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Nandos - More than Chicken
Member Name: Essexgirl2006
Advantages: Comfort food, a bit of spice
Disadvantages: Can be slow at peak times, lavatories untidy
Prior to meeting some friends in central London one night midweek, a friend and I needed somewhere to eat quickly. We selected Nando's Restaurant in Goodge Street for its proximity to the place we were meeting, although there are several around the area. Nando's is a Portuguese -Southern African inspired chicken restaurant which has now become one of the UK's most popular chain restaurants. Part of their ethos is that each restaurant is different slightly in its décor and art.
We entered the Goodge St branch up a ramp and found ourselves in a queue. If you have eaten in a Nando's before then you will know that you place your order and pay at the counter yourself. They layout of this particular establishment unfortunately meant that this queue sometimes came up to the door as pillars blocked the way. The lady taking the orders spotted us and assured us she would be with us in just a minute, and indeed was true to her word. We had picked up a menu already and she grabbed another from the pile and showed us a table near the window. After clarifying that we had eaten in a Nando's before she left us to it.
The menu is chicken orientated but they now have three vegetarian options which you can have a further three ways. They are a Veggie burger in a bun, a pitta on in a wrap, a Beanburger with the same options as well as a grilled halloumi and Portobello mushroom 'burger' with the same options. They also offer salads, but for meat eaters who don't fancy chicken the only other alternative is a steak roll.
As chicken is their main thing, they offer chicken breast fillets in the burger/pitta/wrap options as well as wings and potions of chicken on their own marinated in their Peri-Peri sauce which is chilli based. In addition to this you choose your strength level, so if you are not keen on spice or fancy a different flavour you have the option of having your chicken (or veggie alternative) plain or with lemon and herb or mango and lime marinades. If you like a bit of spice then you can choose from medium, hot and extra hot. If you are a group you can order platters to share.
They do a small range of appetisers, mainly olives and dips, but I have never tried them. They do a good selection of sides including coleslaw (my friend's favourite), corn on the cob, garlic bread, mushy peas, mashed potato and the obligatory chips.
I have become a bit of a creature of habit in Nando's of late; picking the mushroom and halloumi option each time in either the burger or pitta version. I went for pitta this time with medium strength sauce and a side of chips with extra Peri Peri salt - which is a spicy powder shaken over them to give the chips a kick. I always order my Nando's chips this way, but my friend preferred them plain and added their optional sauces himself. He had a chicken breast pitta at their hot strength with a side of coleslaw and plain chips. We also each had a glass of their bottomless soft drinks. To place the order I went up to the counter and you pay for it at the same time (if you want extras later or dessert they will do a tab for you), it is OK ordering for just two of you, but anymore I find it hard to remember what options everyone has and what strength of sauce they want. After placing the order (don't forget your table number) and paying for it, you then collect your cutlery, napkins and can choose from the bottled sauces to bring to your table for further flavour if you wish. When I placed the order they also gave me the appropriate number of glasses so we could fill up with the bottomless soft drinks which are branded fizzy drinks like Coke, Diet Coke, Fanta and Sprite. They also do fresh juices, traditional lemonade and bottled water as well as a range of wines and beers. If you order these other drinks it is normally brought to your table. I have found that if I have forgotten to get the cutlery, the staff member who brings your food will often pick it up for you.
I always enjoy my mushroom and halloumi regardless of what form I choose - pitta or burger - and their chips. The spice has just the right amount of kick for me. I don't think medium is too hot, but as I am having the spicy chips I prefer to keep the mushroom heat more modest. The chips are always golden (under the spicy 'salt') and of average size - i.e. not chunky but any stretch of the imagination but nor are they spindly French fries. The portion size is good and a server will often come over and check if you need anything else. It is not fine dining but fast(ish) comfort food which is great if you want to fill up before a night out on a chilly night! Overall our meals and soft drinks cost us just over £20. They do a loyalty card scheme where you collect stamps to earn portions of a chicken up to a whole one which is free and worth getting for fans.
A few points I would like to make about my recent experience at the Goodge St branch:
- I thought there were not enough staff on at the counter taking orders, I was only 3 or 4 in the queue but it does take time to go through the menu with what you want and make card payments if there is only one person there. All that time my friend is sitting at a table on his own. This probably isn't a good venue for a first or early date! Plus the position means that people arriving are walking straight into a queue which is disorientating and far from ideal.
- I noticed that they had a smart sink area in the restaurant for customers to wash their hands - it was tiled in a chicken mosaic design and was amply stocked with handwash and paper towels. I thought this a nice touch as many dishes can be eaten with your hands, plus it is nice to wash your hands before eating without having to hunt out the lavatories if you don't need to go for any other reason
- After the food was brought to us, the server said they would be right back with my friend's chips. I thought it was because they couldn't carry all the dishes, but it appears that they weren't actually ready as it took about five minutes and we heard the bell go to call a server over before they brought them. Poor planning in the kitchen as I would expect chips to be cooked regularly at busy times.
- From arrival to leaving we were there approx 45 mins which included queuing to order and eating our food. This was a bit longer than we anticipated but they did seem to be short on staff, as the restaurant was busy, but not full.
- The lavatories are downstairs. There are two cubicles and both had paper in them, however whilst they were generally clean they could have done with a tidy up - as there was paper on the floor etc. There was soap, but I could not get any hot water (unless I didn't wait long enough) and the hand dryer had cold air. I wasn't overly impressed with them. I did not see any disabled lavatories on the ground floor but as we were seated in the front it is possible I didn't go that far back. It would be worth checking before coming out if this is a requirement.
Summary: A Fast(ish) Food Chain
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