Casa do Frango: ‘London needs this delightful piri piri chicken joint’ – restaurant review | Jay Rayner (2022)

Casa do Frango, 32 Southwark Street, London SE1 1TU (020 3972 2323). Starters and sides £4-£10, chicken £9, desserts £3-£5, wine from £20 a bottle

In the summer of 1978, while my family was on holiday at an all-inclusive hotel in the Algarve, the Portuguese government fell and a day’s general strike was declared. The hotel staff walked out, leaving the family who owned the place in charge. This had no impact, apart from on the food. It improved hugely. Usually we got some weird version of Anglo-continental. There really was something on the menu called Brown Windsor soup. You looked into its depths and saw your depraved soul reflected back at you. Grapefruit came grilled with brown sugar, and meats were tortured by coagulating mushroom sauces.

Not on the day of the general strike. The aged matriarch had taken over the kitchen. Waiter service was abandoned and we were invited to help ourselves from a buffet. And oh, what a buffet. There were huge bowls of sweet-salty clams that left our hands smelling of the sea. There were crisp green salads and piles of a charred sausage the deep reddy-brown of a blood clot. I had never before met this thing called chorizo, but I quickly decided we would be friends forever. Best of all was the grilled chicken with its crisp, lightly charred, fiery skin, marinated in piri piri, the sauce made from African chillies and garlic and salt and oil, and all the good stuff. I wanted every day to be general strike day, but like the coma patients in Awakenings, we soon sunk back into the dark, morbid slough of Brown Windsor and grilled grapefruit.

Casa do Frango: ‘London needs this delightful piri piri chicken joint’ – restaurant review | Jay Rayner (1)

Years later, when I moved to Brixton, I found my way to a piri piri grill house on the road to Streatham. I had driven by it for a couple of years and sniffed the heady mix of charcoal and flamed chicken fat on the air before stopping to find out whether what they were cooking tasted as good as it smelled. It did. For years, when asked what my favourite restaurant was I regularly named that place, based on how often I ate their food. I got a takeaway from there once or twice a month. I loved the knobbly promise of the charred and smoky chicken felt through its foil-paper bag, where it rested on the journey home. I knew I could get the same thing on nearby South Lambeth Road, the focus of London’s Portuguese community. But this was my place. They knew me. They knew I liked the medium piri piri sauce and a little extra flame.

Eventually one owner died, the other retired, and standards fell. I tried to stay loyal, but loyalty didn’t make it taste good. It was no longer the same. I tried Nando’s. Of course I did. I have a lot of time for Nando’s. If it wasn’t for their bottomless soft drinks policy they’d be the healthiest of the high street chains, and they reach demographics others simply do not reach. I just find their chicken unreliable. Too often it’s terribly dry. Dry piri piri chicken is a sad thing, in need of mourning.

Casa do Frango: ‘London needs this delightful piri piri chicken joint’ – restaurant review | Jay Rayner (2)

Even so I was doubtful about the need for a restaurant like Casa do Frango, which apparently would bring the best of the Algarve kitchen in general and of piri piri chicken in particular to London. Do we really need another piri piri chicken joint here? Surely we’re overrun with them. The answer is, yes, we do. We need this one. It’s delightful.

Casa do Frango – it means chicken house – occupies a huge, airy space hard by Borough Market (incidentally, above the new home to the also admirable Native). It is effortless shabby chic, of the sort set designers strain to create: there are brick walls, distressed here and there with scraped paint, a big, airy vault of a glass-ceilinged roof, tendrils of foliage as if nature were trying to reclaim it, and massive open windows lending it an inside-out feel. I have no idea what it will be like in winter, but on a summer’s evening it is just the thing.

Casa do Frango: ‘London needs this delightful piri piri chicken joint’ – restaurant review | Jay Rayner (3)

The menu is split between small plates to start and mains which are anything you like, as long as it’s chicken. Of the small plates the star is the gazpacho, which is what the version at the Painswick was aiming for and missed. It’s less a cold soup than a thick, rustic stew roughly blitzed and full of garlic astringency and sunshine. You will want to share it and your garlic breath with a close friend. The right kind of grilled chorizo comes with vinegary pickled peppers and a black olive mayo. Grilled prawns are substantial specimens with lots of good head-suckage potential.

