Tearing a fledgling business a new one is not funny. It’s not creative, it’s not cute and it’s most often not constructive. Usually it’s just plain mean. But in the restaurant industry, chicken-based offenses are considered especially heinous, and Beijing now has a fake Nando’s that must pay.
Nando’s means different things to different people. To its frequenters, Nando’s’ iconic branding and uncomfortable price point can trigger anything from 'tears and nuggets' to 'diamond anniversary'. Bodybuilders are quick to champion the lean protein as muscle-building miracle-flesh, while white collartypes pop down at lunch for the thrill of a greasy finger lick. The term 'Cheeky Nando’s' has indeed become a spicy meme in itself.
You might not personally identify with Nando’s Peri Peri Tenderloins, but with over 1,000 outlets throughout 30 countries worldwide, it would be at your gravest peril to ignore the cult that does. To its notoriously vocal following, Nando’s is bigger than chicken. So, whoever decided to open Sanlitun Lu’s meticulously detailed Nando’s replica and call it Peri Peri – or Nanduoshi (Nando’s World) in Chinese – would surely be backing themselves to deliver in the edibility department. Surely.
We enter optimistically, but the familiar chicken mural on the very first wall makes us double-take – it’s almost identical to that of real Nando’s. At the top of the stairs, however, the private dining room confirms that we are still in China, where there is no Nando’s and there is no intellectual property. We crack a menu and, lo and behold, it’s all here. The spice-o-metre chilli diagram, the chicken platters, the cowabunga Gen X copy and the typeface. The chuan’r.
We order a full chicken platter (198RMB), designed for two to three people, opting for fries, mashed potato, garlic bread and corn on the cob as our included sides. The mashed potato arrives suspiciously early, is suspiciously granular and features the occasional ball bearing of undissolved stock cube roughly the size of a Brazil nut.
The remaining three sides come and go in ten-minute intervals, as if by way of degustation, and features a corn on the cob that a corn mother couldn’t love. It’s not actually plastic, which is awesome, but the elastic kernels stretch and scold like they were heavily influenced by plastic at a developmental level.
At this point there’s a kitchen staffer emptying a bin into a bin bag two tables away, before dragging that juicy bin bag along the floor – hear it scrape – and into an outdoor skip that, despite being large for a bin, is, alas, not restaurant-sized.
Tick tock – oh, look at that, it’s malnourished, undercooked chicken for ants o’clock. It’s also missing its breasts. Just some growth-inhibited legs and a pair of rib brackets, really.
Peri Peri will disappoint those unacquainted with Nando’s and, violently offend its fans. Perfect for that crippling surprise break-up.