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UK Chain restaurants


YKL
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This topic was prompted by comments on one of the other threads about how so many major cities / towns are lacking really good individual and independent restaurants, and seems particularly pertinent during the festive season when there are so many meals out to fit in and all the best places are quite rightly booked up!

So, am taking it for granted that given a choice, we'd all rather eat at somewhere like Anthony's, Star Inn or [please fill in Blank] ... but if you are somewhere unfamiliar where there only seem to be chain brand names or are too pushed for time to look anywhere up ... then do you go hungry or fall back on somewhere where you at least know what to expect?

I'll go first ... will quite happily say that the following are reasonable chains serving good or reasonable food with good service:

- Pizza Express - particularly useful if charging off to theatre afterwards

- Loch Fyne - there just aren't enough fish specialist restaurants around - and this helps plug a gap

- Aagrah Indian restaurants - in Yorkshire only. Yes, I know Bradford is the place to go - but sometimes I can't be bothered to drive that far when the Tadcaster one is 20 mins from my house.

- some of the Cafe Rouge used to be ok ... but admit that it can be a bit hit and miss ..

and have only eaten at the Manchester Le Petit Blanc, but was genuinely very happy with what we had. The birthday champagne may have helped though! :raz:

So ... any views? Or have I now disgraced myself on EG?

Yin

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i would go one step further with pizza express, i actively love it and always have!

mind you i've never had anything other than an american hot there, the original and still the best :wink:

agree re aagrah i even have the discount card! Although a 30 mile round trip for a curry is the downside of living in the sticks!

can't think of any other chains i patronise, except hangover/drunken visits to burger king/mcdonalds if its breakfast time.

would actively avoid living room for eating, ok for drinks.

used to have a soft spot for est,est,est... but not sure how well it stacks up now, been through too many owners/managers.

cheers

gary

you don't win friends with salad

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I've been waiting for this thread for a while!!! Thanks for starting it.

I *love* Nandos. I kept my love of Nandos a secret for a very long time. But I'm out and proud now. I love the fact that they know exactly what they do and they deliver that. There's no deviating from the plan with them (apart from the Prego steak roll which I've also heard good thigns about) it's chicken all the way. The staff seem to enjoy working there, the food is simple, honest, tasty and reasonably price and their brand is really carefully thought out.

I love Nandos and will probably have to go tonight now I've written this.

Suzi Edwards aka "Tarka"

"the only thing larger than her bum is her ego"

Blogito ergo sum

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You have mentioned Nando's before and I went to the Brighton branch based on your recommendation. Although the dining room wasn't as clean as it should have been (tables needed clearing and the floor sweeping) and the service was a bit hapless, the food was delicious and I would happily go back. In fact, we might well have a family outing sometime during the holidays.

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I'm glad you went there. All my friends tease me for my obsession with Nandos but I don't care anymore. The only thing I wouldn't recommend there are the chicken livers.

The only time I went there (a desperate food stop in the hell that is Norwich on a Friday night) I had those. And I thought they were great! If they're the worst thing on the menu, I'll definitely be back.

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that is so spooky! As i was driving home last night, I suddenly remembered about Nando's and thought "I must post about that tomorrow!"

Was embarrassingly happy when they opened up a branch in Leeds, and all the friends I've taken there seem very happy too. Am also very fond of their custard tarts.

Cheers

Yin

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Yep, Carluccios is totally a chain. I work just round the corner from their branch in Covent Garden and they seem have widened their range. They had half lobsters with lemon mayonnaise earlier!

I quite like them but the service in the deli section on Upper Street is terrible. It once took them so long to slice me some pancetta I had started seriously considering rearing, slaughtering and curing my own pig as a viable alternative.

Suzi Edwards aka "Tarka"

"the only thing larger than her bum is her ego"

Blogito ergo sum

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that is so spooky!  As i was driving home last night, I suddenly remembered about Nando's and thought "I must post about that tomorrow!"

I wonder if we can strike up some sort of sponsorship deal with them: "The eGullet Society UK forum brought to you by Nandos: After all that nit pickin', you'll be dying for some chicken!"

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Nandos - very good.

Grilled spicy chicken, decent salads and fries is always going to be a winner, and I admire them for the fact that it is as suitable as 'prep' for a beery night out as it is for a pre-cinema meal with the family.

I repeat: Nandos - very good.

Cheers

Thom

It's all true... I admit to being the MD of Holden Media, organisers of the Northern Restaurant and Bar exhibition, the Northern Hospitality Awards and other Northern based events too numerous to mention.

I don't post here as frequently as I once did, but to hear me regularly rambling on about bollocks - much of it food and restaurant-related - in a bite-size fashion then add me on twitter as "thomhetheringto".

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mmm ... medium spicing at Nando's is about as hot as I dare go - and I used to think I was quite good with hot and spicy food.

Have never gone for the extra hot one - don't want to risk crying in public or having my tongue swell up to a point where I risk choking to death!

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I liked Nandos when it first opened. The shops were clean, the service cheerful, and, as Suzi said, they did one thing and did it well. It was a pleasant stop on a family outing.

About 2 years ago we went to a Nandos on the Clapham Road. The place was filthy, the service slow and surly. Ah, that's all right, I thought, the chicken will be good. Unfortunately it wasn't. It was dry and overdone. I haven't been back, but after these positive comments it may be time for another try.

Jonathan Day

"La cuisine, c'est quand les choses ont le go�t de ce qu'elles sont."

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There are "mini chains", groups with more than 1 but fewer than a dozen outlets. Some of these aren't at all bad. An example would be Bar Meze (www.barmeze.com), which has 5 restaurants in and around London. This enables some economies of scale without a complete loss of character.

Jonathan Day

"La cuisine, c'est quand les choses ont le go�t de ce qu'elles sont."

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not wanting to nitpick, but how good is that actual chicken at nandos? i would imagine its pretty dodgy battery stuff?

All the website says is "Fresh, never-frozen, A-grade chickens" so I've e mailed them and asked if they would be willing to share with us a bit more about where they source their chicken from. Given the time of year, I don't suppose we'll hear anything soon, but I'll pass on anything when I get it.

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Well, the Christmas meal has been consumed, along with gingerbread men and tea - what's there left to think about aside from good chain restaurants?

I so love Nandos. Its the best thing that ever happened to fast food. Like you Suzi, I'm out and I'm proud.

Strada is good.

Huge fan of carluccios - it just seems to fill the niche in the market for that sort of thing. We always seem to end up there on a Saturday for lunch or brekkie. Their breakfasts are fantastic.

I will also mention that mini chain - Giraffe. I'm a complete devotee - though sometimes the volume of kids and noise does get me down. Had lunch in the Muswell Hill branch once during half term and I could have sworn that I'd walked straight into a school refrectory.

Might I also add the Gourmet Burger Company to this list? Top burgers...but I think that's another thread...

Happy Christmas all.

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Oh, bollocks to it; I'm going to have to go and try Nandos now...

*mutter, grumble*

Frankie and Benny's needs the Betjeman/Slough treatment.

Allan Brown

"If you're a chef on a salary, there's usually a very good reason. Never, ever, work out your hourly rate."

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