The Elusive Nando’s Black Card

Beckham’s got one; Jay-Z can’t live without his; Justin Timberleg’s in; and even scraggy-haired crooner Ed Sheeran’s somehow got his paws on one. I’m talking about something more exclusive than membership to Coutts and rarer than hen’s teeth themselves…

The Nando’s Black Card.

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Whisperings of its existence first surfaced on the web a few years ago but I’ve never heard of anyone outside of schleb circles being given one. It might even be an urban myth.

According to legend, owners of this exclusive card – also known as the High Five – can waltz into any Nando’s in the world, slip the card to the cashier (perhaps there’s even a secret handshake involved?) and receive unlimited food for free. There’s even a whole website dedicated to it.

In the heart of our local stomping ground of Chapel Allerton, a huge restaurant/ bar has just closed down. It’s a great venue: all glass fronted and on three levels. In its heyday it was called Angel’s Share and many a night was spent jostling glasses of wine, dodging doughy divorcees, and bumping along to Boogie Luv.

But despite the vintage bird wallpaper, great wine list and locally-sourced grub, its latest incarceration as a more high-brow eaterie called the Hummingbird just didn’t quite cut the mustard.

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The husband and I mulled over the sad demise of Angel’s Share/ Hummingbird with fellow Chapel Allerton-ers in the pub the other week. We came to the conclusion that it needed to attract a more loyal clientele – one that perhaps enjoyed spicy chicken, with a side of rice or fries, all drizzled in lashings of an addictive peri-peri sauce.

Basically, it needed to be a Nando’s.

By their second pint, the husband and friend Sam had decided, with 100 per cent certainty, that they were going to set up a franchise of Nando’s, right here on our doorstep.

‘We’re already spending £1500 a year on Nando’s,’ figured the husband, referring to our weekly addiction. ‘We might as well go the whole hog and buy a Nando’s. It’s the next logical step.’

The next morning, the husband hopped on the laptop to enquire about launching the all-new north Leeds leg of this spicy chicken success story.

But to his dismay, he found that Nando’s franchises weren’t an option in the UK.

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We pondered this problem for a whole.

‘I’ve got an idea,’ I said. ‘Perhaps we could still have a Nando’s business model but call it…’

‘…Nondo’s?!’ we both chimed at once.

I decided to write to Nando’s.

Dear Mr Nando,

My husband and I are weekly visitors to several of your establishments across Leeds, where we regularly enjoy a butterfly chicken breast and half-chicken respectively (with peri-peri salt fries, spicy rice, and an occasional side of halloumi).

Given our expertise, we feel there is a definite gap in the market for a Nando’s restaurant in Chapel Allerton, north Leeds, namely at the vacant premises formerly known as a the Hummingbird restaurant.

In return for this information and in light of the millions we believe you are likely to make, we are happy to forfeit our finder’s fee in exchange for one of your coveted Nando’s black cards.

Please send to the address above.

Yours Sincerely

I was about to hit send when my eyes fell upon ‘10 Things You Need To Know About The Nando’s Black Card‘.

I refer to point 8: ‘No-one who’s requested a card, no matter how politely, has ever received one. Asking for one is the biggest tattoo.

I immediately scrapped the letter.

But there is hope. Nando’s claims that anyone who can prove they’ve eaten in every restaurant across the world would receive free food for life.

I estimate we’ve visited 20 Nando’s across the UK.

Which means we only have another 1015 restaurants to go.

The Husband… and The Puff

What is this object?

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Yep, it’s one of those white fluffy things that you use to lather shower gel around your body.

The problem is that no one really knows what to call it. To the husband it is quite simply a ‘shower puff’. I’ve always called it a puff too. But I’m not sure what its official title is. I’ve heard it labelled a variety of things: shower scrunchie, body polisher, even a shower flower.

I once saw a besuited man in Boots attempting to explain to the shop assistant what he was looking for.

‘It’s a white fluffy shower… thing,’ he was saying, whilst doing a circular scrubbing motion with his hands.

‘A puff?’ I helpfully chipped in.

‘That’s it!’ he cried.

Anyone who doesn’t use a shower puff for everyday cleansing really is missing a trick. I mean how else do you get up the kind of lather that a puff can provide?

We have a variety of puffs in our house, including a large pink puff, which I acquired from Soap and Glory. It’s huge, and bills itself as the ‘best latherer in town’. I even bought my mother-in-law one for Christmas (turns out she loves puffs too!).

