The husband and I have a guilty little eating obsession that we’ve been keeping quiet about for some time. Like most addictions, it crept up on us slowly – a brief visit here and there if we happened to be passing.
But the lure of Nando’s neon rooster soon became too much. Before we knew it, we were bombing down there every Sunday to ravenously stuff our jowls with spicy chicken, licking our greasy fingers feverishly, as peri peri sauce dribbled down our chins.
In the unlikely event that you’ve never entered its dark doors, Nando’s is basically a fast food restaurant that specialises in Portuguese-style chicken, accompanied by bottles of peri peri sauce, which range from mild to extremely hot. One hit and you’re hooked.
Some people go to Nando’s for a date night; some for a fun night with friends. But we visit Nando’s purely to get our fix. There is no element of enjoyment involved; like true addicts, we’re only interested in getting in there, feeding the addiction and getting out as quickly as is humanly possible.
Having to wait for a table is our worst nightmare. But we’ve developed a method that works quite well: the husband joins the queue to order, while I await a table allocation. Once seated, I text the table number to the husband, usually with the parting message, ‘Do what you need to do’.
There’s no need to go through the motion of pretending to look at the menu. We both know exactly what we want. And the beauty of Nando’s is that there’s no waiter interaction involved; better still, because you’ve paid upfront you can get the hell out of there as soon as the gorge is over.
Sometimes we don’t even speak to each other as we hungrily tuck in, swamping our chicken in hot peri peri sauce and shovelling spicy rice down the hatch at a revolting speed. At the end of the feast, we both sit in subdued silence, clutching our stomachs and fighting a rising sense of self-loathing, swearing that this really will be the last time we visit this rotten establishment.
But, of course, the next week we’re back.
The lengths that we will go to sate our peri peri craving are quite extreme. We’ve been know to travel 20 miles out of our way just to sink our gnashers into a medium-spiced half chicken. We were once forced to get a Nando’s takeout and eat it in our car, in a darkened alleyway. With our bare hands.
At my lowest ebb, I once sat on my own in a Nando’s in London gluttonously feasting on a double chicken wrap. At midnight. After downloading an app called Find My Nearest Nando’s. It was sick.
The addiction took a brief hiatus after a bad incident with a bottle of peri peri sauce. Disembarking at Leeds train station after a weekend away, we dragged our suitcases through the city centre with only one destination in mind. We had arrived just before closing, where one of the waiters was busy unscrewing the tops of the sauces to clean them.
Unfortunately for the husband, I happened to pick up one of the loose-topped bottles, which slipped in my greasy hands and did a rather dramatic somersault through the air, simulataneously showering the husband head to toe in peri peri sauce.
The poor husband had to travel home covered in sticky sauce. His suitcase stunk of it for weeks after. We had about a month off after that – swearing that this Really Was The End and that we were through with that place Once And For All.
That was, until a little voice started whispering ‘peri peri chicken, peri peri chicken’ and the cycle of gluttony started all over again. Going cold turkey on the Nando’s rooster was never going to last.
The husband might say, ‘What do you fancy for dinner tonight? I was thinking a little bit of chicken, a little bit of rice…’
‘Hmm… a little bit of chicken and rice – with perhaps a… spicy sauce?’ I’d reply innocently.
‘What could be the harm in that?’