And then there’s the main event. On the website they say the chickens are “sourced locally” which I’m going to take literally to mean they bought them in the next-door market. A chicken actually raised in Bermondsey doesn’t bear thinking about. They are small, meaty, very flavourful and, at £9 a half, good value. There are three marinade options, though if you don’t want the piri piri I’m not sure why you’d come. It’s salty and spicy in all the right places. The chips are good, the tomato salad fresh and well dressed and for fun there’s the African rice, planted with shards of crisp chicken skin. Rice with crispy chicken skin sounds to me like a great night out.

Casa do Frango: ‘London needs this delightful piri piri chicken joint’ – restaurant review | Jay Rayner (4)

Miraculously, they even make their own nata, or custard tarts. Almost nobody in London does that. They just get them in from Madeira Patisserie. To be fair to Madeira the ones here, while great, that perfect mix of flaky caramelised pastry and deep eggy custard, are no better than theirs. From an entirely Portuguese list we drink a bright, grassy Vinho Verde which fizzes away delicately on our chilli-singed tongues. They don’t take bookings for small groups, and you may end up on a communal table, but that rather suits Casa do Frango. This is an elbows-out, face-down job, which gently wafted me back to the summer of ’78.

A quick note on pricing. For years I’ve listed the full cost of a three-course meal with wine and service for two, so you’d know how much you’d have to spend on the works. But going by comments on these reviews, some people seem incapable of grasping that it’s the full whack and that it could easily cost less. Oh, how they whine. From now on, therefore, I’m giving the general span of pricing across various courses, and you can all work it out for yourselves. Let’s see how that goes.

Jay’s news bites

El Gato Negro, which moved from Ripponden to Manchester not long ago, gets the nod here, because it’s shortly to open Canto, a new Portuguese restaurant. The mothership is an avowedly Spanish tapas place, and a very good one: alongside the standards – Padrón peppers, chorizo in cider - there’s morcilla Scotch eggs and pork ribs glazed with Pedro Ximénez (elgatonegrotapas.com).

Meanwhile, Manchester is about to welcome its expanding food and drink festival, from 27 September to 8 October. The free-to-enter festival hub on Albert Square, a focus for talks and demos, will be supplemented by events across the city including a jazz gig from some big-haired Observer food critic. But that’s sold out (foodanddrinkfestival.com).

To make up the shortfall in skilled Chinese chefs in the UK a consortium led by the Chichester College Group here and the Tianjin Second School of Cuisine in China, has launched Britain’s first Chinese food diploma. The course will include online webinars and practical assessments.

Email Jay at jay.rayner@observer.co.uk or follow him on Twitter @jayrayner1

FAQs

What culture is piri piri chicken? ›

Originally from South Africa and Portugal, the peppery, lemony dish is now beloved by Texas Muslims. To understand why, you have to go back four hundred years. South African spicy chicken is sweeping across Texas.

Who owns piri piri? ›

Roosters Piri Piri was established almost a decade ago and is primarily the brainchild of Khalid Mirza. Khalid passionately believes in healthy, affordable food that stays true to the traditional, authentic flavours of his youth.

Is piri piri chicken Portuguese? ›

A Portuguese dish with its roots in Angola and Mozambique, popularised in the UK by a Johannesburg-based restaurant chain, piri piri chicken may have a complicated past, but its present is crystal clear: we absolutely love it.

What is Peri Peri chicken called in Portugal? ›

Known as frango assado in Portugal, piri piri chicken is an Algarvian culinary specialty that involves the brutal candor of spatchcocking a chicken, throwing it on a hot grill, and brushing its tawny flesh with piri piri sauce.

What does piri-piri mean in English? ›

(ˌpɪrɪˈpɪrɪ ) a hot sauce, of Portuguese colonial origin, made from red chilli peppers. Collins English Dictionary.

What does piri-piri smell like? ›

The root, which the Shipibo call piri-piri, has a remarkable fruity-leathery scent that Piquart has now brought to perfumery. Visiting isolated places in search of new smells shows just how keen perfumers are on striking olfactory gold.

Who currently owns Nandos? ›

Richard Enthoven is a South African billionaire businessman, the owner of the casual dining chain Nando's, the Hollard Group of insurance companies, and Spier Wine Farm.

Why is it called piri piri? ›

The chilli and the sauce itself is known as 'piri-piri' in Portuguese. It takes its name from Swahili – 'piri-piri' means 'pepper-pepper' – and has morphed into several iterations, including 'pili-pili' and 'peri-peri'.

Is Peri-Peri chicken from Africa? ›

PERi-PERi, also known as the African Bird's Eye Chilli, is the key to our legendary, flame-grilled PERi-PERi chicken. It's grown in the African soil, so the magic starts from the ground up.

What do the Portuguese eat with piri piri chicken? ›

The chicken is normally served with a simple salad along with either rice or chips (fries) or both: in the north of Portugal, rice is much more common, whereas in the Algarve and South of Portugal, chips are the side of choice.

Why is Portuguese chicken so good? ›

There's a reason why Portuguese chicken is so popular – it's absolutely delicious. The chicken is usually marinated in piri-piri sauce, which is a type of chili pepper sauce, giving it a nice kick. And because the chicken is cooked over an open flame, it gets that perfect crispy skin that we all crave.

How spicy is piri-piri? ›

The peppers only grow to be about an inch long, but peri-peri chiles can pack a serious punch. They range from 50,000 to 175,000 on the Scoville scale. Compare that to jalapeños, which usually clock in around 3,500 Scoville heat units.

What nationality is piri piri chicken? ›

If you're looking for authentic piri piri chicken, you need to head to Portugal – more specifically, to a sleepy village called Guia in the Algarve. Because, according to commonly accepted wisdom (and the restaurant in question), this is where the dish was first invented.

What is Portugal's national dish? ›

Bacalhau (dried, salted cod) is Portugal's national dish, although saying national dish is a bit confusing as there really isn't just one recipe for bacalhau: rumour has it that there are more than 365 different ways to cook bacalhau, and some people say that's even an under-estimation.

Are piri-piri and Birds Eye the same? ›

This Capsicum Frutescens species (where Tabasco also belongs to) is a small but very hot pepper. They grow all around Africa. This chili is known as the pepper for preparing piri-piri dishes.

What does piri-piri mean in Japanese? ›

Piri piri is also used to describe something as spicy in Japanese. The word may come from the Portuguese.

Is there piri-piri in South Africa? ›

While Peri-Peri is a South African staple it's the Mozambique Portuguese who introduced it into the country and if you're visiting South Africa and want the best Peri-Peri experience it's the Portuguese restaurants to look for.

What is meaning of parI in English? ›

/parī/ nf. fairy countable noun. A fairy is an imaginary creature with magical powers. /pari, parI, paree, parī, pri, prI, pree, prī/

What spice is similar to piri piri? ›

If you want chilies comparable in heat, try crushed pequin pepper or dried Thai chilies. Both offer similar heat profiles to piri-piri.

What does piri piri sauce taste like? ›

What is Peri-Peri Sauce? Peri-Peri sauce originates in Africa (with a Portuguese influence) and is traditionally a blend of African bird's eye chilis. The flavor is typically spicy, garlicy, tangy, and lemony.

Is piri piri powder healthy? ›

Piri piri chilli is rich in vitamin B1, B2, B3 and minerals like potassium, phosphorus, iron and calcium that holds metabolism enhancing and curative properties. They can help to increase blood flow, metabolism and also stimulate the appetite.

Who owns Pedros? ›

SHIKAR SINGH - Franchisee - Pedros Chicken | LinkedIn.

