It was 12.30 in the afternoon and Geeta Mondol was already seated at the restaurant waiting for me to join her. Hearing and reading reports of the eager multitude waiting outside to taste the Peri Peri Chicken of the South African restaurant chain Nando’s at DLF Promenade, Vasant Kunj, New Delhi, we had decided to beat the crowd by presenting ourselves at the start of business at the restaurant. However, the stories of crowds and queues appeared anecdotal as the restaurant had just a couple more tables occupied besides ours, perhaps because it was the start of Navratras, a holy week when Hindus fast and refrain from eating meat.
The decor of the restaurant is a hybrid of fast food and family-style dining, pleasant with African outback hints here and there- the sketches on the wall, the wood accents, the animal print upholstery, the faux worn out (deliberate or really worn out, cannot say) but comfortable leather seats. The menu lists besides its signature chicken dishes, the likes of burgers, pita wraps, hummus etc. The table service is pre-set and the plates that you are expected to serve the food into is too small and difficult to manoeuvre, given that the chicken pieces are huge and even the salad leaves are served whole. We had to request for bigger plates.
A Mediterranean Salad preceded the much anticipated fiery main dish. Unlike Nando’s chicken, the salad was lifeless, the lettuce wilted, with a few pieces of cucumber, a couple of olives and a few wedges of tomatoes going about their task of lending variety and colour, and topped with an overly briny feta cheese. The zing that a barely noticeable sprinkling of peri-peri chilli gave was the only fine point of the otherwise lacklustre salad.
While Geeta Mondol ordered Chicken with Lemon-Herb sauce, she being of weak stomach and mild taste, I went for a quarter of the fiery Extra Hot one confident that a Peri Peri is no challenge to someone that hails from the land of culinary fire and brimstone boasting of Assam’s “Booth Jalokas” and Andhra Pradesh’s “Guntur Milagai”.
The signature Peri Peri Chicken is marinated 24 hours in Nando’s special secret marinade spiced with the famous African Bird- Eyed Chilli and flame grilled and spiced according to your choice on the “Peri-ometer” which is on a scale spanning Extra Hot, Hot, Mild and Lemon Herb. True to its reputation, mine was fiery hot, the melting juices of the grilled chicken with its crispy browned skin on, lending a slithery, buttery, tart taste to the chicken. It was truly lip-smacking. But the unassuming Chicken with Lemon Herb was a surprise winner, the lemony taste mixing with the barely there spicy marinade effortlessly, giving a sophisticated twist to the chicken. Bottles of the Peri-Peri sauce with varying degrees of heat are placed on the table in case one wishes to temper one’s dishes with more heat.
I must mention, the Potato wedges served were one of the best that I have tasted. Crisp on the outside which stayed that way even upon cooling, with peri peri and other herbs spicing them, there were a sinful delight.
The is a platter made up of peri-peri-spiced grilled boneless chicken pieces served with chick peas on a bed of flavoured yellow rice. Somehow the original signature chicken on the bone tasted better than the boneless plattered one. Geeta Mondol found the yellow rice over flavoured with what tasted like raw turmeric. When we enquired with our cherubic, eager-to-help waitress Sanah, who had earlier helped us choose our dishes, she readily got the Manager of the restaurant Uttam to talk to us. Uttam assured us, after checking with the chef, that the rice was indeed flavoured and steamed accurately as per their proprietary recipe. We found it ordinary and passable with dices of sweet and red capsicum dotting the flavoured rice.
The service was friendly, warm and accommodating, as in when I had wanted to take away some Peri Peri Chicken with Lemon herb and Hot spicy sauce, not at the time of order but at a later time, the manager readily agreed and got the chicken packed hot off the grill, three hours later. But what proved to be a dampener was the raw, uncooked meat deep inside the HUGE chicken pieces which I discovered upon reaching home. Kitchen staff may be more alert and ensure that the meat is cooked well to the bone as, if I were seated at the restaurant, I would have taken umbrage at being served uncooked, raw meat.
My recommendation- Leave the rest of the menu for the chicken-hearted and go for the signature Peri- Peri Chicken.Your choice comes skewered with tiny colour coded, labelled flags denoting your heat preference, Extra Hot, Mild etc., which is a welcome and useful detail, especially if you are ordering different levels of spiciness. Portions are generous and easily shareable.
Nando’s fans in Gurgaon may soon have reason to rejoice- Nando’s is coming to Cyber city! Bom proveito!
Alert! : This review was done after an anonymous visit to the restaurant with the food paid for by the reviewer.
Food: 4.5/5 (Peri-Peri Chicken), 2.5/5 (Rest) | Ambience: 3.5/5 | Service: 4.0/5 | Overall: 3.5/5
Meal for two: Rs. 1300 (Without alcohol) | Alcohol: Yes | Credit Card: Yes | Timings: 12.00-11.30pm
Address: 314, 315 & 316, DLF Promenade, Mall Back Entry Road, Vasant Kunj II, New Delhi