“ Address: 2 - 4 Nethergate / Dundee / DD1 4EY „
---Breaking the habit---
Allan and I have been having far too many take-aways recently. We have been stuffing our faces too much and feeling horrible afterwards. It really needs to stop. In an effort to completely ignore our efforts, we seem to have decided that eating out isn't classed as a take-away. Huzzah. I'm still trying to be a bit healthier in the options I'm choosing and trying my best not to have to be air-lifted out of anywhere, but I tell you, it's a struggle. So many restaurants to try, so little time. Sigh.
---What is this Magical Place?---
Nando's is, essentially, a Portuguese / Mozambiquan piri-piri chicken restaurant established in Johannesburg (south Africa) in 1987 focusing mainly on its speciality piri-piri flame grilled chicken. They boast that they get their chicken in fresh and never frozen and flame grill it all so that it's healthier all round. Nando's came to Britain in 1992 and by 2000 they had burst out of London and started infecting other bigger parts of the country. They have branches all over the world and, coincidentally, if you can prove that you have eaten in every single restaurant they own across the world you can eat free Nando's for the rest of your life. Personally I'm of the belief that if you can afford to travel to and eat at every single Nando's, you don't need the free meals, but hey ho.
Nando's do sit in and take-away so if you are really gasping for a Nando's and don't want to wait in the queue, you can get a take-away instead. Fab. At the moment, in Dundee at least, it's nigh on impossible to get a seat unless you want to wait all day. We were very lucky in that we got seats as soon as we went in. There were only two of us though. Soon after we were seated they ran out of seats. A few of my friends have been told they could make a booking for a few days ahead of time but that they were booked out. Hopefully this is just because Dundonians are all terribly gluttonous and are trying to eat the new Nando's to death in its first couple of weeks of arriving here. I assume the rush will die down a little at least next month once everyone's had a pop at it.
---New kid on the block---
Allan has been to branches elsewhere (they are all over the country) and fell in love with the place. Ever since he heard that they were coming to Dundee, he's been essentially stalking their progress. They opened at the beginning of October much to his delight and since it was his birthday on the 15th, I decided to take him for a lunchtime treat.
They have taken over what used to be a Pizza Hut on the Nethergate (2-4 Nethergate, Dundee) and refurbished the whole building. If you aren't familiar with the area, go to the Overgate shopping centre and walk up the side, on the other side of the road you will see Nando's in all its splendour.
The front of the restaurant is almost all glass window looking into the restaurant. Due to the position of the restaurant, however, the sun is almost always creating too many reflections to see too far inside. This means that you won't really get how beautiful it is inside until you actually go in. The whole place is decked out in faded and old planks of wood, creating a feel of industrial decay with all the vibrant rust and growth colours bursting out. It sounds horrible, but it really is done beautifully and definitely makes you feel like you are no longer in the drab city you just stepped in from. The lighting fixture in the main seating area of the restaurant is simply spectacular, and the back wall of the place which stretches up two floors to the roof has a giant graffiti style picture of a rooster and a child. It is absolutely stunning. One of the walls is made to look like the end of a workman's storage container and there are pipes and smears of paint showing in various places. Keep in mind this has all been newly installed so the total contradiction makes it look amazing, well kept and run down all at the same time. It's a very warm atmosphere even if it was a little chilly before we got our food.
The bar where you put in your orders is the first thing you come to, the grills and kitchen being not quite open but still very visible just behind it. You can see and hear them flame grilling the fresh chicken right there, enough to make your mouth water. Continue onwards and you have the stairs to the toilets and a viewing platform of the main eating area on your right. On a pillar in the middle there is what looks like an exposed pipe emptying into a battered barrel. Look closer and you'll see a little motion sensor next to it to turn the water on as it's actually a sink to wash your hands at if you feel the need! Keep going and you come to the main seating area with the lovely artwork
The menu, as you can imagine, is mostly chicken. There are a few nice sounding vegetarian options but if you want something other than chicken or veggie fare, you are in the wrong place. If you are concerned you won't like what they serve, they have a fantastic little website www.nandos.co.uk where you can browse the menu at your pleasure and catch up on all the latest Nando's related information.
To order, you simply choose from the menu what you want and how spicy you want it to be. You have the option to add side orders like garlic bread and chips to your orders too. Once your meal arrives you make your way over to the sauce counter where you can add your choice of Nando's sauces to your meal. There are a few different flavours you can choose from and in theory they are all arranged from hottest to mildest. Fairly simple.
