Thursday, May 04, 2006

Who knew the history of Portuguese exploration tasted so good?

With roughly 50 locations throughout greater London, Nando's is a unique chain of restaurants offering flame-grilled ‘peri-peri’ chicken. What is peri-peri? Here’s how explains it:

… Portuguese explorers came into contact with African people who introduced them to the African Bird's Eye Chilli … The African people called this fiery little chilli, Pili-Pili, which means Pepper-Pepper in the African language of Swahili. The explorers tried in vain to pronounce Pili-Pili but ended up calling it PERi-PERi. The settlers immediately exPERi-PERimented with PERi-PERi in their cooking and because much of life revolved around food, PERi-PERi became an integral part of their lives. The women were also delighted with the effect that PERi-PERi had on their men; they were amazed that something so small could be so satisfying.

Nando’s peri-peri sauces are available in six varieties: garlic, sweet, medium, hot, extra-hot, and wild herb. Their A-grade chickens are prepared ‘fresh, never-frozen’ and are butterfly-cut and marinated for 24 hours. ¼ chicken and ½ chicken combination, each with two regular ‘sidelines’, are on offer - as well as a variety of sandwiches, salads, platters and other options. A fairly lengthy list of ‘sidelines’ includes spiced mixed olives and grilled corn. Decent drinks, a children’s menu, and desserts round out the menu.

My experience has been that the ¼ chicken combo with coleslaw and chips (with added peri-peri spice) is a substantial meal that won’t bog you down. I usually order my chicken with hot sauce and then pour a bit of extra-hot on the side. And, for less than six quid, it’s not too extravagant a meal either.

Ordering at Nando’s is a little different than at most restaurants. Upon entering, diners decide where to sit and take a number. After deciding where to sit, orders are placed at the front counter. Once the food is ready, it’s brought to the diners’ table. Utensil, napkins, fountain drinks, condiments and the like are located at self-service kiosks in the restaurant.

I’ve visited Nando’s a number of times and have found the quality of food and service to be consistent and far better than most other options in this price range. I’ve been to their Earl’s Court location and, more recently, to their newer Clink Street spot. Both locations are clean and friendly. In particular, the Clink Street restaurant is in a well-appointed South Bank nook that seems exceptionally lovely for a fast-casual restaurant.


No comments: