Nando's on Queen is one location of the popular upscale-casual chicken franchise that started in South Africa and is sweeping across Canada. In between they were popularized in the UK through clever branding that toys with the cheeky side of eating spicy food with your hands and drinking a pint: requests for feedback on the menu asks, "Was it good for you?"
Nando's nods to the nightlife with this playfulness, but would still be a great family joint during the day. With funky furnishings indoors and a huge patio outside with equally colourful decor, heat lamps, coverings, and even Nando's blankets, this place easily transitions between the daytime strolling crowd and the nighttime bar crowd, many coming from Raq next door.
Their system for ordering is unconventional and designed to get guests interacting with the food and the restaurant. You order and pay at the front, and can obtain your own soft drinks and cutlery like at a fast food restaurant. Then, your food is brought out to you. They even have a hand-washing station.
And you'll need it. The casual vibe suits the food on offer here, based entirely on peri-peri chicken. You might know this spice as piri piri, which is just a type of chili pepper, but it's the basis for all their sauces running the gamut from lemon herb, containing no spice, to garlic, to extra-extra hot.
The half chicken ($10.85, $13.35 with a side) is their most popular item and is the perfect vehicle for this magical sauce. The chicken is marinated for twenty-four hours, pre-cooked, and then grilled to order. All their chicken is halal. We get this with a side of peri-peri seasoned fries, which complement the tender, juicy chicken perfectly.
The sauce is a nice level of heat, certainly very spicy if you go for a higher degree, but it's not just a burning sensation with no flavour behind it. This is best exemplified by the wing roulette ($12.95). Plated in a circle, the wings are sauced randomly with different levels of heat. You might be able to guess which is which based on colour and the amount of chili flakes, but no guarantees.
There's also the chicken sandwich ($7.75), which comes on a Portuguese roll baked fresh in house. It's $10.25 with a side, and we go for the grilled veggies, a combo of pepper, onion, zucchini, and carrots. The sandwich is topped with lettuce and tomato, and we add some cheese for an extra charge.
Everything is totally customizable, so you can get anything above exactly the way you want it. They also make a tamer, sweet peri sauce for kids.
Photos by Jesse Milns