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Nando's - yum, yum, nom, nom
Member Name: PaigeTurner
Advantages: Family friendly with very polite, helpful staff
Disadvantages: A little unhealthy to be eaten regularly
Nando's is a global chicken franchise but it still endeavours to provide a dining experience with a personal touch. It is also the perfect place for families who lunch.
History of Nando's
Nando's was founded in 1987 and now operates in 30 countries on five continents. It is a casual dining restaurant group originating from the Mozambique Portuguese community in South Africa with a Portuguese/Mozambican theme.
Nando's specialises in chicken dishes with either lemon and herb, mango and lime, medium, hot, or extra hot Peri-Peri marinades.
My experience at my local Nando's
What first strikes you about my local branch of Nando's is its exterior. Unlike so many Nando's which are situated in shopping centres with no character of their own, this Nando's is set in one of the town's historic timber buildings, giving it a lovely rustic, charming character even before you walk through the door. You feel you are about to dine at a lovely, independent family restaurant rather than at one in a long line of chicken franchises. Inside there is some Nando's paraphernalia and its standard wooden furniture but otherwise the décor is attune with the historic building.
What I would really like to focus on however in this review is how well the staff treated us when we went out to lunch there as a family of three - me, my husband and our little daughter, who was ten months at the time. They ensured we had a truly enjoyable time.
Going out for lunch with a little one is never the easiest of tasks. Luckily my daughter never lets us down and is incredibly well-behaved, I think chiefly because she gets to enjoy one of her favourite past-times - starring at people.
However, when the waiting staff see us ploughing our way through the front door with a pushchair and baby in tow, they don't know quite how it's going to pan out for them. You wouldn't have picked up on any concern from the Nando's staff at my local branch though.
As soon as we came through the door a waitress came over to greet us with a big smile and asked "table for two and a half", which was a nice touch.
She also automatically asked us if we would like a high chair and showed us where we could put our pushchair out of everyone's way. She even waited patiently while I got together my daughter, the nappy bag, my bag and my daughter's toy bunny rabbit.
She showed us over to a big four seater table in the corner by a window. It couldn't have been a better spot for us as the last thing you want is to be right smack bang in the middle of a restaurant when you're trying to get your daughter to eat up her lunch. The waitress removed one of the chairs to make way for the high chair rather than just plonking it on the end. She then went through the usual checks of whether we had been to Nando's before, which we had, and left us to decide what to order.
At Nando's you choose your food and make a note of your table number before going up to order it yourself. They then bring it over to you when it is ready.
My husband did the ordering while I fed our daughter. We had bought along a pot of food from home for her and no one came over to say we couldn't feed her her own food. In fact when the waitress bought over the food she smiled over at my daughter, who had food smeared around her mouth, and asked her if what she was having was nice. She didn't even flinch at the steadily building pile of baby wipes on the table - which we did takeaway with us. The staff didn't even comment when twice my husband took my daughter's bib to the toilets to rinse out.
To focus on the food for a moment, I'm not big on spicy food so I always go for the mildest marinade - lemon and herb. This one still has a little kick to it but I would class it as flavoursome rather than overly hot. I had this on a butterfly chicken breast, which is one of their new additions to the menu. This is a great alternative to the half and whole chicken options which come on the bone. I also ordered mash to allow my daughter to have a nibble - and yes she did approve - and the macho peas which are also a bit spicy but not over the top even for me, when mixed with the mash.
The food in Nandos always comes out well presented with side orders in little bowls. I do always tip it onto one plate together but at least it gives you the option to keep it all separate. The food is always piping hot and tasty. You can tell the flavour is garnered from lots of butter and salt which would not be healthy if eaten regularly but in my opinion is good for a treat. There is enough food to take you to the comfortable state of satisfyingly full.
I would recommend the bottomless fizzy drinks which you can keep on refilling yourself. Condiments such as ketchup and extra Peri-Peri sauce are available at a table out in the restaurant area. This is also where you pick up your cutlery, napkins and fizzy drinks refills.
The staff come round after a few minutes to check if your food is satisfactory and if so take your chicken table decoration away.
Once we had finished eating the waitress was back to clear the plates and offer us the desert menu. I chose mango sorbet, while my husband chose cheesecake which they even serve with extra cream on the side! The whole meal cost under £30.
We were bid a cheerful good-bye from several of the waiting staff as we made our way out and altogether it was a very successful lunch out for the three of us.
It is easy to be fooled into thinking Nando's is yet another fast food style franchise with an aim of filling seats and moving customers on as quickly as possible. This is not the case in my experience. It is possible for all the family to have a lovely dining experience akin to a much higher class of restaurant. The food is tasty and it is the perfect place to go out for lunch as a family.
Summary: The perfect place for family friendly dining