It’s very rare for me to stumble on an opportunity to sample the food that I know and love in a fresh and original way. Sometimes I’ll experiment by navigating previously unchartered areas of Tesco’s condiment aisle, treating myself to an unusual blend of cheese sauce or a new twist on the Encona brand, but usually I’ll stick to eating the same three things.
Growing up with a burning desire to eat nothing but sugar and fast food, my taste buds have become warped. I’ve never eaten a peach, haven’t delved into an apricot, milk hasn’t been within thirty centimeters of my gullet in the last twenty years. That’s not say I don’t like food, because I love it. But until very recently, when I discovered that there’s more to life than eating frozen pizza for dinner every day, my palette has leaned toward the following three food groups: cheese-strings and dairylea lunchables, some form of wheat based carbohydrates, and chicken.
So, naturally, when I heard about the launch of the #MerkyBurger at Nando’s – an angelic concoction of cheese and bread, served with the sweet aroma of chicken cooking nearby – I was excited. Dreamt up by Stormzy, this generation’s grime legend, the burger was added to the consummate chicken restaurant’s menu earlier today, simply because the rapper has such a level of influence that he asked for it, and the restaurant provided. Here’s what he said.
I sat at my desk, salivating like a cartoon dog, knowing there was a chance I would soon be munching my three favourite food groups. Like any normal human, I tweeted the restaurant to ask if the #MerkyBurger would be available for purchase in my local Nando’s establishment. They never replied, but being the chance-taker that I am, I decided to head down anyway. Who was I to pass on such a golden opportunity? Especially one that fell into my lap approximately forty-five minutes before my scheduled sixty minute lunch break.
I wasn’t sure what I was expecting, but when I arrived at the restaurant it didn’t feel like the grand moment I’d been waiting for. Aside from a couple of men in suits sat around a table with their laptops out, the place was relatively empty. Even for a Nando’s, a place where the natural ambience of the music makes it feel like you’ve been transported to a sun-soaked veranda where men greet each other with a kiss on the cheek, the vibe was at an all time low. Was I the only one in Shoreditch, East London who was eager to try the #merkyburger? It’s very rare for Nando’s to update their iconic menu. Where were the balloons? The party-streamers? The celebratory 10% discount vouchers?
I started to get worried. Had I been lied to? Surely Nando’s, a company that prides itself on meaningful interaction with its consumers through the use of a Twitter account wouldn’t do me like that. Then I saw the menu: the ¼ chicken was on there; so were the fino sides. I scanned past the steak prego roll, the Peri Peri nuts, and the deserts that no one seems to order, hoping to see the word #Merky. But it never came. Perhaps this new dish had been printed up on an exclusive flyer? I asked my server for assistance – something I’ve never done in a Nandos before. Surely they’d know? Right?
As it turns out, the #MerkyBurger is not real and it is not on the Nandos menu. That doesn’t mean it’s not possible to make, though. If you order a piece of halloumi and a side order of garlic bread, you can build the burger yourself. So that’s exactly what I did. This is the result. As you can see, it's a welcome deviation from the main menu of this fine establishment.
As I sat munching on my burger, it felt like I had achieved something with my poor and otherwise bland life. Ordering off menu was a rush that I’d never experienced before. I would encourage you all to try it. Sure, your server may give you a look that finitely details the tone of their inner voice – one that’s muttering weirdo over and over again like a broken record – but it is a thrill like no other. As Drake once said, you only live once, so why not order as many carbs as possible from off-menu.
Given that you’ve made it this far into my Nando’s journey, I’m guessing it’s time for the final big reveal. The one reason you came to read this piece. The first monumental and heavily critical review of a new food product that’s just entered the market. How did it taste? I’ll let esteemed food critic Future Hendrix do the talking.