Continuing its world domination of Portuguese style chicken restaurants, Nandos Covent Garden is a little different to the other branches.
Deceptively large, the downstairs area opens out into a swirling, spiral like setting, with a swooping wooden ramp taking you from the seating area to the counter. The decor is decidedly beige, with terracotta, exposed brickwork, plywood ceiling lamps and taupe seating all around. Despite this underwhelming colour scheme, the bar upstairs has a suitably Iberian feel with carved wooden cupboards and vibrantly coloured paintings, and the counter downstairs is made more interesting by the addition of chillis, suspended Damien Hirst style, in resin.
With a friendly atmosphere of hurried politeness, Nandos lets you know that it is always busy, busy, busy. The staff are quick – especially whilst taking the food away - but pleasant and keen to get the job done well. Lodged comfortably between Covent Garden and Leicester Square, this venue caters for early risers with its all encompassing breakfast menu, eager office lunchers keen to get back to their heaving inboxes and the school night drinkers who fancy a cocktail or two with or without dinner. An all rounder for the everyman, this venue comfortably suits workers, families, couples and students.
This Nandos is the very first to be open for breakfast, catering for hungry types on their way to work or the shops. There is a huge range of fresh fruit, cereals, pastries and smoothies, along with coffee and tea. Not exactly the most obvious choice for the first meal of the day, but definitely worth a shot if you are passing.
Peri-peri is pretty much the name of the game here and if you don’t want spice, you really shouldn’t come. From tame to the truly tongue-burning variety that will have you drooling like a bloodhound, the sauce is where it’s at. Choose your dish, from a choice of chicken, veggie burger, salads, rice, Portuguese bread or chips, and then your level of heat. If your dish is not quite up to the scorching standards you are used to, then you can always turn it up a notch with the peri-peri sauces available at the counter.
A quarter chicken is perfectly sufficient for one, with a crispy skin and tender, moist flesh. The spicy rice is suitably piquant with small pieces of jalapeno, which goes with the crunchy coleslaw that cools the heat of the peri-peri somewhat. The Mediterranean salad is fresh and deliciously crisp, but the lack of cucumber and the addition of radish is somewhat unexpected. Large portion sizes and spice level guarantee that the food's always, in the words of Mr Kipling, exceedingly good.
If you can handle a pudding too, then opt for something small and creamy to give your taste buds a break from all the hot sauce. Frozen yoghurts or simple but enticing ice creams fit the bill adequately.
The second Nandos Bar to open (the first is at the O2), the branch has a fully stocked cellar with whites, reds and roses, and plenty of Potuguese wine and beers as would be expected. But the Nandos Bar caters for all Covent Garden’s cocktail lovers with fantastic Brazilian Caipirinha and their very special batidas. Delicious with or without alcohol, the mix of fruit, yoghurt and cream makes for a large glass of chilled summer heaven. The mixed berry batida has an instant zing along with the creaminess, whilst the pineapple is tart but refreshing.
The Last Word
A great place to lunch or dine with friends or family, Nandos Covent Garden has taken great steps to ensure that they can provide you with as much food throughout the day as possible. From breakfast to evening cocktails, they have it covered. Although their traditional peri-peri and chicken is a trademark and substantial part of their reputation, more vegetarian items on the menu couldn’t hurt, along with a little less hurry from the staff.