Birmingham - Grand Central - Blaynos Review
Quite frankly, this was an absolutely astonishing Nando's visit. Several reasons to this, most notably that it was a) unexpected and b) the new Grand Central complex in which it's located is incredible!
Having barely been back to Birmingham since I finished uni, and certainly not for a couple of years, I was up in the city on business for a few hours and made a point of getting there early to check out the new 'Grand Central' / New Street station complex. Long gone is the horrendous concrete station box and the dire Pallasades shopping centre; replaced with a superb spacious station with tons of natural light. It's completely unrecognisable, it was actually staggering to witness as I came up from the train - you can even still smell the fresh paint! (sidenote, the Euston - New Street journey is now book-ended by Nando's branches within the station complexes). Anyway, I digress, I wondered around and was pleasantly surprised to spot there was a new Nando's on the upper level of the centre - and clearly I'd be coming back there later. (*The more I thought about it, I vaguely recall Marc including this in an RYN event quiz!)
Hopefully I'll be able to upload a few photos of the restaurant and shopping centre... From the outside, admittedly, the branch is nothing special - your typical modern glass-fronted entrance like most of the other shops/restaurants (especially compared to the likes of the 'Railway Arch' branches in London). I was greeted by a trainee Nandoca at the entrance (name unknown) and he asked if I wanted to sit upstairs (it's not immediately obvious there's an upper level with the stairs deep inside the branch, but it's most welcome given the lower level isn't the biggest!), to which I said yes - and he led me to the upper level, with good conversation about new branch en route. Upstairs felt a little more spacious, although that might also be because it was a lot emptier than the ground floor.
Downstairs feature the usual quirky post-modern lighting that hangs down from the ceiling; with tills at the far end of the restaurant (which I always prefer as it avoids queues forming by the entrance). Upstairs is quite a bit different. A range of seating is available, from long tables (like Euston) to lots of mini booths, to tables that have that mix of "one side soft-wall seating, one side chairs). The range of chairs is equally diverse. Drinks/service station was exceptionally neat and well stocked and the tills next to it. No queue to order and a very friendly Chantelle took my order and she was chatting about how the store was new and asked if I'd do that Nando's feedback survey (which I don't normally do but I will on this occasion given it's a new branch) - I did ask if she'd heard of RYN but she hadn't.
Amusingly when clicking 'speed of service', I can't exactly say "some conversation had begun" as I was on my own! Think it's only the second time I've ever dined in on my own (the other being Gatwick), and I would usually just takeaway but I had time to kill before the train and it was a new branch after all. Took probably about 10 mins to come (which seems like forever when you're alone!) and it was excellent! I was torn between giving this a 4.5 and 5 for food; Chicken burger was cooked very well with plenty of sauce but I felt I could have perhaps been given a few more chips. However, there was lots of peri salt and the halloumi was perfect too (again, I've been spoiled in the past few months by huge halloumi portions so that's skewed everything, so I'll give it 5/5!).
Headed to the toilets after and, as you'd hope with for a new branch, they were immaculately kept - with motion-sensitive taps always welcome. All in all, an excellent visit in a truly spectacular refurbished venue. Staff were superb, food was great and the branch clean and tidy (with the usual Nando's artwork, one of which I'll try and upload) - hopefully these standards will continue!
As for the usual location info etc; there's still the Nando's in the adjacent Bullring, but I believe the Paradise Forum one has gone (Broad Street & Mailbox still there according to the website). Clearly, there's plenty of trains going all over the UK from the station as well as several local and national buses. Parking available in the Bullring too. It's fairly well located to grab a takeaway if you're changing trains; best to phone ahead though - such is the vastness of the new station, could take at least 10mins to get up-and-down from platform level.