Our new column gives Londoners the chance to tell it like it is. This week, Kieran Yates is in no doubt about her favourite restaurant.
I eat a lot of Nando’s. Not in a ‘Ooh what’s she like, she’s so quirky!’ way, I just really think the food is good. Most of the time, when it comes to eating out, I’d pick it over anywhere else (despite its image being slightly tarnished thanks to ‘cheeky Nando’s’-loving bros). I’m pretty reluctant to try new food, which might be because growing up with not much money makes you less inclined to spend what you have on something you might not like. I come from an Asian home, and our culture isn’t traditionally big on eating out, new foodie trends or this month’s top-ten pop-ups. To permeate London’s immigrant communities, you have to communicate with people who might feel outside restaurant culture. If my mum ever goes out to eat, it has to be somewhere she’s heard of, and that means somewhere that has filtered through to her living room, and that means - generally - a chain.
The positive side to all this culinary conservatism is that when it comes to Nando’s, I’m extremely discerning: about artwork, light fixtures and chicken dryness.
Hands down the best Nando’s are Brixton (they make it really clear that you can choose between thigh or breast meat) and London Bridge. London Bridge is The Savoy of Nando’s. It’s where I took my mum after my graduation; it has the wickedest views of the Thames and it’s big enough that you can fill up your water glass with Sprite and no one will notice. Kanye made the O2 Arena one famous when he went there before the Brits this year, but I find their chicken dry, the branch is always packed and you have to barter with people for the extra-hot. Elephant & Castle is the easiest to steal sauce in (according to an anonymous test group), the one in Westfield is as huge and soulless as you’d expect, and Lime Street has a good sauce display but isn’t open on weekends. People like the Greenwich one (official online rating 3.83 out of 5), because you can see the Cutty Sark from it, but I find it stressful because there are loads of seagulls when you eat on the terrace, and the glass building makes it feel like you’re in a Nando’s -themed visitor centre.
Luckily there are loads of Nando’s forums to indulge my obsession. They’ll also point you to the comments goldmine that is TripAdvisor. The Gloucester Road Nando’s does really well on TripAdvisor. I think it’s because everyone likes its clean black signage outside which makes it look just about upmarket enough for a date. I know the worst-regarded branches in the city thanks to the apoplectic commenters who repeatedly post ‘disappointing!!!!’ under them. RateYourNandos (‘By the Fans, for the Fans’) provides a handy map detailing which 66 of the 335 UK restaurants are halal and has some damning details about wing crispiness.
I’m not alone in having a franchise fixation. My friend has made a map of his favourite KFCs, and my brother works for Pizza Hut delivery and reviews all the local branches based on quality of their interior design, music choices and dough.
For the connoisseurs, the difference is all in the details.
By Kieran Yates
For more ranting and raving, read Patrick Dalton's column on why we should rediscover this city's glories.
Have you heard about the legendary Nando's 'black card' that gives you free Nando's whenever you want it?!