|We try out the Nando's experience|
And discover Portuguese taking fast food to a whole new level
Recently a fine independent restaurateur explained to me the appeal of certain chain restaurants. This enlightenment came in response to my grievance that my son’s current idea of culinary utopia is Nando’s. The appeal is apparently simple – there’s no surprises, no great deliberations over extensive menus and he knows exactly what he is going to get.
Feeling a brighter at the prospect of a nine year old’s idea of a treat (a reward for passing his piano exam) we wandered into the Chiswick branch of Nando’s.
For those not familiar with Nando’s, it’s essentially a Portuguese restaurant serving grilled chicken with a variety of guises and sauces whose recipe “remains a closely guarded family secret handed down from generation to generation.”
The first Nanado’s opened in Ealing back in 1993 and the more recent Chiswick branch employs the company’s standard template of heavy dark wooden furniture, Mediterranean yellow walls adorned with African art and black clad staff with chirpy demeanours. The clientele was a mixture of young couples (when did the late teens starting affording anything more salubrious than a Big Mac?) and families – certainly no one over the age of thirty unless accompanied by a throng of offspring.
“Have you ever been to Nando’s before?” was the greeting as we entered the restaurant. We explained that we had not had the pleasure and the process was explained – we were to choose a table, decide what we would like to eat and drink, order at the counter and our food would be brought to our table.
The menu is straightforward, a choice of four ‘appeteasers’, four sidelines, four vegetarian options and Peri-Peri chicken combinations, burger and pitta combinations, sharing platters and every variety of chicken salad imaginable (also available without chicken).
They didn’t have the red pepper dip with warm pitta we wanted for a starter so we opted for a bowl of spicy mixed olives. To follow we ordered a plain chicken breast burger, a chicken breast in pitta and ½ a flame grilled chicken with side orders of chips, spicy rice and corn on the cob.
All pretty straight forward however our chicken dishes, which were supposedly “grilled to order over an open flame” arrived at the table before I did! Even though the kitchen was midway between the order point and where we were seated, it would take superhuman powers to prepare three main dishes in less than two minutes.
Convinced that the waiter had made a mistake and that we were in fact being offered someone else’s lunch, we insisted that he double check which he did graciously only to return with the same food. Although somewhat disconcerted, especially when our starter arrived a few minutes later, we all had to admit that the chicken was indeed good as were the chips, spicy rice and corn on the cob even if they hadn't actually been grilled to order.
The lunch bill came to £30.10 which included a glass of rose, a bottle of Portuguese beer and a fresh juice and afforded us sated appetites in addition to one happy nine year old.
Verdict – Fast food restaurant which is certainly worth a visit if you like chicken in a hurry!
August 9, 2006