---Jantar Fora, Allan---
It didn't take any convincing to make Allan jantar fora (Portuguese for "eat out") at Nando's. It DID, however, take a lot of convincing to have him order something. As the menu has more than one option to have the same dish, Allan tends to stress out. The same stress can be seen when he goes to subway or anywhere you can't just say one thing and then leave. As it stands, though, I think this was simply due to never having had to order there before. The waitress asked if we had been to Nando's before, so as to explain the ordering process to us if we hadn't. I let her go over it for us both just to make sure. Off we popped to order and pay at the bar and arrived back to see that a set of single mothers with three kids under two had been sat next to us and all of their coats had been piled in our clearly occupied seats. Oh joy.
Allan opted to have Chicken breast so as to get no bones in his order. Heat wise he went for the Medium heat. You can choose from plain-ish (just grilled chicken really), mango and lime or lemon and herb (which are full of flavour but no spicy hit), medium (which starts to give you a bit of warmth), hot (which starts to burn) and extra hot (which basically kills you). Allan decided to have his chicken breast on a burger (you can choose between burgers, wraps and pitas or just on it's own) with two sides: Piri-piri Chips and Corn on the Cobb.
The chips, according to Nando's, are the only things that they will fry, which continues their healthy eating claims. The corn on the Cobb wasn't a cop out; a whole flame grilled cob dominated the plate next to Allan's burger. I'm starting to wish I got one myself. A little pat of butter came with the cob to moisten it up too. The Piri-Piri chips are basically sprinkled with Piri-Piri powder which if it's a light dusting is quite nice. It all looked very well presented on the plate and even came with a little flag in the top of the burger indicating that it was, in fact, a "medium" level of spice. Allan added some spicy garlic sauce to his burger and noshed his way happily through the lot, giving out those satisfied groans after almost every bite. He's been craving it for a while.
To drink Allan went for fanta, which is a "bottomless" drink (basically free refills) along with all of the other soft drinks available (think your normal range, coke, sprite etc). They also have a frozen yoghurt machine which, once you pay the initial price is free to refill whenever you want. It must have looked appetising because at this point the pre-toddler at the table next to me kept reaching over and trying to steal his drink.
My meal was similar to Allan's but was also completely different. I chose the chicken breast at a medium heat, but I chose to have mine in a wrap. I only had one side; Garlic bread. I simply cannot resist garlic bread, it is my downfall. Along with cheese. And chocolate. Food. Food is my downfall. SO! The wrap was neatly cut in half and laid at a jaunty angle next to my garlic bread. A little flag was also sticking out of the top indicating that it was also a "medium" spiced dish. The dish was only made spicier by the fact the woman with the brats next to us thought it was appropriate to sit on the edge of our table as she dealt with her child.
As the spicy garlic sauce was already at the table I decided to pour a little bit on to my wraps before I started. I accidentally got a little over-zealous with that which I later regretted. The garlic bread was delicious, properly cooked with a lovely crunchy but fluffy texture. It wasn't greasy and it was bursting with garlic flavour. I sometimes find restaurants try and underplay garlic bread and it's a big mistake when I'm the one eating it. Garlic is my downfall... ahem... moving on.
As I had covered my wraps in sauce I decided it would be best to fork and knife them rather than pick them up. My first bite was met with a little bit of a surprise. I happened to have one of those unfortunate incidents where you inhale just as you take a bit and some of the food hits the back of your throat. I didn't end up choking as it was actually a drop of the garlic sauce that hit my tonsils and, Christ on a bike, it was hot. I don't handle spices well at the best of times so this was a bit of a bad omen for me since I'd already slathered my meal in the stuff. Thankfully the bread, chicken and lettuce helped calm it down a bit but it was spicier than I had wanted when I got the bits that had sauce on. Another saving grace was the bottomless refills which at least gave me free reign to guzzle as much juice as was required to cool my mouth. There's also an endless supply of napkins next to the drinks, sauces and cutlery which was a huge help when my nose began dripping away in a similar manner to the child next to me. I have a feeling that was more to do with not being allowed real orange juice though, as we so joyously "overheard" screamed at the waitress from the foul mouth of its mother. (Seriously *puts on my best scummy Scottish accent*: MY BAIRN CANNIE HAE REAL ORRUNGE YOO!! SHE'LL WAHNT IT AHH THE TIME! TACK IT AWAH!!)*** My soul almost died.
Wrap wise I was lucky enough to have missed a bit of the wrap so I could have a taste of it without the burny sauce. Without the sauce overpowering it, it was actually quite nice. The chicken was cooked perfectly, the bread was nice and soft, the lettuce nice and crispy. Overall (heat aside) it was a very tasty meal which left me saying Yum-yum (which is Portuguese for "yum-yum"!)
