HAVING played football pretty much every week of my life since the age of seven, I normally fear the sight of a red card.

They can, however, provide a more welcome break from the action for anybody familiar with their use at the Brazilian Rodizio-style restaurants that are growing in popularity in this country.

Just outside the city walls and next to the Barbican, Latino’s uses the traffic-light system – red means stop and green means go – to determine when diners want to add an unlimited succession of freshly-cooked meats to their plates, served to each table in the restaurant on giant-sized skewers.

Having first sampled this exciting dining concept on holiday in Mexico when, to quote my beloved late Nan: “my eyes were bigger than my belly” and I was one of a number of middle-aged dads soon gasping with meat sweats and acknowledging each other’s gluttony with knowing glances, I have since learned to pace myself a little better.

As a family - and this fun style of eating does suit all ages – we have gone on to enjoy a couple of similarly-themed restaurants in Leeds and felt it was time to visit York’s Fawcett Street venue.

First impressions were good. The restaurant is spacious, clean and contemporary, with a large well-stocked bar running down one side and cool décor including vinyl record covers hanging on the walls and, perhaps a little less stylish, framed pictures of famous snooker players, who have played at the Barbican’s UK Open snooker tournament and, no doubt, paid a visit to Latino’s too.

The black tables are large, which is important to avoid banging elbows and clashing tongs when the meat is being offered by waiting staff, whilst also providing sufficient room for side salads and the complementary bowls of chips.

Comfy black chairs, South American tunes and plasma screens with images of log fires also help create a relaxed atmosphere.

After being given a brief explanation of how the Rodizio-style service worked, we were invited to tuck into the salad bar, while three dishes of chips, for the five of us, were delivered to our table.

The salad bar was excellent, encompassing an imaginative variety of side dishes that had clearly been prepared on site, rather than emptied from tubs, with the fresh potato salad a particular favourite of mine.

There was also hot food including rice and cous-cous and, however unlikely it might seem, a vegetarian could dine at Latino’s and be satisfied paying just £11.99 for the buffet.

When we sat back down, it wasn’t long before the meat was being brought to our table, having been asked how we would like it cooked.

We all requested medium and our preference was catered for perfectly all night.

In turn, we were offered chicken wrapped in bacon, chicken thigh, gammon with pineapple, rump steak, sausage, sirloin, ribeye and fillet.

We were a bit disappointed that lamb did not appear to be on the menu during our visit, as advertised online, but could not fault any of the cuts we sampled.

From experience, my advice would be to never have more than three portions of meat on your plate and, at that point, brandish your red card so you can have a rest and eat at a pleasingly, leisurely place, rather than at belt-busting speed.

Don’t feel that you might miss your favourite meat, as it will come back around and the staff will ask you for requests as well.

My personal highlights were the juicy fillet and the sensationally-seasoned chicken thighs, but all of us had different choices as our number one, which demonstrates the overall quality of the food.

While the thought of ordering a pudding after an all-you-can-eat splurge is sometimes one step too far, some form of sweet sustenance is usually craved and Latino’s range of mini desserts, available from a self-service fridge next to the salad bar, provide just the right portion size.

The little dish of cold rice pudding was a delicious reminder of the delights of an old school dinners’ favourite and the milk chocolate mousse and miniature fudge cakes were also welcomingly light.

Having dined on a Thursday night, the cost was £24.90 for each adult (the price for Friday, Saturday and Sunday night is £27.90).

Our five-to-eight-year-old daughter, meanwhile, definitely ate her money’s worth for £6.50, with nine-to-12-year-olds charged £8.50 and under-fives free, which illustrates the restaurant’s commitment to encouraging family banqueting.

The prices compared favourably to akin places in Leeds and the beauty of one charge for everything is you roughly know what you will be spending before you even walk through the door.

Our bill, including a drink for each person, came to £129.85.


Latino’s, 2 Fawcett Street, York, YO10 4AH

Phone: 01904 623838

Website: www.latinosyork.co.uk

Ratings (out of ten): Food 10, Ambience 8, Service 8, Value 8.