This week I went to Bird & Beast in Leeds (near the back entrance of House of Fraser). My excitement levels were high after someone had told me the restaurant was “like Nando’s, but the chicken is 100 times better”! Now, I really do love Nando’s, so the concept of a restaurant being so much better than the chain which was become such a staple on British high streets was pretty exciting for me.
Whilst every restaurant deserves to be judged on its own merits, there are obvious comparisons to be made between Nando’s and Bird & Beast, since they both revolve so heavily around chicken. So, let’s take a closer look at the differences between the two – who will win the battle between the chicken restaurants?!
In terms of comfort and atmosphere, Bird & Beast edges ahead. The environment is cosy, the tables are long, wooden, and trendy, and the owners have done a fine job of turning a vacant lot in Leeds city centre into an inviting, cool restaurant. There’s nothing wrong at all with the look and feel of a Nando’s, but sometimes at busy times the restaurants can come across as a bit rough and ready.
My opinion on this would change had I been going to Bird & Beast with children. It’s very much a trendy location, and Nando’s seems far more welcoming for kids.
Winner: Bird & Beast
Without a doubt, Nando’s wins here. Bird & Beast don’t offer their chicken at different spice levels like Nando’s do, and the range of sides is far more restricted. Bird & Beast do a fine potato dauphinoise that was a huge hit at our table but the chips and sweet potato wedges were fairly average in all honesty.
The sides at Nando’s offer far more variation (you can pick peas, beans, chips with spice, chips without spice, mash, sweet potato mash, and so on), meaning that you can craft your meal exactly the way you want it. Nando’s also do snacky options like olives to fill that little hole before the main event and we always like to indulge in these after ordering. Bird & Beast don’t offer the same sort of thing.
It is also worth mentioning that for vegetarians, Bird & Beast don’t offer any particularly interesting options. One of the people on our table was a vegetarian and ended up ordering a plate of chips and small side salad. At least Nando’s offer more enticing options like bean burgers.
So, on to the most important comparison: the chicken. Although I was impressed by the chicken at Bird & Beast (especially the crispy skin, which Nando’s can lack), it just didn’t have the depth of flavour that Nando’s chicken has when it is at its best. The chicken at Bird & Beast also had a lemony flavour to it, which came as standard as part of their cooking process, and this just wasn’t to my taste. At Nando’s you can choose exactly how you want your chicken to taste and that makes a massive difference.
To be fair to Bird & Beast, they offer a range of interesting sauces like Frank’s Buffalo Wing Sauce that you can use to liven up your meal, but the fact that they also had a bottle of Nando’s own Peri Peri sauce on the tables spoke volumes in my opinion.
Value for money
Bird & Beast is no rip-off. I had a half chicken and sweet potato wedges and was happy with the price I paid. Booze was also reasonably priced and the range of drinks on offer was extensive. However, you really can’t complain about the price of a Nando’s meal. Also, the fact that they offer a loyalty card where you can get constant freebies has to edge them ahead here.
So, with Nando’s winning three out of the four categories, I’m afraid for Bird & Beast it’s a case of close but no cigar. Nando’s is a simple concept, but what they do they do very well. There’s a reason why whenever you walk past a Nando’s, even during the recession, queues can be seen snaking outside around the corner, even in the rain! So, for my next chicken fix when I have a meaty craving, I know where I’ll be heading, and it won’t be Bird & Beast.
Categories: Restaurant reviews