A reservation at a fast food joint? This was my most pressing question when my friend booked a table for us at Frango charcoal chicken restaurant in Bella Vista. She was absolutely correct in doing so, for on that particular night, without a reservation, we would have had to stand out in the freezing cold till a table became vacant. It would probably have taken quite some time for a table to be free as patrons of Frango didn't seem to be in a mighty rush to leave the place.
I had heard and subsequently seen that this restaurant, which is situated quite close to many busy office buildings has become one of the more popular take away places in the area during lunch time. So popular that on any given day I would walk past it and find people queuing up past the doors and waiting their turn to get that Frango charcoal goodness for their lunch. Many of my friends swore by the taste of Frango's Portuguese flavoured chicken and burgers, and recommend that I try it too.
As I entered the somewhat overcrowded casual setting of the restaurant, I could not help but compare the place and the aromas of cooked meals circling in the air to a fast food joint. At first glance for me, Frango was something like an up market fast food eatery. Those youngsters at the take away counter dressed in their casuals and slippers gave that fast food joint aura to the place. But the patrons seated at the tables were of the kind who got dressed up to go for a night out. As we belonged to the latter, we were shown to a table, set on a raised platform. Place mats, cutlery, glasses and bottles of water were already on the tables. It was a bit of a squeeze, as all the tables were placed so close to each other. But we were too hungry to be bothered by the close proximity of our unknown neighbours.
I found the staff at Frango pleasant and quite alert. Through the restaurant was packed to the brim with not only sit down customers, but also take aways who walked in and out of the place; the staff were prompt in serving us. Once the drinks were brought and the mains were ordered; baskets of bread and butter were placed on our tables. W e munched on these while we waited for our food to arrive. We certainly couldn't stop ourselves from gulping down pieces of bread lathered with butter, so much so that we were afraid that we would fill ourselves up long before the food arrived. The food as expected took some time to get to us, as there we quite a large number of us present at the table. Finally, after a lengthy wait, all meals arrived together - all in all ensuring that no one was left behind hungry and in want.
On recommendation by many who have been to Frango before, some of us opted to try that ever so popular Frango's charcoal chicken. The order was placed for a quarter of a Luis chicken special ($14.00). This comes as two pieces of well cooked, moist chicken; and is enough to fill the stomach of a child or someone with very little capacity. The chicken is at it's best dipped in the deliciousness of that chilli sauce and the mayo, both of which are freely available at the table.
Just as we were told, the burgers at Frango were truly delicious. At a price of just $13, the large chicken burger is without a doubt good value for money. As I took a bite of that moist chicken sandwiched between two burger buns, I realised how wrong I was in comparing this place to a fast food restaurant. The burger was nothing like the ones you get in fast food joints. It would, without any question fall into the category of a gourmet burger. No wonder so many flock to Frango over and over again for that delicious burger alone.
Having tasted bits of everything at our table, and how regretful was I with my choice of the cod fish Oporto ($27.00). Unarguably it was a very large plate. Quite a generous portion of deep fried fish sat in the middle of the plate, covered with a sea of flavoured baked potatoes. However big the potion was, the fried fish itself was not at all to my satisfaction. It was hard (even to cut), and it felt rubbery in my mouth. To add to the negativity of the dish, the fish was full of bones.Though the menu says the fish is marinated, the only taste I got was salt, and there was plenty of it. Lesson learnt; never go with a dish that no one has tasted before, and one that no one's talking about. Again and yet again I wished I had ordered the charcoal chicken. Word of advice to all: if you are at a Portuguese restaurant that serves chicken, do not refrain from ordering chicken.
The salads at Frango's (like most of the food served here) comprise of large portion sizes. The Greek salad I ordered to fill myself up after the disaster with the cod fish was absolutely beautiful. With fresh vegetables and quite a tasty dressing, the salad alone filled me up for the night.
Where: Shop 5, 29-31 Lexington Drive Bella Vista NSW.
Why: Good food at a reasonable price.
Cost: Mains from $13.00
When: Lunch & Dinner