You also get what is effectively endless meat, carved at your table by ‘passadors’ from huge skewers or piled high in pans in the case of things like lamb chops.
You get a special card that’s green on one side and red on the other – supposedly to indicate whether you’re ready for more or want to take a break. Though I’m not sure I saw anyone with the red side up to be honest.
Maybe I’m easily won over, but Rodizio Rico impressed me on my first visit and it impressed me again two years later. I’d heard question marks over the level of service and while, yes, they knew who I was so may have made an extra effort, it seemed to me that everyone was getting a steady supply of meat, plenty of attention and opportunity to order drinks, and generally having a good time.
The buffet was fresh and kept well-stocked, from breads and salads to hot dishes like lasagne and fried fish a whole side of salmon, fries, new potatoes and a load more. The only concern here is reining yourself in – or you risk making the basic error (as Jamie did) of filling up on buffet rather than meat.
The meat itself was tasty and seemingly endless. Leg of lamb, pork steak and various cuts of beef including Picanha (my personal fave). Sausages and ribs, chicken wings and even chicken hearts (interesting but not necessarily show-stopping), and the winner of the night – lamb chops.
All cooked well over fire at the back of the restaurant, and served by enthusiastic staff who seemed endlessly patient and eager to please. While it might be tempting to keep the card on green for fear of missing a certain type of meat, I noticed that there was no fear of anything running out, with specific meats coming round at least twice while we were there. That means you genuinely can take your time and work your way through the full complement without having to yes to every single Passador that comes your way.
There’s a cocktail list as well as wines and beers, but the holiday vibe had us guzzling on jugs of Sangria to add to the feeling that no, we weren’t actually in Coventry but far away in a land of fiesta, fun, booze, buffet and barbecued meat.
I wasn’t going to tackle dessert but manager Cena (who, by the way, is on of those unsung heroes of hospitality who has a smile that can brighten up any day and a professionalism that a lot of places could learn from) convinced me that they had to be tried.
A tiramisu was rich, creamy and coffee-laced. Not the best I’ve had but far far from the worst. But it was the sweet, rich, indulgent Dulce de Leche dessert that saw me discover a whole new appetite despite thinking I was full just minutes before.
At £32.90 for the full price dinner experience (£36.90 if you want dessert too), and between £23.90 and £28.90 for lunch depending on which day you go, Rodizio Rico doesn’t feel like the cheapest place. But if you put that into perspective and remember it includes your whole meal – and a LOT of that meal if you choose to keep going for as long as possible – it actually isn’t in my view. A decent steak will set you back £20 in some places, then if you add dessert, starters, sides and extra meat, a straight £37 per head isn’t that bad.
Yes, you need a decent appetite to get value for money. But I’m not sure why you’d choose Rodizio Rico if you don’t plan on eating a lot. You’re probably better off going elsewhere. But it’s also worth noting that Rodizio Rico isn’t just about volume. The food is tasty, the meat cooked well, the service good (in my experience), and the atmosphere great for a group or party.
It’s a great addition to Coventry’s food scene and somewhere that’s a bit different. And if it can keep the party going throughout a global pandemic, then here’s to the fiesta being here to stay!