It’s not often I receive dining recommendations via doodle, but it’s an excellent medium.
I was there speaking about my experiences as a blogger for Tourism Richmond, and I met many interesting travel industry folks, including writers. One of them was Robin Esrock, a man who writes for multiple publications, has his own TV show, AND draws doodles to help out a food blogger on her 270th of 365 days of dining.
The reason for his Nando’s recommendation? Robin is from Johannesburg, and said a little known fact about Nando’s is that it’s actually South African company, not a Portuguese one as everyone thinks. The company’s Richmond location is on Ackroyd Road near the Canada Line, which made for an easy-to-access Saturday dinner.
I’ve been to a Nando’s restaurant once before, but it was years ago in England but I don’t remember much from the meal. Their restaurant in Richmond was apparently the chain’s first location in Canada, and I’m guessing it’s still one of their most popular; when I arrived at around 5:45pm there were some tables left, but when I left an hour later each table was packed, there was a line at the counter, and groups were waiting for seats to open up.
Nando’s does Portuguese-style flame-grilled chicken – quarter, half, and whole chickens are available, with various sides including fries, baked potatoes, coleslaw, vegetables, and corn. There’s also sandwiches, wraps, pitas, kebabs, share platters for groups, and beer! Nando’s heat of choice is the peri-peri, or “African Birds Eye Chili,” the history of which yet again demonstrates the huge impact of colonialism on food.
The Portuguese came across peri-peri as they sailed up the east coast of Africa, and took to it quickly. During Portuguese colonial rule of Mozambique, the culinary traditions of both sides blended, with the creation of peri-peri hot sauce is the perfect example. If you visit Mozambique today, you’ll be fed plenty of white Portuguese rolls and find endless bottles of peri-peri (a.k.a. piri piri) hot sauce. When I was travelling in Mozambique, we came across a roadside stand where a man was selling homemade peri peri in various recycled bottles – 2 litres for 5 bucks. My friend Zach was thrilled with his purchase, though I was personally terrified to go near the bottle.
With Portuguese/Mozambican roots, how was Nando’s founded in South Africa? According to their website, in the early 20th century a number of members of the Mozambique-Portuguese community headed to Johannesburg because of the gold rush there. Great crowds of hungry miners needed to be fed, so an informal peri-peri restaurant called “Chickenland” was born. Decades later, two friends discovered the restaurant, fell in love with it, bought it, and changed the name to Nando’s. With a tiny but fiery East-African chili as its main ingredient, the restaurant is now a popular global chain.
Nando’s is aware that not everyone can handle peri peri at its full strength, so they offer various levels of spice for your chicken, ranging from Lemon & Herb to Extra Hot Peri Peri. I ordered the quarter chicken breast + wing with medium heat, and had the peri fries and Caesar salad as my sides.
I bought a bag of the peri nuts to snack on while I waited, and WOW those things are addictive. They’re a mixture of roasted almonds, cashews and macadamia nuts coated in a spicy, salty mixture. Once I started snacking I couldn’t stop, even though my mind was filled with conflicting thoughts like “Yum! Ouch! These are delicious! They burn! I love these! I can’t feel my throat!”
My meal arrived quickly, and it was a pretty decent size. The chicken was hot off the grill, nice charred, juicy, and really flavourful.
Medium was the right spice level for me, and I dipped the chicken in tiny bits of the hot sauce provided at the table.
The fries were coated in a similar mixture to the peri nuts, and were also very fresh – I can see why my server said they’re the most popular choice for sides.
The Caesar salad was just ok – a little too much dressing for my liking. I think next time I’d go with the spiced rice.
Like I said, by the time I left the restaurant, Nando’s was packed. It’s casual, and seemed especially popular with families with small children. One thing I’d like to try next time is the grilled chicken livers on a Portuguese bun; I am NOT a fan of boiled pork liver, but on the few occasions I’ve had chicken livers I enjoyed them, so was glad to see them on the menu. If you like spice and chicken, give Nando’s a try.
Thanks to Robin for the recommendation, and to all the lovely TMAC folks I met yesterday at the River Rock. Now it’s time to get outside, because that awful Pineapple Express has passed, it is sunny, AND I NEED TO GET TO THE TOP OF A HILL AND SHOUT MY LOVE FOR VITAMIN D.
Happy Sunday, all!
Cash and cards accepted
A few vegetarian options (including vegetarian burgers/pitas)
My bill came to about $20 with tax.