Reading Charles Lamb in Penguin’s new edition, we were struck by this expression of frustration in ‘Detached Thoughts on Books and Reading’ (1822):
What an eternal time that gentleman in black, at Nando’s, keeps the paper! I am sick of hearing the waiter bawling out incessantly, ‘the Chronicle is in hand, Sir.’
Lamb’s fondness for chicken – ‘those tame villatic fowl’ – is well-documented (though he preferred roast pork), as is his reluctance to sit through grace when a sumptuous meal has been put before him:
With the ravenous orgasm upon you, it seems impertinent to interpose a religious sentiment. It is a confusion of purpose to mutter out praises from a mouth that waters. The heats of epicurism put out the gentle flame of devotion. The incense which rises round is pagan, and the belly-god intercepts it for his own.
But Nando’s, the South African-Mozambican-Portuguese restaurant chain, didn’t get going until 1987. Lamb was, of course, referring to Nando’s (short for Ferdinando’s, not Fernando’s) coffee house, which had existed on the same spot in Fleet Street since the 17th century. As well as a favourite hang-out of Lamb’s, it was also popular with the local legal community, including Lord Chancellor Edward Thurlow, who, it was suggested, had at one time had a fling with the landlady’s daughter.