I’ll be first to admit that I’m normally not a fan of chain restaurants. However, Nando’s is an exception for me. Many people, based on the name, mistake Nando’s for being an Indian restaurant. Nando’s is named after one of its founders, Fernando Duarte and actually is an international chain originating from South Africa, with locations in over 30 countries, that specializes in Portuguese/Mozambican-inspired flame-grilled chicken. The chicken is first marinated in one of the signature Peri-Peri flavours – lemon and herb, medium, hot, or extra hot and then grilled to perfection. Peri-Peri is the Swahili word for the African Bird’s Eye chili. But don’t let that scare you as not all of the flavours are that spicy. The lemon and herb flavour is the mildest of the lot.
In Canada, there are multiple locations in British Columbia and Ontario but there is only one location here in Calgary. The set up is very casual and has a quasi-fast-food feel. When you first walk in, you walk up to the counter to place your order and are given a number to take to your table. When the food is ready, the staff will bring the food to your table. In terms of price point and style, Nando’s is similar to Swiss Chalet except the chicken is flame-grilled instead of roasted.
What keeps me coming back to Nando’s is how delicious their flame-grilled chicken is. At this location here in Northeast Calgary, the food has been very consistent all the times I’ve visited. The chicken has always been well-marinated, juicy, flavourful, and succulent. On this visit, I ordered the Quarter Chicken – Breast Meal with One Side ($10.95). For the side dishes, there is a choice of Peri Fries, Classic Fries, Spiced Rice, Peri Potato Wedges, Baked Potato, Hearty Coleslaw, Tossed Salad, Peri Vegetables, or Corn. I chose the Peri Vegetables this time as I’d never tried them before. Usually, I get the Peri Fries which consist of regular fries seasoned with spicy peri seasoning. The vegetables were tender and not mushy. They were well-seasoned, flavourful, and not that spicy. They tasted like they were stir-fried. I think it would even taste better had they been grilled. As for the chicken, I usually order mine “medium” in terms of spice level. That’s because I like to dunk my chicken in the Peri-Peri sauces that are provided at each table. There are usually 3-4 flavours of Peri-Peri sauce in the condiment tray at each table – Wild Herb Peri-Peri, Garlic Peri-Peri, Hot Peri-Peri, and Extra Hot Peri-Peri. I like the Garlic Peri-Peri the best as I find it is the most flavourful out of the bunch as it is both garlicky and spicy at the same time.
My favourite at Nando’s has always been the chicken pieces – quarters, halves, or whole. I did try the kebabs once and found them to be a bit on the dry side as they were made with white meat and there was no skin to seal in the moisture. Nando’s also offers chicken sandwiches and wraps as well as grilled chicken livers served with a Portuguese bun.
Nando’s caters to a diverse crowd. They are licensed so you can get a cold beer to go with your spicy chicken. They even have a couple of flat-screen TVs so you can watch sports while enjoying your beer and spicy chicken. At the same time, Nando’s is very family-friendly. There are various family pack meals to share as well as a kid’s menu. This has been my go-to place to meet up with friends when they are bringing their children.
Nando’s Flame Grilled Chicken
3333 32 Ave NE