Finchley Lido - Damien Review
Nando’s 103 lead us to our third consecutive out-of-town “leisure park”, this one built around an old lido rather than an IKEA store. The last time I visited this part of North Finchley was a whole fifteen years ago, and other than now having a Nando’s, the place hasn’t changed much. Five of us headed to Finchley after work on a Friday. I came by tube and then bus. None of the bus stops were particularly close to the leisure park. There was actually quite a walk from the stop to the traffic lights, where we had to wait several minutes before we could cross the six lanes of traffic. This is a Nando’s they really don’t want you to come to if you’re not driving a car!
We met up in the adjacent bowling alley’s bar, after one of us popped over to enquire about a table. We were given a time (about 45 minutes away) and were told to leave a name and come back at that time. We did just that, and arrived at the busy and very noisy restaurant to a confused reaction from the very member of staff who’d told us to come back at this time. He said he’d see what he could do and asked us to wait outside. I declined this offer, through fear he’d once again forget we existed as soon as we exited his line of vision. In this mess of people and prams, waiting inside wasn’t ideal, but it did mean that when another member of staff came by with news of a table for five, we were able to get it ASAP.
The table itself was slightly tacky and nestled a bit too snugly between another two overfull tables. We were seated in the middle of the restaurant. The space itself isn’t bad, and neither is the décor, but the place was so packed with families and large groups of obnoxious teenagers that the place and the general ambiance of a budget cross channel ferry on a Bank Holiday Monday. We took turns at ordering, myself sharing a whole chicken, a couple of sides, and some halloumi.
One thing that stuck us about this place is that they have smaller glasses for water. This seems reasonable enough (if not the Nando’s standard), but when we ordered beer and cider, we were also provided these tiny beakers. Not only does this make the drink significantly less enjoyable, but means the place is marking you as a potential fountain drink thief.
The food started arriving in bits. All of my food except the halloumi eventually materialised. I asked a waiter for our halloumi and he walked off, then got sidetracked. I asked another waiter if we could have the halloumi and he walked off behind the counter and never returned. I’d almost finished my meal and was still having to chase up the halloumi. The four slices limp of cheese were eventually passed over the divider a good few minutes after I’d finished all of my chicken, chips, garlic bread and macho peas. It was clear that they hadn’t bothered properly grilling this halloumi, which was just slightly melted. At this point, I’d normally have asked for a refund, but I just wanted to be out of this place (as the same group of children sang Happy Birthday” for the third time).
Before leaving, I popped to the toilets. There was no music playing and the entire floor was wet, and it wasn’t because it’d been cleaned. I actually almost slipped over as I walked through the propped-open door. We left Nando’s before we could unearth anything more to complain about. While the big shiny red cock outside may be enticing, Finchley Nando’s is actually run horribly. It’s messy, it’s loud, the staff are running around with no real direction, and the food is dry and well below standard (when it does arrive). One of us actually took a burger out of the bun and ate it on its own, as the bread was so stale. From not being asked if we’d been to Nando’s before, to not getting a cock on a stick or a table check, this place just doesn’t offer the Nando’s hospitality you’d expect. If you want to wait an hour to be squashed into a rowdy school dinner hall, by all means come here. If you want to enjoy a good meal, don’t.