Flame grilled chicken
(A monthly column first published in Car N Style magazine).
By Ravi V. Chhabra
Before making its foray into Delhi, Nando’s, the Afro-Portuguese casual eatery chain had opened outlets in Bangalore, Chennai, Chandigarh and Ludhiana and had advantageously done its social media marketing drill.
As I was hankering for some good flavourful roast duck or even grilled chicken that is not easy to get in mundane tandoori Indian restaurants, I came across the Peri-Peri rooster raising its animated, pointed, curved hood on my facebook page beckoning me all the way to Vasant Kunj.
At the DLF Promenade Mall, I realized the restaurant had built up a massive following of bird-eaters. Standing in the queue at the entrance counter, restlessly, I distantly saw through the massive glass windows - beer accompanying the charcoal-grilled chicken and it was quite a sight. It took barely 20 minutes waiting and inside I was, looking forward to dig into the tender flame grilled chicken (Nando’s mainstay) among other delicacies like chicken wings, wraps, salads and perfect fries.
We decided on the full meal platter that had 4 huge pieces of chicken, 4 regular sides, corn on the cob, coleslaw, potato wedges and french fries. Alongside, we selected the Hot Level of the Peri-Peri flavor and enthusiastically slathered it with Hot Garlic Peri-Peri sauce.
Thankfully, I did not underestimate the extremely hot grade sauce that was capable of starting a fire in the gullet. The chicken was very succulent and if you love your chicken with skin, then this is the place you can relish it for the reason as the skin has all the sauces spread over it. You could wash it down with the bottomless chilled coke, fanta or spirite or just go for one of the designer mocktails available with specialized flavours and herbs.
Nando's Peri-Peri, the African bird's eye chili menu comes from Portuguese-ruled Africa with lavish hints of Brazillian espetada and every single item of food that you order will have some amount of the trademark sauce in it. Make sure you tell the waiter what degree - completely non-spicy to very spicy - you want your food. For the under 12 years little grownups, there are special meals.
The Peri-Peri chicken is can be ordered in three portion sizes: half and quarter, the latter is also available boneless. At just Rs 310/170 it is great value for money. Nando’s sources the chicken from a single supplier it is marinated for at least 24 hours and then grilled on an open flame. The Peri-Peri mystery is in keeping the chicken skin intact, so that it remains succulent, making it a few notches above the tandoori chicken that is dry in texture and hard on teeth.
There are quite a few starters and snacks like the chicken livers and Portuguese roll (for Rs 200), espetada rustica (for Rs 430) which is served on an upright skewer reminiscent of Brazilian churrasco and Moroccan butternut and grilled pepper with chicken fillet in a burger (for Rs 220). The livers were rather tart; the espetada too tough and the burger too terrene compared to the fine Peri-Peri. The menu features besides its signature chicken dishes, the likes of burgers, hummus, pita wraps etc. Each table has 3 varieties of sauces - garlic, mild and hot. The desserts, mainly crunch roll and cheese cake come in chocolate and caramel flavours and make up for a sweet finish to the Peri-Peri experience.
The service is quite warm and you will feel that it was worth the wait outside. A jazzed up bar is visible as you enter. A good variety of beer is available and I settled for Carlsberg, relished it with juicy chicken wings. For the vegetarians there are Peri-Peri sauce options with cottage cheese as the main ingredient instead of chicken. There are plenty of spirits and wines from South Africa, Australia and India.
The restaurant’s decor is a cross between fast food and family-style dining that’s quite pleasant with remote African hints done at random. The walls have sketches on the walls, the animal print upholstery, and the leather seats are comfortable.
The table service is pre-set and the plates awkwardly inadequate to tackle the huge chicken thighs. Original works from South African artists adorn the walls. You will find amazing work from bushmen on community farms to painters from Johannesburg and also by aspiring artists pursing subsidized diploma courses at the Nando’s studio!
If you are looking at taking a pleasant break from the ubiquitous chicken preparations of tandoori, continental and Chinese kind then you must pay your gastronomy obeisance at Nando's. In all probability, you will prefer the Peri-Peri chicken over the KFC or the other hued variety at several places in the city of gluttony. The eatery’s plucky website is as much worth a visit.