Is Nando's Portuguese or African? ›

Where is Nando's from? The Portuguese Connection. Nando's originates in South Africa, but one of its owners came from Mozambique, Fernando Duarte. In South Africa, Duarte and his friend Robin Brozin visited a Portuguese style restaurant and tasted the peri-peri chicken.

Why are Nandos closing? ›

Peri-peri chicken wings have become the latest casualty of Covid-related upheaval in the food industry, with a shortage of chicken forcing Nando's to temporarily close a 10th of its restaurants.

Is paprika same as piri-piri? ›

so piri-piri has nothing to do with paprika -peppers-capsicum then. That's interesting though because I was distracted from chilli because of all the condiments made with capsicum/red pepper/pimento on the shelves here...

What does Trader Joe's peri-peri sauce taste like? ›

That's certainly the case for Trader Joe's Peri-Peri Sauce, a one-sauce-fits-all condiment that combines the welcoming heat of fermented chilies and dried chili flakes, the tangy tartness of lemon juice, and the savory splendor of garlic to create a uniquely enchanting flavor profile that genuinely goes with everything ...

Does Nandos use real chicken? ›

Our chickens are marinated for at least 24 hours before being cooked. Every oven in Nando's kitchens is pre-programmed to ensure chicken is cooked thoroughly and each batch is temperature checked before serving to ensure it has reached at least 75 degrees. Each chicken is then flame-grilled to order.

Is Nandos real chicken? ›

Nando's Chicken

Always fresh and never frozen, we marinate our chicken in PERi-PERi for 24 hours before it's basted.

Is everything at Nando's spicy? ›

“All food is spicy”

Is peri-peri and piri piri the same? ›

Piri-piri, peri-peri or peli-peli is the name used in Portuguese and a number of African languages to describe the African bird's-eye chili. The variations in spelling derive from the various pronunciations of the word in parts of Africa, although 'piri-piri' is the correct spelling in Portuguese.

What is piri piri spice made of? ›

Ingredients. Dried Onion, Tomato Powder, Sweet Smoked Paprika, Dried Red Bell Pepper, Ground Red Bell Pepper, Caster Sugar, Salt, Dried Garlic, Bird's Eye Chilli Flakes (1%), Dried Chillies, Dried Lemon Peel (0.9%), Ground Black Pepper, Ground Coriander, Dried Parsley, Dried Oregano.

Do Nando's boil their chicken? ›

Although Nando's chicken usually arrives at the restaurant cooked by boiling the chicken, it is then finished off on the grill to heat it up, crisp up the skin, and add those attractive grill marks. Precooking the chicken in this way means it retains it moisture and it also keeps it safe from contamination.

What is the best chicken in world? ›

Today the poulet de Bresse has the reputation of being the best quality table chicken in the world.

Which is hotter cayenne or Peri-Peri? ›

Its 50,000 to 100,000 Scoville heat units nestle right in between the cayenne (30,000 to 50,000 SHU) and the habanero (100,000 to 350,000). This blend of flavors and extra-spiciness is what makes the peri-peri pepper such a great culinary chili.

Why is Nandos so nice? ›

Nando's chicken is grilled to perfection and seasoned with a Peri-Peri sauce so tasty that I can't imagine ever eating chicken without it again. If chicken isn't your thing (we aren't judging) then there are still yummy alternatives, plus nine main vegetarian options.

Is Sriracha similar to piri piri? ›

Unlike sriracha, which has a rather one-dimensional garlic-and-vinegar accent, piri piri is traditionally made with sweet pimento peppers as well as spicy chiles, and often contains garlic as well as onions, occasionally some herbs, and usually a splash of lemon, vinegar, or whiskey, too.

Is it safe to drink water in Portugal? ›

It's generally safe and healthy to drink the public tap water across Portugal. Get a water filter such as TAPP 2 to improve the taste and reduce the risk of contaminants. Avoid plastic bottled water in Portugal as most plastic doesn't get properly recycled.

What is a typical breakfast in Portugal? ›

The most common items you'll find in a Portuguese breakfast are: bread, sliced cheese, sliced ham, bread, jam, and a milky coffee. Sometimes it's just toast without the ham and cheese, but the common denominators are almost always bread and a milky coffee like a galão or a meia de leite.

