Belfast - Victoria Square - Jonathan Review
This was my first visit to the Victoria Square branch, my first visit to a Nando's in Ireland and made me the first of my friends to visit a Nando's in Ireland too. For those that don't know, it's located on the top floor of a rather large Shopping Centre called Victoria Square. Victoria Square has excellent parking facilities in the form of a huge underground car park, the parking itself can be expensive depending on how long you are there for though. I believe you can park in various locations on the streets around the centre, but for more secure parking, definitely park in the underground car park. It's very easy to get to Nando's from the car park, it's just a case of locating the escalator (next to the security office), and then staying on them until you reach the top floor.
The location of the branch is ideal if you are wanting to do some shopping either before or after your meal, there are plenty of shops to have a look around although you will want to come during the day if this is the case, as at 9pm at night, it's only the Cinema, Nando's and Chiquito's open on the top floor, everywhere else has closed for the day. The branch is also a short walk from the Titanic Experience which I recommend visiting.
Once I caught a glimpse of the branch, I thought it would be incredibly busy as it was quite hard to tell, but as I got closer to it I then realised that there were less than 10 people in the branch. To be honest, I'd say that there were more staff than customers, which is definitely unusual based off the other branches I have been to around the same time of night. The branch is quite large, you have the main restaurant and an outside seating area which also contains a bridge which makes the 2nd entrance to the branch. Whether you sit inside or outside, you have a great view of the surrounding area which I think may have been refurbished quite recently as everything seemed so new.
I got my usual meal (and always will!) which is why I knew exactly what I wanted before I even walked in! This visit was a bit different as I was with my parents who had never been to Nando's before so I had to "advise" them on what to get. The chicken looked excellent, the garlic bread looked just right and the chips were just how I like them! One of the interesting things was the spice though. Now I get Extra Hot every time I go to Nando's so I'm used to it by now, when I had my first piece of chicken with this meal though, I could tell that it was a bit spicier than usual, which is fine of course! I wonder if Ireland branches put more spice on though?
The staff in this branch were very friendly, from the Nandoca that showed us to our table, to the Nandoca that took our plates away at the end of the meal. I didn't have my loyalty card on me, so the Nandoca that served me said it was no problem and printed the code on the bottom of the receipt for me (which not all of them do) to redeem when I get home. We were also very politely asked mid meal if everything was okay with the meal, and if we wanted anything else (again, not all of them do this I've noticed). Victoria Square definitely has an excellent team running it.
I knew once I had ordered it that it wouldn't take long to arrive, as I said earlier there must have been less than 10 customers in. I was correct, from once I had sat down, the plates were on the table in about 5 minutes and everyone had tucked in, which I was very impressed with as usually, even with 2 people it can sometimes take up to 20 minutes to arrive, never mind 4 people! This gave me just enough time to let Adam know that I had arrived at a Nando's!
The layout of this branch was quite cool, especially inside the branch itself. On the right hand side as you walked in, you had your bigger tables (which is where we sat), and then in the middle and left hand side, you had the smaller tables. The sections were split off with wooden walls, so it wasn't that open which personally, is something I think is much better than having a restaurant that is completely open. As the branch was so big, the tables were evenly spread out which is sometimes not the case in certain branches. The only negative thing about the layout was the position of the drinks machine, although this is partly me just being lazy. I was sat on the right side of the restaurant, and the drinks machine was on the far left so it was a bit of a trek to get a drink. Ideally, the restaurant could do with 2 machines, one to serve each side.
The decor of the restaurant was great, it was what you would expect in all Nando's restaurants but I think this branch must have been redecorated recently as there were a few things that seemed really new. From what I saw of the bridge section, unfortunately that didn't have any Nando's decor, it was just a typical Shopping Centre bridge which was a bit disappointing as they could have done something really cool with the bridge. As the branch is one of the bigger ones that I have had the pleasure of visiting, there was a lot more decor than usual, but it was placed in a way which didn't make the restaurant seem overcrowded, I think it was very well done and very well thought out.
This restaurant was very clean. Sometimes as you're walking through a branch to get a drink, or to go and order, there's a lot of tables that have bits of food left on them, and there's sometimes napkins on the floor or the sauce bottles have the sauce dripping down the bottle. This restaurant was very different though, it was a very clean place, tables were cleaned quickly and I noticed that the Nandoca that served me had sat down to clean the sauce bottles which I think is only done at the end of the day in most branches.
So overall, a very successful visit! I managed to take 2 people who had never been to Nando's before, and now love the place! +2 fans for Nando's! Victoria Square is definitely one of my top 5 branches.
The original Nando's plan whilst in Ireland, was to go to one in Dublin but to be honest, I never saw one of them! Considering there are 7 branches in Dublin alone, I don't think they have been placed well at all as I went on numerous bus tours and went all over Dublin, and still never saw a single Nando's. You would think they would place one on the main street in Dublin, but that was just full of independent eateries and gift shops.
I knew there were 2 branches in Belfast, so I suggested we went to one of them whilst there. We ended up going on our first night in Belfast as it turns out that Victoria Square was just a 5 minute drive from our hotel. I'm glad we waited until we got to Belfast before going to Nando's, as if we didn't I would not have got to experience this fantastic restaurant.
I hope to one day return to the Victoria Square branch, and would definitely recommend it to anyone who is in Belfast, especially if you are looking for a place to eat in the evening!