There was this time when we used to crib about the lack of international food chains in Chennai. Bangalore was eyed with envy. We had to be content with our home grown brands, not that they were bad, but a man's wants are never ending. It was not just food, but it applied to everything, mainly fashion and clothing. For me, it was just food though, because I had never heard of any of those brands and so I did not care. Foodies who had not heard about those brand would not have cared either, but, not me, unfortunately. Slowly, but steadily, we started getting those brands - some have turned out to be disappointing after the hugely watered down versions of great food abroad being served here, but, I guess, we have learnt to deal with it. Now, I rarely look forward to an international food chain opening its shop here as I prefer to have these abroad and keep my taste buds tuned to those and not the watered down versions.
Nandos has set shop in Chennai at the posh new Phoenix Market City mall in Velachery and I was part of the foodies invited to test it out. The interiors and the set up was amazing - paintings from South Africa, exquisitely done floors, comfortable seating and a feel that is international. The outdoor seating in a mall, a concept that is very common abroad was lacking in Chennai. You can see it in a few malls in Bangalore, but there was none in Chennai and Nandos has that. Facing the giant TV screen, I loved this ambiance.
The food - hmmmmm... The essence of food at Nandos is the use of the peri-peri chilly for their marinade. Just to clear matters, Nandos is Portugese cuisine, but the brand originated in Africa, not from Portugal. There are many legends - the more common one suggesting that the peri-peri chilly was discovered by the Portugese in Africa! But legends apart, Nandos has this periometer - for every dish that you decide to try, you can decide how spicy you want it. It starts with the lemon herb - basically, no spice and abroad, you will find people making fun of those who ask for this version as being p*#$*#s! And then you have three different levels of spices and thus far I have only tried Medium and Hot and have never ventured to try the Extra Hot and I know when I go back, I will stick to Level 1 spice. I am not a fan of super spicy food and you can call me what you want! And just so you know, the dishes come with a little flag, so you don't accidentally try the chilly that can burn your insides!!!
The signature dishes - The Espertada, served on a tall skewer and the Cataplana - served on a copper dish (and I hear, it is served only in India) are the dishes to try when you go to Nandos. The burger and wrap versions of these dishes are all nice too, but stick to their signature dishes and you will, mostly, love them. Most of dishes have the lemon herb base so they are slightly sour, but apparently the dishes were modified slightly to suit the Indian palate. I wanted to try the Algarve salad and it turned out to be excellent - another dish to recommend to my detoxing patients!
In a nutshell, Nandos has arrived and arrived with little compromise. The ambiance, the food and the service are all well packaged and I wish it was closer to me. Driving to Velachery is my only problem with Nandos. Look forward to a video on Nandos on this blog soon and you will see what I am talking about!!!! A meal for two should cost you about Rs. 1000 or more, depending on how hungry you are.
Nandos is on the ground floor of the Phoenix Market City at Velachery.