Is Portugal expensive to visit? ›

Portugal is considered one of the least expensive destinations in Western Europe, with an average cost of €68-115 per person per day, you will find it stacks up well as a holiday destination and is less expensive than many European options.

Is Bird's Eye Chili good for you? ›

Bird's eye chili helps in improving digestion by increasing the production of enzymes and can speed up the movement of food in intestinal tracts. It also increases appetite by stimulating the gut.

Are Birdseye chicken healthy? ›

Our Birds Eye Chicken products are all a great source of protein, and protein is one of the key nutrients we need to consume in our diets. It not only provides energy- providing 4kcal per gram- but is also a key contributor to the maintenance of muscle mass and normal bones.

What bird is the Nandos bird? ›

Founded in Johannesburg in 1987, Nando's operates over 1,200 outlets in 30 countries. Their logo (also seen as a sort of mascot) depicts the Rooster of Barcelos, one of Portugal's most common symbols.

Where does piri-piri originate from? ›

Originally produced by Portuguese in Southern Africa (there is still a debate whether Portuguese initially produced it in Angola or Mozambique), the sauce is made from peri-peri chilis (used as a seasoning or marinade).

Is piri-piri Brazilian? ›

Piripiri is a city of 63,000 people in Piauí, Brazil, good as a base camp for the Sete Cidades National Park.

Is Nando's South African or Portuguese? ›

Nando's (/ˈnændoʊz/; Afrikaans: [ˈnandœs]) is a South African multinational fast casual chain that specialises in flame-grilled peri-peri style chicken. Founded in Johannesburg in 1987, Nando's operates over 1,200 outlets in 30 countries.

Where is piri-piri from in Portugal? ›

If you're looking for authentic piri piri chicken, you need to head to Portugal – more specifically, to a sleepy village called Guia in the Algarve. Because, according to commonly accepted wisdom (and the restaurant in question), this is where the dish was first invented.

Is it piri piri chicken or PERi-PERi chicken? ›

Piri-piri, peri-peri or peli-peli is the name used in Portuguese and a number of African languages to describe the African bird's-eye chili. The variations in spelling derive from the various pronunciations of the word in parts of Africa, although 'piri-piri' is the correct spelling in Portuguese.

Where is piri-piri on the Scoville scale? ›

And that brings us to number 100,000 on the Scoville Scale, the African Birdseye Chili, aka Piri Piri or Thai Chili. Not quite as hot as the habanero, but definitely hotter than cayenne or jalapeños, this pepper is up there on the Scoville heat scale that tops out at 1,500,000.

Is piri-piri healthy? ›

Piri piri chilli is rich in vitamin B1, B2, B3 and minerals like potassium, phosphorus, iron and calcium that holds metabolism enhancing and curative properties. They can help to increase blood flow, metabolism and also stimulate the appetite.

Is piri-piri very spicy? ›

The peppers only grow to be about an inch long, but peri-peri chiles can pack a serious punch. They range from 50,000 to 175,000 on the Scoville scale. Compare that to jalapeños, which usually clock in around 3,500 Scoville heat units.

Is Nando's African or Mexican? ›

Nando's started way back in 1987, when the first restaurant opened in Rosettenville in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Which country is Nandos most popular? ›

Nando's is especially popular in the UK, Canada, and Australia and it remains South Africa's favourite way of eating chicken.

Is Nando's healthy? ›

Nando's chicken is grilled with the skin, but if you want to reduce the calories and fat of your meal even more, remove the skin before diving in. While this dish is low in sodium, calories, and carbohydrates, it does deliver healthy protein. For additional nutritious options, try looking beyond the regular menu.

Are piri and Tommy dating? ›

They have slight differing opinions on how it all started though… “That was not at all how it was!” singer piri - aka Sophie McBurnie - laughs after her producer boyfriend-bandmate Tommy Villiers hints that she began singing right after he first showed her how he makes beats.

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