“I find it absolutely mind-boggling that on our high streets there are more than 214 branches of Nando’s, a restaurant chain originally started in South Africa by ethnic Portuguese refugees from Mozambique – but then I suppose that says everything about my failure to grasp the following: capitalism, globalisation, the free market and the great British public’s gnawing desire for chicken.
“Yes, we’re back in the chicken coop again – but in fairness, as this column treats of real meals that people really eat, we should probably never stray too far from the chicken wire. The Nando’s website thoughtfully provides a map showing the distribution of its outlets that makes it look as if doughty Britannia is being pecked to death by sinister, strutting, stylised cockerels – the chain’s logo. Using said map, you could quite easily complete a coast-to-coast walk, à la Wainwright, solely provisioned with the Nando’s signature dish of peri-peri chicken.
“This being noted, there seems to be a marked preponderance of Nando’s in inner-city areas, and I would wager – although I haven’t checked up on this personally, I do have a life you know – that many of these areas have high ethnic-minority populations. It could be that there’s an awareness in the black community of the African roots of Nando’s but, if so, it’s pretty residual. Certainly, when I mentioned this to a black friend who eats there regularly, she didn’t know about it, having just assumed the gaff was Portuguese.
“Indeed, there’s nothing obviously southern African about the Nando’s decor, which is heavy on the faux-adobe, the faux-corrugated iron, the job lots of clay pots and plenty of cockerel-related tat – cages, feed bins and so on. There are also hokey signs on the walls bearing fowl sayings, which stick even in the human craw. Still, the overall feel is tastefully muted: the tables are dark wood, the floors are tiled and the lighting is angled down.”
Read the rest of the latest Real Meals column here.