Having been stuck in talks with the local community and developers for almost six years, cult chicken brand Nando’s has finally arrived in Headingley, and with them they bring a little bit of its signature spice to the centre of the student-dominated suburb.
Discreetly located on the outskirts of the Otley road, just far away enough from the loud and often lairy pub crawlers, the latest offering in the company’s quest for global domination seems somewhat calmer and more intimate than its bustling siblings in the city centre.
The interior of the restaurant hints at the effort put into creating an attractive and unique dining space for customers. Every Nando’s is individually designed by a selection of architects to give each one a different, distinctive ambience. In the case of the Headingley branch, there is an ethnic feel to the decor, with intricate woodcarvings, colourfully tiled tables and various works of eye-catching art. I am informed these have been specially imported from South Africa, where Nando’s originated, despite its Portuguese product.
Although not particularly large, the space has been utilised dynamically, with plenty of booth seating in the cool, air-conditioned main building, and an outdoor terraced area allowing those customers wishing to brave the ferocious heat to dine al fresco.
Say what you may about Nando’s, but the chain can always be depended on to deliver a quick and tasty meal, with a surprisingly good range of vegetarian options when one considers that their main selling point is poultry. My friend and I tucked ourselves into a booth, and I devoured a tender lemon and herb chicken butterfly breast, whilst she opted for a hot veggie pita accompanied by a side helping of the ominously labelled extra-extra hot Peri-Peri sauce. Despite my disappointment at the lack of steam emerging from my friend’s ears after consuming this fiery combination, the meal was reliably delicious, if perhaps not as ‘cheeky’ as social media had promised.
This was more than made up for by the lovely staff, who cheerfully welcomed us and put up with our requests for ‘interesting facts’ about the new restaurant. They also mentioned that the Headingley branch is planning to work in conjunction with the local Wheatfields Hospice, with a proportion of profits from special events and family days being donated to the charity. This provides further proof that whilst Nando’s Headingley may stick to the company standard in terms of its food, its approach to design and community is distinctly personal in execution.