Let me start by saying that, in my personal and completely stereotypical experience, Brits aren’t huge fans of being ‘fans.’ Enthusiasm is saved for the previously mentioned 10 seconds after your football team scores a goal, and “loving” things is just…not a thing. You just got engaged? Well, good for you, stop your crying, you’re not the first person to have a ring on it. David Beckham shows up at your front door with a million pounds and a lifetime supply of fish and chips and promises a stadium in your name? Hurry it up, Becks, Gogglebox is on in ten minutes.
Anyway, over the years, I’ve discovered a dark secret that would completely ruin this nation’s pokerface.
Brits LOVE Nando’s.
Nando’s is a chain restaurant that is primarily known for its chicken. It’s a bit nicer than fast food, but it’s still an “order at the counter and we’ll bring it to you” kind of place, and it is a cultural phenomenon like you wouldn’t believe. Not only is Nando’s well-loved, but there are entire websites dedicated to ranking particular branches so you know exactly what you’re getting into. London’s evening paper, the Standard, recently published the full list of rankings in the same pages as the day’s political and economic news, and I’m willing to bet that most commuters just skipped right to the Nando’s article. Honestly, the latest press releases from 10 Downing Street are much harder to stomach than a perfectly cooked chicken burger.
Of course, as you might expect, I had to investigate this foreign world of chicken and happiness to bring you : An American Girl’s Guide to Nando’s.
When you first walk into a Nando’s, you instantly feel a bit more exotic and well-traveled, even if you’re still in East London. Every Nando’s interior is different, and they range from extremely rustic to almost-modern-art-museum. The lights are typically dimmed at least a bit (either for the atmosphere or so you can’t see the prices on the menu and just order your sides with reckless abandon, I don’t know.)
The best part, of course, about these cooler-than-you interiors is that Nandos was built for great instagrams. After all, if there’s something this world needs more of, it’s people channeling their inner foodie and taking pictures of their dinner and dining mates for us all to see.
Once inside, you are quickly ushered off to a table and are then left to your own devices to look at the menu. The Nando’s menu centers around chicken, and going to Nandos for anything but chicken might as well be a crime. You must also choose your “spice level,” ranging from “Plain-ish” to “Extra Hot.” I’ve found that a person’s ‘spice preference’ at Nando’s is a great way of determining their personality and whether they’re worth being friends with. At a work dinner, we once went around the entire table trying to guess which spice level each of us preferred because APPARENTLY THAT IS WHAT YOU DO FOR FUN IN BRITAIN, OKAY?
When you’re ready to order, you stroll up to the counter and give your table number and aforementioned spice preference. The chances the cashier will attempt to upsell you or make you order some olives from a random bowl are high, but just keep saying “No, thank you” until you get to the end of the ritual.
On your way back to the table, you’ll need to grab your silverware and any condiments you want from a communal table. One of the best parts about Nando’s is that it’s low maintenance. British people don’t like to bother others with their problems or be constantly chatted up by watier so Nando’s eliminates that awkwardness and is like “Here’s the ketchup and some forks. Use them, or don’t. We won’t judge.”
Once your food arrives, it’s smooth sailing. Ask for anything extra you might need from the server before you’re left to fend for yourself and dig in. A true Nando’s experience ends with you eating far too much food, complaining to your tablemates that they shouldn’t have let you order two sides, and then leaving in shame as the girl you’re into finds out that you ordered your chicken wings “plain” because your spice tolerance is non-existent.
If you’re looking for the best Nando’s can offer, visit the highest ranked branch in Leigh. If you’re looking to punish yourself more than just stuffing your face with thousands of calories, visit the worst ranked branch in Newport.