It does lead me on to one important point that if you haven't tried the Nando's sauces it may be best not to cover your food with them straight away. You can have as much sauce as you like so you could easily put a small amount of each on your plate to try before you invest your taste buds into it. Alternatively you could just pay more heed to the colour of the pepper on the bottle as the hotter they get the more towards red the pepper is coloured. I think next time I go I'll be trying the mango or lemon heat settings so I won't feel the need for any more flavours. Our meal came to around £22 all together which I felt was fair for the portion sizes, the service and the free refills.
---At the Pipe-works---
You all probably know by now that I have a special love affair with toilets. That sounds so wrong but it's true. There's no excuse for a bad bathroom. Well I wasn't disappointed. Not only is the way to the bathroom lovely (being up the stairs you walk past the very beautiful viewing area) but the bathrooms themselves are great. They are very quirky indeed. The run down shack theme has been continued into the bathroom, the walls clad with wooden paint stained panels. There are a couple of urinals and one cubicle. The flush is the motion sensitive type so no touching is required.
Along the opposite wall there are more pipes twisting down from the wall looking rusted and ruined till closer inspection. Next to them you have a motion sensor to turn the pipes on to give you water to wash your hands with! Beneath is what looks like a conveyer belt that has sagged and snapped, carefully hidden beneath this industrial decay is the trough that catches the sink water. My only complaint is that they give only a very short burst of water so you need to wave a few times to get washed up properly. To dry your hands they have provided a Dyson dryer where you put your hands in and out of the compartment to blow dry. It doesn't quite match the style but it functions perfectly so it can be forgiven. Basically the whole bathroom is pretty much touch free and strangely beautiful.
The disabled toilets and baby change facilities are located in the back corner of the main eating area, with a roughly drawn sign on the door. You'd probably not notice them unless you were looking for them but they are there. It would be a little squeeze to get past some of the tables in a wheelchair but still possible.
The staff were very friendly. As soon as we entered we were greeted and taken to our seats. The waitress was quite happy to explain the ordering process to us as it's slightly different in that you can get the same meal a few different ways (wraps, burgers, pitas etc) and with options as to how many sides you can get with them. It's all simple so I can imagine why you'd want to throttle someone who asked to have it explained but the waitress simply smiled (genuinely, might I add) and gave us an enthusiastic rendition of how to order. When we went to the till the staff were happy to be there and were patient. This always makes me happy as my partner tends to get a bit stressed at the till when there are complicated things to be ordered. The meals came out quickly, the waitress that brought them being very bubbly and reminded us of the sauces and free refills leaving with a very genuine request for us to give her a shout if there was anything at all we needed. They even all said goodbye as we left, something I wouldn't have really expected given how busy it was!
---Dust and Debris---
One thing that I did notice was that despite the stylishly run-down looks of the place, it was noticeably clean. We went around lunch time, the restaurant had been open for a good few hours and the place was still spotless even though it had been ridiculously busy. I was impressed. Another thumbs up for them!
Yes, in fact! If you are one of those awesome people who work in the NHS, Police, Fire service, or Military you can get yourself a 20% discount. That does just mean yourself though unless you get a sharing platter. You simply need to show your official ID and possibly some photo ID if your photo isn't on it and they'll knock 20% off of your part of the order.
They also do a loyalty card where you can get a stamp every time you spend more than £6 (or 6 Euros) in one visit. We didn't get offered these when we were there so I'm a bit unsure if you have to ask or if we just didn't get them handed out at that branch. They seem to be doing some sort of different loyalty card in Scotland (but, no surprise here, not in Dundee) so I'll be buggered if I know.
On top of loyalty stuff, you can also buy most of Nando's products at your local supermarket if you really love the the sauces and sprinkles. Allan usually has a little bottle of sauce and chip sprinkle in the cupboard that I've never went near because it's too spicey.
I will fully admit that the food in Nando's is nothing special. It is, however, well cooked, well presented and tasty. If I had a choice between Nando's and a restaurant that served really exciting and flavourful food, I'd probably choose to go elsewhere. What I will say, though, is that it is a really great alternative to fast food. It's a fair bit healthier, and it's tastier. It's a beautiful restaurant to eat in and the staff are really friendly. The price may be a little higher than other fast food places but the food is also better quality than fast food and the surroundings are just stunning. It's a little upsetting that this branch doesn't give you the same offers as other branches in regards to loyalty cards so for that I'll be knocking a star off. I would definitely give it 5 stars if it wasn't for that one thing and I will be going back. The only downside is that, unfortunately, you won't be able to punch the two women next to you when they both leave all three of their young children unattended and wander out of sight in a Portuguese style restaurant.
**just in case you couldn't translate scotspeak it read roughly as: "My child cannot have real orange, you, she'll want it all the time! Take it away!"