On chain restaurants, and their opponents

Nando’s is great, in general. Fact.

Separately, I’ve been to the Vortex in Stoke Newington, and it’s one of the worst venues I’ve ever had the misfortune to frequent. Fact. It was a quality piece of British [1] service, indeed: they told our party we could eat there, then told us we couldn’t, then told us we could phone in for delivery pizza, then told us we were interrupting the jazz (dig it, man…) when the pizza arrived and so couldn’t eat it in the venue.

So the fact that some daft Stokies are opposing the conversion of said rubbish-hole into a thoroughly good chicken-eatery makes me despair for the future of humanity.

Sod it, I’ll continue living in unfashionable parts of town [2], having enjoyable dinners, and eating food that’s good. I know Maccy D’s is not only unpopular but also socially eeeevil, because it serves cheap fatty and nice-tasting food to people who don’t have much money and like cheap, fatty and nice-tasting food; but Nando’s actually serves real whole unfried chickens that taste really really fucking good. If you slate it without having been there, it’s sheer snobbery – it is genuinely better than nearly all foodservice in this country. And most other countries.

Also, a a quick bit which makes no sense to people who aren’t from north-east London, but is a massive bloody great dog-whistle to those who are: people in Church Street saying “sod off to the Stroud Green Road if you want Nando’s”. In terms of the relative areas’ demographics, that equates to “wealthy white City couples tell people who actually grew up in the area to sod off to somewhere which still has poor people in it if they don’t want to eat organic fruit smoothies” [3].

[1] i.e. “actual people from the UK work here, and resent it and wish they were investment bankers and media co-ordinators like the rest of us, and therefore treat their customers in exactly the contemptuous way they believe their customers deserve to be treated – rather than being people from elsewhere trying to make enough money to buy their entire home town and therefore being correspondingly jolly with customers in the meantime”.

[2] I actually live in one of the four most fashionable parts of town; this is deliberate irony.

[3] in the interests of social commentary, I note that the people who’re born in the area in question tend to be black or Asian, whereas the people who write wanky petitions about restaurants tend to be white. However, the latter lot are saving the former lot from their ignorant selves [4], which isn’t neo-imperialist because it’s in a good cause.

[4] I particularly hate the way I have to highlight sarcastic comments in footnotes these days in case idiots [5] try and cite me out of context.

[5] if you don’t know, you don’t need to know.

19 thoughts on “On chain restaurants, and their opponents”

  1. Nandos in Bath is not very nice. Staffed by surly spotty yoofs and the chicken comes in either "tasteless" or "far, far too spicy". Generally I agree with you that chain restaurants are unfairly maligned, but in this instance, from my experience I disagree!

  2. See also, JD Wetherspoons.

    I love them and their two quid (large) bottles of Polish/Czech/Greek lager, but no other bugger ever wants to go there (usually some rubbish about old people). So we end up in some Lounge Bar type poncehole where San Miguel costs four quid for a small bottle. Cheers.

    The sooner they diversify into JD Local bars, the better.

  3. Wetherspoons are an interesting example – they tick off many of the things I like to see in a pub – carpeted floors to deaden the sound of a hundred people yapping, decent beers, cheap grub, but yet, they somehow always manage to cock up the implementation such that it feels like drinking in an airport departure lounge.

  4. They always bring out a strange agraphobia in me… A pub should be cosy – gemutlichkeit, to descend pointlessly into German.

    That said, Church Street is the only place I've ever seen someone get kicked shitless in London.

    (And, also, while I remember, Abi Ruchi is a much better curry house than the Rasas next door.)

  5. ahem. FWIW, the Nando's on Chalk Farm Road is an absolute hole, but as a Camden taxpayer, I am wholly in favour of closing down music venues in other boroughs as it is good for our business rate base.

  6. Yeah, it was actually the Decentpedia piece that provoked me to write this – unfortunately it was 2:33AM on a Saturday night, so I lost my thread a bit. It still goes though – DT may be a bit of a twat, but the anti-Nando residents of Stokie are infinitely more so.

    Have you been to the Chalk Farm Nando's, or just been past it? I was massively sniffy about them until a friend forced me to go to one, at which point I more or less converted on the spot.

  7. Yes, I used to go there quite often when I was a civil servant – I suppose it might have got better in the last few years but frankly doubt it.

    In related news, referring to McDonalds as "Maccy D's"; I think not.

  8. it feels like drinking in an airport departure lounge

    Absolutely right! Weird, isn't it? They're like perfect replicas of decent pubs built by someone who has never actually seen one.

    Tim Worstall: It would also help if Nandos could spell “piri-piri”…

    Interesting point, by the way. My default assumption of "Tim Worstall is always wrong about everything, significant and trivial alike, without exception" has received another boost. See here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piri_piri
    "…Nando's, the Portuguese-themed chicken restaurant, originated in South Africa from Portuguese who left Mozambique after the independence in 1975. The chain uses piri-piri in many of its dishes, and helped popularise them worldwide. The company, however, prefers the common South African spelling peri peri on its menus and branded sauces…"

    It's amazing. I think when he introduces himself to people he must say "Hi, I'm Tom."

  9. I think the main problem with Wetherspoon's (others include far too bright lighting) is essentially they are the cheapest pubs in any town, and so always attract a crowd of young men and… old people. Depnds a lot on the location, and it's hardly a deal-breaker – I always have a drink in the Hastings branch when I get off the train there, but they're hardly a place you want to linger.

    Oh and of course Tim Martin is a bit of twat.

  10. Incidentally, I once planned whole blog post about the spooky coincidence that Tim Worstall and Tim Wetherspoon were both members of Ukip, both had mullets, both spoke nonsense, and both had the initials TW. And then I realised the Wetherspoon chap was called Tim Martin.

  11. Haven't been in the Vortex in years, but when I did, even then it had all the makings of becoming a pain in a sacred cow's arse.

    If Nando's they want to open up in Walthamstow, I'll bet they will be greeted with open arms.

  12. it feels like drinking in an airport departure lounge

    Speaking of which, the Wetherspoons in Edinburgh Airport departure lounge is jolly decent, as departure lounge bars go.

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