Today I had it reaffirmed that one of the stresses that I do not deal with well is trying to find somewhere new. And, I suppose, trying to find somewhere new in the rain. I won’t bore you with the details about how difficult my friend and I found locating Nanban, but it did take us ten minutes longer than it should. The moral is: look at the address on Google, and don’t get distracted by big puddles and eye-catching second-hand bookstores. Also, for restaurants my advice would be to definitely invest in one of those swinging signs that jut out onto the street.
I had vaguely heard that Masterchef winner from a few years back was opening up a restaurant in Brixton. I arranged to meet my friend in Brixton today to go shopping, and when Googling restaurants was reminded again of Nanban so we decided to go.
We found it.
We were wet and cold, but we went in.
The wait for a table was a mere two minutes. I say table, it was the Japanese-style communal benches. But you know, ta-table, ta-table.
Here are some vague pictures that I took of the restaurant’s interior. I need to get slicker with my camera. The interior was fine. I would rate it higher than the average restaurant interior. There were no backs to the seats though so I expect some people with bad backs may take issue with that. I am slowly convincing myself that I have back issues. Onward.
I am often painfully indecisive and burden other people with the task of making decisions for me. This usually falls on waiting staff. I asked the waitress/hostess what she would recommend, and before I could finish my sentence she then went on to describe most of the menu items to me.
It all did sound very appealing, but price points are a factor so I narrowed it down to the Curry Goat Tsukumen and the Mentaiko Pasta. I figured that the pasta was the more fusion of the dishes, but apparently it is exactly to the Japanese recipe.
“It is my favourite. And I know, I thought it sounded Italian too. I am Italian.” – here I am, poorly paraphrasing the helpful waitress.
“If it helps at all this, is the Curry Goat.”
Said the woman next to my friend.
“Hmm. You’ve given me a lot to think about. Can you give us two more minutes?”
I often need two more minutes.
My friend decided on the Majio-Yaki Curry, the spoke at length about how she doesn’t eat much meat. Cutting her off, I asked the woman next to us how her goat was.
Tone conveys a lot. This woman wasn’t enjoying the goat as much as she thought she would. At this point I decided to go with the pasta. Here is the rest of the conversation, as I enjoyed it.
“You don’t seem convinced.”
“It’s nice, but I’m a bit funny about salt. I like salt.”
“You’ve got your FuckYuzu* sauce. And you can add soy sauce.”
*by Ribman, which can be bought here.
*proceeds to cover her meal in soy sauce.
“I asked them to put the egg on the side because I’m not too sure about it.”
“It looks like a fig.”
“It’s tea coated. I had half. It’s a bit much for me. I’m glad I tried it, but I’m a bit funny about my eggs. I’m Welsh. I like simple things.”
“Well, enjoy the rest of it!”
*she swigs wine and returns to eating.* She was very nice. I like talking to strangers sometimes. I used to judge people who ate in restaurants alone but she seemed like she was having a whale of a time, and in London, as there are so many places to try, I can definitely see the benefits of eating alone. I am still yet to venture as a lone eater. One day.
I ordered the pasta.
My friend spoke at length about how she liked trying new things.
I fantasised about eating alone.
I was talking about something.
She stopped me and gestured behind me.
It was Tim from Masterchef!
He has slightly different glasses now I think.
I turned back to my friend.
I forgot what we were talking about. This has happened before, when my friend and I passed Molly from Coronation Street in the street. Vague celebrities are the ones that get me.
My friend said she was thinking about taking a picture to prove that she’d seen him. I told her not to. She didn’t. It’s really a very niche person that surely wouldn’t impress many people, and it’s hardly surprising that you saw the owner of a restaurant in their restaurant.
We shared a starter of Ackee and Saltfish Korokke, at the recommendation of our Welsh neighbour. I also asked the waitress what starters she recommended before quickly saying I was fine. The tap water is a giveaway.
My friend had a green tea with some popcorn undertones. It was quite nice. Different, but nice. She had also decided that the waitress had taken a dislike to her. The waitress seemed friendly enough, but who knows.
My main was quite different from the usual, which I like. Looking at this picture, I find it hard to believe that this was Japanese and not Italian food, but it did have the unmistakable flavours of Japan. The cod roe and seaweed that were sprinkled throughout may seem an odd addition to a spaghetti, pancetta and parmesan dish, but the salt from each of the ingredients really complemented each other. The egg, too, was a nice addition. It was satisfying, though, if the amount that I’ve drunk since returning home is any testament, it may have been slightly too salty. Our Welsh neighbour would have liked it.
My only other qualm is that the spaghetti was slightly colder and more al dente than I would have usually liked it. Small gripes. No tripes (huh?)
I had a spoonful of the curry and it was quite lovely, especially for this cusp of Autumn/Winter that we are currently in. An al forno curry topped with cheese may seem like an odd idea, but it did have a real depth of flavour (that’s what the chefs on the TV say, so I’m damn well going to say it here too).
My friend said she’s not convinced of the cheese and the curry, that she’d come back but wouldn’t have the same dish, and that she likes trying new things.
We used the toilets – which were very nice – then went off to explore the markets. I got 3 cucumbers for £1 then cycled home in the rain. I should really figure out how my bike lights work.
7/10 – for when you’re in the mood for something different.
One green tea, one starter, two mains plus 12.5% service came to just shy of £30.