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It was, in short, a microcosm of modern Britain – or at least of West Hampstead.Colom ordered a double chicken wrap with chips and rice – a meal he has eaten 'literally hundreds’ of times.It is the dining option of choice for East Enders actors, home-grown rap singers and – if we are to believe the adroitly engineered plugs in newspaper gossip columns and on social media – Rihanna, Britney Spears and Lewis Hamilton.It is the favourite restaurant of teenagers, of all colours and religious persuasions or none (of the chain’s 282 branches across Britain and Ireland, some 60 are Halal).They started collecting receipts and making notes comparing the different branches. It would be hard to imagine a website dedicated to rating different branches of, say, Burger King or Pizza Express. 'I love Pizza Express, but I feel no inclination to start a website about it.’ Yet people, he went on, feel differently about Nando’s.
We shared a red-pepper dip ('I’ve heard it’s almost an Eastern European flavour.The business struggled and was on the verge of collapse when the chairman, Richard Enthoven, handed it over to his son Robert – habitually described in business stories as 'a self-confessed bum’ – who shifted the emphasis from takeaways to what is known as a 'mixed service’ model, whereby customers are allocated a table and then order at a counter and collect their own cutlery before the food is brought to the table by servers. The 'fast casual’ restaurant, of which Nando’s is perhaps the leading example, is one of the fastest growing sectors in the food industry.Enthoven also hit on the idea of individualising the design and decor of each outlet, thereby avoiding the uniformly bland feeling of a chain. It tends to be characterised by 'short’ menus and the offer of more healthy food, which you can often see being freshly prepared on the premises.It was almost full: a group of young men engaged in animated conversation at one table; a lugubrious middle-aged couple saying very little to another; a smattering of families with older children; bed-sit singletons; four girls looking at their phones. Nobody looked poor, but nobody looked rich, either.
Each member of staff seemed to represent a different country.
Peri-peri – Swahili for 'pepper-pepper’ – is a hot chilli that comes originally from Mozambique, where it was adopted by Portuguese settlers.