Nando’s has come to Edmonton! Steven and I were pretty excited to learn this, as we quite enjoyed our experience eating at a Nando’s in London last November. So we headed down there yesterday to check it out.
Let me start by saying we will be back. As you’ll see, it wasn’t the smoothest experience, but nothing that happened was completely unexpected, given how recently the restaurant opened and how busy it was.
We arrived to find a line and a wait of 20-25 minutes. We happily agreed to wait and put our name on the list. In fact, I was encouraged by this. It was pretty early for a Sunday dinner crowd (barely 5 o’clock), and they were swamped. I want Nando’s to succeed, so I was pleased to see them doing a brisk business.
We had some time to look at the menu posted on the wall outside and even had a nice conversation with a woman who hadn’t been to a Nando’s. She seemed cautiously optimistic, though she thought the desserts didn’t look very exotic. By the time they called our name, we already knew what we wanted to order. Though to be honest, we knew that before we left home. We both wanted the same things we’d gotten in London, though with different sides.
The woman who seated us asked if we’d been to a Nando’s before. We said yes, but not for a while so she gave us the whole spiel. We took a last look at the slightly-fuller menu we had at the table and headed to the counter. Or rather, to the line to get to the counter. This was less pleasant than the wait outside. It was a beautiful day outside, but inside it was fairly hot and muggy. I did see a workman futzing with the thermostat, so I suspect they were working on that.
When, at last, we reached the front and were able to order, things nearly came to a screeching halt. Steven is vegetarian, and while they do have a few options for him, the item we’d come for, and waited nearly a half-an-hour for, was unavailable. He wanted the portobello mushroom wrap. Turns out, they had no mushrooms. Another veggie choice, the veggie pita, was a no-go because they were out of pita. In fact, our cashier had a handwritten list in front of her with more than half-a-dozen things they were out of.
Now, I don’t begrudge a restaurant for running out of things when they’re newly-opened and overwhelmed by the volume of customers. That’s going to happen. What I do object to is letting people wait a half an hour without warning folks they’ve run out of some key ingredients. If they were out of something minor, like a certain kind of sauce or the chilli jam, that’s one thing. When the item they’re missing is a main component of one of their entrees, that’s a problem. When fully half of the vegetarian options are unavailable, that’s a significant problem.
On the bright side, Steven likes a good old veggie burger, and that was the only protein-rich veggie option left to him, so he ordered that (no tomatoes) with a side of spiced rice. Being a carnivore, I had no trouble ordering a 1/4 chicken (dark meat) with peri-peri potato wedges. The whole ordering process was made extra-difficult by the volume level in the place. I don’t think she could hear us very well. At first when Steven ordered the veggie wrap, she thought he said the chicken wrap, so he ended up just pointing to the menu.
Sailing was mostly smooth from there on in, thankfully. We each got a soda and had fun using the fancy machine that dispenses over 100 flavors of Coke products. I had a cherry-vanilla Coke Zero and Steven had Orange Fanta Zero. Yum on both counts. We also nabbed a bottle of garlic peri-peri sauce on the way back to our table.
Our food arrived mind-bogglingly swiftly. Everything was piping hot and smelled great! This was when we discovered we’d forgotten to get napkins and silverware. Steven kindly tracked those down, though he had to go find an employee to get forks, as there were none available.
Once we were finally able to tuck in, we discovered Steven’s no-tomato veggie burger did, in fact, have tomato on it. He’s not allergic so he removed it and ate the burger. That process proved difficult because the Portuguese bun was very difficult to bite through. It wasn’t stale, it was just a tough type of bread. Unfortunately, that made the contents slide out the back of the bun every time he bit down. In the end, he was forced to eat about 1/4 of the burger with a knife and fork. Not the ideal burger experience. If they have mushrooms when we go back, I suspect he won’t be getting that veggie burger again.
My chicken, on the other hand, was perfect. I got it with a spice level of medium, and it was spicier than I expected, which is a good thing! Usually when places say medium, I feel their offerings are mild (while mild often means unspiced). This had just the right amount of heat with lots of flavor. And the chicken was cooked beautifully — juicy and tender and I wanted more of it when I was done.
The sides got a thumbs-up from both of us. The spiced rice was quite a bit better than what we’d had in London. It made me regret not trying the garlic mashed potatoes. They’d been disappointing in London too, but it seems I need to give them a try here in Edmonton! My peri-peri potato wedges were cooked to perfection. They were far too hot to eat at first, but once they cooled down, I drenched some of them in garlic per-peri sauce and gobbled. I did, of course, try a few sans sauce to truly judge their quality, and they passed that test with flying colors.
We both went back for (free!) refills on our soda because that machine is so darn fun. (I’ve been to several places with the same machine, but it hasn’t lost its novelty yet.) I got Peach Fanta Zero. I LOVE peach-flavored soda. It was like drinking a Jolly Rancher. Steven got Coke Zero with lemon. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a lemon Coke. It was very lemony and quite refreshing!
All-in-all, we’re glad we went. The food was good and the staff was friendly and helpful. The only moment customer-service-wise that was even the least bit below perfectly-friendly was when one staff member couldn’t get through between the chairs of two tables (it was very crowded, and navigating was difficult) and said “excuse me” to both the people seated in the chairs. She wasn’t quite rude, but it was so loud she had to repeat herself several times, and sounded rather less-than-friendly as she spoke. And if that’s the biggest complaint about the staff on a day that busy? That’s pretty darn good.
So yes, we’ll be back to Nando’s in Edmonton. But if we have to wait again, we’ll ask what they’re out of first!