Steve Braunias: The man who ate Lincoln Rd digs Nando's Chicken

Steve Braunias is on a mission to eat at each one of the 55 food joints on Lincoln Rd in West Auckland. • Episode six: Nando's Chicken
At its height there were 31 Nando's franchises throughout New Zealand. Photo / Michael Craig
At its height there were 31 Nando's franchises throughout New Zealand. Photo / Michael Craig

The man who ate Lincoln Rd is going to come right out and say Nando's Chicken is the best chicken there is. It's chicken, Jim, but not as we know it. It's beyond chicken. It's the immaculate chicken.

It makes KFC chicken and Texas Chicken chicken taste and look and even feel like something not quite chicken. Those jokers are serving cow or crow or rope in comparison to Nando's Chicken chicken.

I really like Nando's Chicken. I really like the one on Lincoln Rd. It's got tables, with cutlery, and a choice of sauces. The service is friendly and helpful, and they even have big bottles of water for the table. It's actually a restaurant. It's like Antoines or Depot or The Grill by The Unbearable Sean Connolly, except it's better than those dumps. It's class.

Steve was left wanting more at Nando's. Photo / Zomato
Steve was left wanting more at Nando's. Photo / Zomato

But what a long, strange trip it's been for Nando's in New Zealand! There have been troubles. They have suffered. Things began well, though, when the first Nando's opened in 2000, in that great social laboratory of Auckland, Glenfield.

Punters were entranced by the South African franchise with its funky Mozambique cooking and its totemic bottles of hot Peri Peri sauce.

It went off - at its height there were 31 Nando's franchises throughout New Zealand - but then the wheels came off. Five stores were liquidated, two permanently. And then the franchisor itself went into liquidation.

Things started turning around again in 2014, under new management, which poured money into the brand. A new 150-seater was opened in Queen St, and the one in Lincoln Rd was renovated late last year.

READ MORE: Steve Braunias rates: • Sal's PizzaSierra cafeMoto Sushi

But there was more bad press, in August, when a family moaned its head off in the Herald and said they would never darken the door of the Lincoln Rd store ever again.

Why? Because they thought it was all good to sit in the restaurant and feed their kid some sushi they bought elsewhere - and got upset when a Nando's staff member pointed out this wasn't cool.

Good for Nando's! They're totally within their rights. What, you walk into Depot with a chop from The Grill, and tell Al Brown to wear it, or else?

If the Man Who Ate Lincoln Rd was eating Lincoln Rd when that wretched family came in and made a fuss, I'd have told them to scram.

Anyway. So there I was the other day with a mild hunger, and I ordered five grilled tenderloins, potato salad, and spicy rice. The bill: $19.40. That's twice what I usually think is acceptable for a hot lunch but you pay for quality.

The food was sensational. I expected as much. I read last year that the Tongan rugby team ate at Nando's ten nights in a row during the World Cup in England; and if anyone knows their food, it's Tongans. They're the gourmets of the Pacific.

I loved every second of my meal. The chicken was perfectly grilled, and the meat was tender as money. The salad had zing. The rice had zap. Come to think of it, the chicken had zip.

And yet there was room for improvement. I wanted a $4.50 Portuguese roll, but they'd run out. That's not good enough. I really wanted that roll, partly to see how it compared to the bread roll at KFC (a classic, probably the best bread roll in New Zealand fast food) and the honey bun at Texas Chicken (an abomination).

I'm deducting a point for the missing roll. My rating: 11 out of 10.

•All views expressed are the author's.

- NZ Herald

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