People chatter, loudly, as plates crash onto stained timber tables ready for serrated knives and silver forks to scratch and clang against fine white porcelain. The floor staff carry around long shafts of meat from four types of beast, which they carve up at your table. Soon, my clean white plate is stained with crimson red drops of blood from a slice of picanha, then charred brown from a chunk of peito defumado, and oily yellow from a piece of sobrecoxa. The muddy colour of the black bean feijão can't keep the plate from staying clean for long either, even when the bright white arroz rice or the salada de batata com ovo is added to the mix.
In case you don't know what I'm talking about, let me explain. MEET is the latest addition to Newcastle's ever expanding and diverse dining scene. Inspired by the traditional Brazilian barbecue, known as churrascaria, MEET is a protein lover’s paradise, a carnival for carnivores, and a horror for herbivores... although they do offer vegetarian options for the iron averse.
Inside, nearly everything is painted black, or white, which makes the brightly coloured Brazilian artwork hanging on the wall look even more brilliant than it already is. The kitchen can been seen through a black rectangle, cut out of the wall, where busy bodies scuttle back and forth amid the glow of fluorescent lights and stainless steel, and the occasional orange flare up from the churrasco BBQ. Above the kitchen cut out is a glowing white neon sign that says, MEET.
You pay a fixed price, which doesn't include drinks, and just like the chaos of yum cha, staff roam around the room with all sorts of barbecued treats, stopping at each table to offer you a slice of something that's just been rubbed, marinated, or smoked, and then slowly spitroasted over wood and charcoal to produce incredibly flavoursome food.
For instance, the sobrecoxa (chicken thigh) is bursting with tonnes of smoky, sweet and savoury flavours courtesy of a thousand rubbed spices, a mustard marinade and the charcoal smoke that's all infused within white flesh. The pernil (lamb leg) is sliced off in thin rashers of savoury flavour featuring garlic and tomato, salt and pepper, while the picanha (rump cap) is a medium rare treat of simple flavours made complex by the accompanying sides (tip: sprinkle a pinch of the farofa manioc flour over all the meats).
The table is graced with a wooden chopping board loaded with fresh sides and sauces. There's white rice (arroz), potato and egg salad (salada de batata com ovo), and smoky black beans (feijão) to accompany the plethora of protein. Plus three pots of condiments: chimichurri (herb sauce), vinagrete (Brazillian salsa), and the molho barbecue de casa (home-made barbecue sauce), which goes with everything on the plate, including the sweet stuff.
When the banana empanada (crumbed and deep fried banana) and the abacaxi grelhado (BBQ pineapple) arrive you could be forgiven for thinking that dessert is served, but that's a whole other menu. The banana is a sweet digression from all the savoury we’ve been eating; so too is the pineapple with a dusting of cinnamon. If you want to transition back to savoury, order a serve of queijo qualho (grilled haloumi) and aipim frito (fried cassava).
It's hard to keep up with exactly what's on your plate, but I think that's half the fun. Everything that comes out from the kitchen tastes wonderful, even the coração (chicken heart), so just embrace it and try as much of the food as you can. Don't worry if you don't get to try it all the first time around, because, speaking from experience, it won't be long before you get the MEET sweats and you'll want to go back again.