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For day-to-day showering, we plump for a simple white Boots puff (one each, of course – I’m not sure on the etiquette of a shared puff). Boots provide the best puffs; those puffs purchased from Superdrug et al. have proved feeble, and begin to unravel when faced with a vigorous scour.

The husband went on a business trip to Latvia the other week (where he got trapped in the a toilet cubicle on his way to a business meeting and had to wait half an hour for the hotel maintenance team to remove the hinges off the door. During this lavatory-based debacle, the meek Saudi man, who the husband was supposed to be meeting, was waiting on the other side of the door to greet him, arms outstretched… But that’s another story).

Being the loving wife that I am, I often leave the husband a range of silly notes when he goes away – sometimes in a pocket; sometimes in a shoe. More often than not, he doesn’t even notice them. I once popped one in his packed lunch and he accidentally ate it.

For the Latvian trip, I popped a note in with his ‘travel puff’ (travel puff lives in a clear white plastic zip up bag; he’s a slightly smaller version of your standard puff).

The note simply said, ‘Puff Daddy’. (Yep, you can see how much fun we have in our house!)

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Upon arrival, the husband – being the most unobservant man on this planet – removed trusty travel puff from his suitcase and was happily scrubbing away in the shower, whilst unbeknown to him my ‘Puff Daddy’ note had somehow ended up lying on the floor of the shower cubicle unnoticed.

This would have been fine, had the husband not been sharing a room with his work colleague.

Said work colleague then entered the bathroom – and staring back at him on the floor was a bright orange Post-It note that simply said ‘Puff’ (the ‘Daddy’ part being unfortunately folded underneath).

The husband isn’t sure whether or not he actually spotted the offending note.

But I like to imagine the work colleague spending his shower in complete and utter confusion, possibly muttering, ‘PUFF??’ to himself several times, as he lathered away.

The Ghost of Holidays Past

The annual Great Summer Holiday Hunt began in earnest about two months ago. First, there was the decision of where to go (France/ Italy/ Greece/ Bognor Regis…).

Next, was choosing a hotel (not too big, not too small, sizeable pool area, walking distance of a restaurants, preferably nestling alongside a picturesque harbour with postcard-perfect houses in pastel colours artfully positioned on the hillside – I don’t ask for much) and thirdly: Can it live up to our favourite hotel?

The problem with finding a hotel that you love is that you start comparing all other hotels to it – and sometimes they just don’t live up to the benchmark.

Last year, we went to Lindos Blu in Rhodes. In my mind it was the perfect hotel, pitching itself somewhere between boutique and medium-sized, offering a relaxing adults-only pool area gazing onto the Aegean sea, with plenty of scope for people-watching; attentive staff with just the right level of fuss; and a large, modern room with all the extras you’d hope for – such as a hot tub and a sunken bath. Lindos Blu was going to be a hard act to follow.

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And when it came to booking this year’s hotel, I couldn’t find anywhere that looked quite as good as Lindos Blu. After many hours trawling Tripadvisor (no matter how many excellent reviews there are, I always seem to home in on the negatives: ‘there was a pungent odour emanating from the bathroom… the food was barely edible’), I delivered the news to the husband that we might be heading back to our old friend Lindos Blu.

‘So you’re telling me that out of all the hotels in Europe, you can’t find a single suitable hotel?’ said the husband, with an air of weariness.

‘That’s about the size of it,’ I said. ‘It’s going to have to be Lindos Blu Part 2. We’ll be one of those strange couples who go to the same hotel and ask for the same room every year.

‘Unless…’ I added. ‘We play the wild card.’

‘Let’s play the wild card,’ said the husband. He thinks people who visit the same place year after year are a bit strange.

The wild card was a little-known hotel called Monte Mulini, perched atop a quaint harbour town called Rovinj in northern Croatia. It looked lovely.

So here we are, gazing out at the Istrian sea, lying on one of our hard-won sun-loungers, cheek to jowl with an uber-boobed Russian nuzzling her catalogue boy lover.

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It turns out that Rovinj isn’t so ‘little-known’ after all. In fact, half of Europe appears to have descended on the place. When we landed at the hotel yesterday afternoon, it was a beautiful sight… with just one problem: there wasn’t a single sun-lounger free – just scores of bare-breasted women and splashing children as far as the eye could see (okay, so the photo paints a serene scene but on ground level, it was a different story).

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‘This would never happen at Lindos Blu,’ I thought.

This morning, we rose and headed down for breakfast, passing the pool en route. Already, the hordes had descended, reserving nearly every sun lounger with a carefully-placed magazine or sunhat.

