Croydon - Valley Leisure Park - Damien Review
Like 101 in Ashton Moss, Nando’s 102 is in an out of town retail park, close by an IKEA. Unlike 101, the visit to Nando’s 102 wasn’t great. We arrived in Croydon after work on a Wednesday and made our way over on the tram to the other side of the sprawling car park of the Valley “Leisure” Park complex, passing by the IKEA, the McDonald’s, a bingo hall and a bed shop, before reaching the relatively small Nando’s. Even from outside, we knew there’d be a wait involved. There was a small queue of people propping the door open, and a huddle of customers waiting between there and the tills. A member of staff eventually made his way to us. His face turned into a frown as soon as we asked how long it’d be for a table for 8. “An hour and a half!” he said, in a way that was clearly supposed to signal we give up and eat elsewhere. We told him we’d wait in the bowling alley bar and come back. He then told us that the table would be ready at maybe about 9. It was currently 7:15, so he’d suddenly chucked another fifteen minutes on the wait. He seemed fairly disappointed when we said we’d go and wait, and told us to come back and check every fifteen minutes or so, as the table may be ready earlier and they won’t hold it if we’re not there the moment becomes available. This is what we did. Every fifteen minutes, one or two of our group would leave the bowling alley and pop over to Nando’s to be told that there was no change to the table situation. Eventually, two of us gave up and went home, bringing our group down to six, the magic number for the only booth-type table in the restaurant. This expedited our getting seated somewhat.
Finally past the doorway, I could have a look around the Nando’s. Unlike the previous one on the list, this place had NOT been gifted a recent refit. The interior was dull and the usually-interesting light fittings were functional (though the place was pretty dark). The paint on the walls was scuffed, chipped and generally told the tale of a busy building that hadn’t been refurbished for over eleven years. We all went up to order at the tills, myself last. I decided to go for a veggie meal this time, and was quite surprised when my plate arrived to the table first. The order the meals came out was actually all over the place and some were waiting under the heated hood for around ten minutes before finally being brought over. Gladly, the quality of the veggie pitta, chips and spicy rice was very good. My food was all warm and the pitta itself was well put together and rather spicy. After the meal, I checked out the toilets, which were clean and unusually spacious for such an otherwise pokey Nando’s.
In all, Croydon’s Valley Park offers a similarly poor representation of Nando’s as the High Street restaurant we visited a few years back. If you can get past the crowds, the queues and the dark and slightly grimy ambiance, you’ll be treated to a pretty good meal. Not a meal worthy of an hour and a half of fuss, though.