I like chicken. I cook chicken every week at home.
But the idea of going to a restaurant that just serves chicken? Well, it’s never really appealed to me to be honest.
Which is why the popularity of Nando’s has always mystified me.
Recently though, curiosity got the better of me, and so, with my eldest son for company, I decided to pay my first ever visit to the chicken chain so see if it really is all it’s cracked up to be.
We headed to the Nando’s at Leicester’s Meridian Leisure Park , and first impressions were good.
The restaurant looks stylish, decorated in rustic, earthy tones, with wood panelling on the wall, and funky lights including some glass jar pendants hanging from the ceiling.
There’s wooden tables and chairs and also some cosy booths, like the one we were sat in.
The Spanish music being played added to the atmosphere, and despite the rain outside, made us feel like we could be somewhere a bit more exotic than Leicester!
My six year-old was immediately presented with crayons and an activity pack, with colouring, puzzles and even an origami lion to make – so that earned Nando’s a big tick.
At the heart of the Nando’s experience is their Mozambican-Portugese style chicken dishes, made with different peri-peri marinades.
South African peri-peri chilli is mixed with garlic, lemons and other ingredients to make marinades in a variety of flavours and heat.
A handy peri-ometer on the menu will help you decide what level of heat you want – from extra hot (like tackling a ferociously fiery dragon, apparently!) to plain-ish (marinated in peri peri but grilled with no added spice).
The menu features chicken on the bone, and chicken off the bone – available on its own or with a couple of sides.
There’s chicken burgers, pittas and wraps, plus sharing platters.
And, it is possible to order a chicken-free dish if you wish – with steak dishes (a prego roll, pitta or wrap) and veggie options from a quinoa salad to a portobello mushroom and halloumi pitta.
I decided to go for a quarter chicken with two sides (£7.45) and selected a naughty side of peri salt chips, and a healthier side of supergrain.
Wanting only a hint of spice, I opted for the lemon and herb sauce on my chicken.
The ‘Nandinos’ children’s menu is £5.95 for a main meal and two sides with drink or dessert.
The main meal offerings are chicken burger, chicken breast strips, chicken wings, or sweet potato and butternut patty (available as a burger).
My boy chose a chicken burger with chips and corn on the cob, and we ordered the bottomless frozen yoghurt for his pud as part of the deal.
Being a Nando’s novice, I’d done a bit of research beforehand, so I was aware that you have to go up to the counter to order and pay for your food, rather than have waiting staff come over to you.
Initially I wasn’t sure about this – especially if you’ve got young children you don’t want to leave at the table by themselves. You’d need to take them, and your bag, up with you.
But, it does mean you can go up and order as soon as you’re ready, and you can get up and leave as soon as youve finished rather than needing to wait for a member of staff to sort out your bill.
‘And it certainly was a speedy process – less than 10 minutes – from me ordering to the food arriving on the table’
We helped ourselves to cutlery and sauces and got stuck in.
My chicken was succulent and tasty, with just the right level of spiciness, and I really enjoyed the warmth of the peri salt chips.
The supergrain salad provided a nice, healthy contrast, with a crunchy mixture of beans and grains and a creamy avocado and buttermilk dressing.
My son quickly dispensed with his chips, and he ate most of the chicken burger (which contained a chicken breast rather than a reformed burger)
But, he wasn’t impressed with the corn on the cob, saying it was burnt (it did look a bit over-cooked and dry).
The frozen yoghurt (chocolate on the day of our visit) went down a treat and I’m not surprised – I tried it and it was very good.
The main dessert menu includes a number of cakes, as well as frozen yoghurt and gelato.
I just wanted something small to round off my meal, so went for a traditional Portuguese ‘Nata’ custard tart (£1.95) with a Galao – Portuguese for latte (£2.50).
The tart was lovely – with a flaky pastry outer, and rich custard centre.
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The bottomless soft drinks seems to be very popular – with £2.70 getting you as much fizzy pop as you like (£2.90 for Coca Cola classic due to sugar levy).
I went for this option, choosing Sprite Zero.
My son chose the apple Bottle Green cordial from the children’s menu.
You get a little bottle of cordial and then make it up yourself at the water machine.
For only £1.60 it easily made a couple of cups. And, worth noting for those with spillage-prone children (I’m thinking of my younger one here) you’re given a lid for the cup.
Other soft drinks – from mineral water to fruit juice – are available, along with beer, cider and wine.
It’s fair to say I was impressed by my first visit to Nando’s.
To be honest, I still think I’d prefer to go somewhere with a wider choice of food, but what Nando’s do – ie tasty chicken, served quickly – they do well.
Our bill came to £22.15 which, for two courses and drinks is good value. If you’re like me and are late to the Nando’s party, it’s certainly worth chicken them out. Food hygiene rating 5/5
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