‘This is ridiculous,’ I thought. On principal, I don’t believe in reserving sun loungers pre-breakfast. I blame the Germans. They started this.

‘If you can beat ’em, join ’em,’ said the husband, throwing down his towel on one of the last remaining loungers and placing his Kindle on it territorially.

We headed up for breakfast; there wasn’t a single table free.

‘We would never had to queue at Lindos Blu,’ I grumbled.

He husband rolled his eyes.

‘And what’s more… I MISS NIGEL!’ I added, dramatically.

Nigel was a fellow holiday maker at Lindos Blu last year: a big-bellied booming man with an ego the size of France. He was the very dictionary definition of a ‘bon viveur’, greeting the staff by their first names and regaling his captive audience with tales of far-flung travel destinations.

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Occasionally, he would dive noisily into the pool and embark on a couple of lengths of butterfly – limbs akimbo – emerging to bellow down the phone at his harassed PA, before continuing his convivial chat with other poolside posers.

Basically, he provided hours of entertainment. We pretended that he was the most irritating guest imaginable but when he departed mid-way through the week, he left a big hole in our holiday.

‘We all miss Nigel,’ said the husband wistfully, as he gazed down the snaking line of people awaiting a table for breakfast.

And then he uttered the words that neither of us had dared to voice.

‘Get me back to Lindos Blu’.

The Crack Cocaine of Fast Food

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.

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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?’

The Husband… and the House Hunt

When I first started dating the husband, he was rattling around a rambling Georgian pad in Lancashire, with grandiose designs of installing a bar in the basement and a gym in the attic.

He spent the evenings eating stale cornflakes for his dinner and forgetting to put the bins out. Someone came round and stole all the Yorkshire paving stones from his back garden and he didn’t notice for about a month.

Fortunately, I came along and whisked him away to Leeds, convincing him that all he really needed to be happy was a couple of bedrooms (and a few boxes of cornflakes).

So we downsized into our current apartment – a Swedish style white box, which we dubbed our ‘holiday home’.

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The holiday home is basically a giant, clutter-free, sugar cube, devoid of any personality. We’ve been here three years and haven’t even got round to hanging pictures on the walls. We eat out a lot and poke fun at SuDick. It’s great.

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Sometimes, at weekends, we talk about the day that we will buy a proper home, and do a spot of kerb crawling – peering into houses that aren’t for sale and scaling fences to inspect derelict renovation projects.

Occasionally, I’ll peruse Rightmove and book an appointment. We’ll drive up, view the house and then spend the drive back disagreeing about everything (him – there’s no gravel driveway – he has this strange obsession with the crunch of gravel; me – it’s too far away from the nearest coffee shop).

So we hot-foot it back to our big white box and forget about finding a proper home for another few months.

The other week, I decided to escalate the search. Spotting a new build on Rightmove, we set off for a viewing. When we arrived, there was no nearby coffee shops and no crunch under the tyres. It appeared to be a field and pile of bricks.

‘You’ve brought me to a building site,’ said the husband.

We parked up and a ruddy-faced Harrogate type in a tweed jacket advanced towards us.

‘Hello,’ he said. ‘Well, this is it…’ gesturing to the field and rubble in front of us.

He rambled on, finding his stride: ‘The plan is for five individual houses…’

I had already zoned out, too busy pondering just how much redder his face might get if he stood any longer in the midday sun.

‘… all with bathrooms, and on the top floor is a 30ft media room.’

‘A media room?’

At the sound of this, the husband’s ears pricked up.

That night, the husband was full of excitement. He dreamt about his media room. He mumbled ‘media room’ in his sleep. He woke up, poured himself a bowl of cornflakes, and sat studying the plan of the house, paying particular attention to the top floor.

‘I thought you were a simple man of simple needs, who didn’t like fuss,’ I said.

‘I am a simple man,’ he replied. ‘I’m just a simple man who wants a media room.’

From what I can surmise, a media room is basically a home cinema, where the husband has visions of inviting hordes of friends over to watch a film or hangout doing ‘media stuff’.

The only problem with this plan is that the husband works 12 hour days and doesn’t have many friends this side of the Pennines. Poor husband. He’ll have to eat his popcorn alone.

The following week, I told the husband we were going to view another house.

His first words were: ‘Does it have a media room?’

‘No,’ I said.

‘Oh,’ he said.

We viewed the house. It was perfect: close to the park, and within walking distance of our favourite Italian and a coffee shop.

‘Do you like the house?’ I said.

‘Two words,’ he said ‘Media. Room.’

It looks like we’ll be extending our vacation in the holiday home for a little longer.

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