We had heard horror stories about the queues leading to the first Nando's outlet in Delhi. So we are glad that some of the hype seems to have settled down by now. When we stepped into the restaurant for dinner on a weekday, we found the restaurant bustling with diners, but with space to spare for guests.
We started with their Portuguese lemonade and citrus bliss. While the former is a ready favourite, tasting like a Nando's spin on our humble banta, the latter is likely to appeal to those who can take strong flowery flavours – like rose, for example. Skipping the peri peri chicken, we opted for chicken wings in peri peri sauce, Espetada and Cataplana Algarve instead.
The staff did a terrific job of heightening our expectations with the first delivery. The chicken wings melted in our mouths as the juicy, tender meat fell easily off the bones, the flavours enhanced by the peri peri sauce. We polished it off our plates in no time at all, and waited in anticipation of the greater goodies to follow.
The Espetada followed in due style, the meat and pepper bits hanging deliciously from the upturned skewer. But alas, the Espetada laid cold water on our otherwise fairytale dinner. Charred at the edges, the meat was chewy, and it was difficult to believe that this concoction had come out of the same kitchen that had just delivered heavenly wings. Disappointed, we attacked the excellent side dishes that accompanied it – corn on the cob, and the vegetables, still swimming in the sauce that it had been prepared in.
Still, the restaurant had one more chance to redeem itself. In due course, the Cataplana Algarve arrived inside a covered, copper, skillet-shaped bowl. Our waiter lifted the cover to reveal boneless chicken pieces sitting on a bed of vegetables and rice – a rice version of the noodle bowl, a wholesome meal, staple for people stretching from the East Asia to Mexico. This time, thankfully, they hadn't burnt the chicken, though it could have been more tender and juicy. The rice looked and tasted like our regular poha – nothing five-star, but palatable and tasty.
Caramel cheesecake and chocolate crunchy roll followed next. While the former felt like a mashup of high-end cadbury's five star and cheesecake, the latter, we felt, was quite a misnomer. Instead of a chocolate roll, we were handed three soft, soggy, marbled chocolate biscuits. We didn't mind, of course, and it turned out to be one of the more unexpected, unusual desserts we have had in Delhi.
Finally, is Nando's worth the hype? Probably not. Would we go back there again? Yes, but only for the chicken wings.