The Ultimate Guide to Nando’s

Reiss Smith
Photo credit: Issy Muir

From Delish

In these divided times, there is perhaps just one institution capable of uniting Britons from old to young, liberal to conservative, Stormzy to Chuka Umuna: the cheekiest of all fast-casual restaurants, Nando’s.

A hodge-podge of cultures, Nando’s is a fitting symbol for our modern multicultural society. Founded in Johannesburg but inspired by the flavours of Portugal, Nando’s has – like the chicken tikka or hot chai – been adopted as a cornerstone of British culture: a meeting spot for teenagers (come for the chicken, stay for the free refills), a site for tentative Tinder dates fuelled by surprisingly-okay wine and overpriced olives, a place where a family of four can dine for under £50.

Don’t know your peri-peri from your peri-tamer? Your fino from your full platter? Well fear not, for here is your definitive guide to Nando’s.

Photo credit: Hearst Owned

First Time?

Every Nando’s visit begins with the question: “Have you been to Nando’s before,” which must always be replied to with a quickly-muttered: “Yeah, of course.” It’s a ceremonial exchange which, even if you’re on your third visit of the day, should never be strayed from for fear of strange looks and lengthy explanations of how the menu works (it’s actually quite intuitive). If in fact this is your first time, keep your head down, study the menu carefully, and don’t forget your table number when ordering at the till.

The Chicken

Meat-eaters have four main options at their disposal: chicken served a la carte or on a burger, pitta or wrap. Veering from these into the land of filet steak rolls and chicken livers is the sort of behaviour that screams: “This meal is performative!” (See: The Independent Group For Change’s inaugural – and thoroughly uncheeky – team outing at an SW1 branch back in February).

How Spicy?

The second riddle on your journey to peri-enlightenment. Each chicken dish is available in one of six spice levels from plain...ish to extra hot.

Photo credit: Hearst Owned

Choose either extreme and you’ll mark yourself as either the type who does decoupage for fun, or an unhinged pyromaniac. For the uninitiated, medium is a good place to start, one which can be layered up with your choice of sauces (the seasonal wild herb is a must). For a complex, sweet-spicy taste which should, in all honesty, be hung in the Louvre, order your chicken mango & lime, and await the knowing nod that will come from your server.


Plant Based

Nando’s is known for its chicken above anything else, but it also caters surprisingly well to non-meat eaters. Along with a mushroom and halloumi burger, there are three vegetarian patties that can be ordered as a burger, pitta or wrap. Vegans should stick to the supergreen or sweet potato & butternut, taking care to specify no mayo, which comes as standard.

Sides

Photo credit: Hearst Owned

When Beyoncé blessed an Essex branch of Nando’s with her custom back in 2013, the singer requested mountains of chips, rice and coleslaw, which she correctly identified as the god tier of side orders. Sitting pretty underneath them are creamy mash, garlic bread, macho peas and corn on the cob, with anything labelled fino (Nando’s for posh) to be ordered under your breath. Double carb-ing is always encouraged, while no order has ever not been improved by a £1.50 portion of grilled halloumi.

Menu Hacks

As a rule of thumb, don’t order off-menu. Nando’s is an eatery for the people, a unifier by way of mass-prepared chicken. To go off-menu is to say you’re better than the 800,000 who flock to its crispy-skinned altar each and every week. The only acceptable menu hacks involve adding a slice of cheese to either garlic bread or mash potato, or a smoky barbecue glaze (either mild peri-tamer or spicy peri-flamer) to your chicken – simple additions that could never be accused of being bourgeois.

Now, time for a cheeky Nando’s? I think so.