Armed with an intent to try out new restaurants in Bangalore, a friend and I ventured to the newly opened Nando's restaurant on Church street.
Anyone who has spent more than a few days in Bangalore would agree that Church Street and the adjacent Brigade Road are probably the hardest places in the city to get space to park your car. Thanks to my excellent American-style reverse parallel parking skills, I managed to squeeze into a tight spot quite a distance from Nando's.
The Bangalore outlet of this Portuguese themed restaurant chain opened on 3rd December to much hype and fanfare. The group which was founded in South Africa in 1987 has franchises in 28 countries and is known for its clever, ubiquitous marketing style.
Upon first impression, the bright colors, spacious seating , loud unrelated music, bare tables, and jumpy, eager-to-serve-you waiters clad in black t-shirts with captions like 'Its Peri-Peri Hot in Here' and 'Really Really Really Good Chicken' make Nando's feel like any other overpriced family chain restaurant.
The menu could easily be misconceived to have a variety of dishes with a few vegetarian options. But in reality, it screams, "We serve chicken with peri-peri sauce, and that's about it!" They just happen to have different cuts of chicken and several ways to name their dishes. It's a smart marketing technique if you're stupid enough to fall for it.
We decided to start with chicken wings in Hot Peri Peri sauce. For Rs.300, I was expecting a lot of wings but we ended up getting a plate of six tiny flappers!! Note to self: enquire about the number of wings the next time you order a plate.
For main course, we picked the Quarter Chicken Meal with Extra Hot Peri-Peri sauce as our first choice and spent the next several minutes trying to find something on the menu that at least sounded like it would taste different. It felt like we were trying to decipher the different dream layers in the Inception movie. We first asked our waiter who responded with a stumped expression, and then the manager who just fumbled for words. We stuck with just the Extra Hot Quarter Chicken.
I love spicy food and was barely intimidated by the intense description of the Extra Hot Peri-Peri sauce. In fact, I was looking forward to some tongue burning and mouth tingling fun. As the food came to the table, I took my first bite longing for that intense spiciness, but sadly I didn't find it. I took another bite and then another but it never came. I would label it mildly spicy with a slight tang and somewhat under-seasoned. The rice was dry but at least the chicken was cooked well, still moist and juicy on the inside. Was it 'Really Really Really Good Chicken'? Hell no!
We were actually chewing on the chicken bones at the end of the meal not because we were still starving or because the chicken was so good but because we got lost in a daze trying to remember why on earth we chose to dine there in the first place.
Just a word of warning, don't get fooled by the crowd. It is only because of the awesome location and the fact that it is a new place and people want to try it out that the seats are getting filled up. The service is discomforting and the waiters aren't properly trained. The serious lack of choices in food and terrible value for money make it hard to want to go back there.
In short, Nando's is off to a Peri-Peri bad start. Sorry, I just couldn't resist.