Nanban

Restaurants Brixton
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • 3 out of 5 stars
(11user reviews)
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The Kyushu-style ramen bar from former MasterChef winner Tim Anderson.

When US-born Tim Anderson won ‘MasterChef’ and announced he’d be opening a Japanese ‘soul food’ restaurant, there was a whole lot of excitement. Then waiting. Waiting. And more waiting. Some got tetchy. Others were patient. Then finally, in late 2015, it arrived. Was it worth the wait? ’Course it bloody was. 

Sure, it’s not the cosiest spot, with its bright lighting and hard backless stools (top tip: go with a few friends and ask for one of the upstairs booths-on-wheels instead). But the staff are lovely and this place is all about the cooking – think comfort food with Asian flavours. Like the chicken karaage: with its crunchy chilli-and-salt flour coating, it was good enough to rival the Keralan fried chicken at nearby Kricket (and that’s saying something). Then there was horumon yaki. Yes, okay, it’s pig tripe (aka stomach ‘parts’) but don’t let this put you off. It’s not at all ‘offaly’, just extremely tender, stir-fried with crunchy rice and sprouts, plus salty, sweet and sour flavours with a fiery hit at the end. Of the small plates, only the electric eel disappointed, mostly because the oily fish needed more pickle.   

Large plates are good, too: mentaiko pasta (a retro dish found in hipster NYC noodle joints) was a little like a creamy cod roe version of a carbonara. Rich and satisfying, it’s pretty much the perfect hangover cure. And finally, the absolute must-try: curry goat tsukemen. Two bowls: one containing the curry and the other a firm ramen, half a tea-pickled egg (oh and a garnish of bamboo shoots picked with Scotch bonnet chillies that deserves a mention). This reminded me of a rendang, with its melting, tender meat and intense flavours. 

If you consider yourself an adventurous diner, Nanban should absolutely be on your bucket list.

By: Tania Ballantine

Posted:

Venue name: Nanban
Contact:
Address: 426 Coldharbour Lane
London
SW9 8LF
Opening hours: Mon-Fri noon-3pm, 6-11pm; Sat, Sun noon-11pm. Last orders 30 minutes before closing
Transport: Tube: Brixton
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To improve this listing email: feedback@timeout.com

Average User Rating

3 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:1
  • 4 star:5
  • 3 star:1
  • 2 star:1
  • 1 star:3
LiveReviews|11
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Tom L
2 of 2 found helpful

Offensively stingy portions, exorbitant prices, broth that leaves your mouth feeling like you've quaffed a tube of vaseline and a spiel about the special 'Cypriot potatoes', which it turns out are just regular potatoes, but which you pay £4 for half of one. Slip on some salmon chinos, embrace gentrification and give your bank account the clean out the good people at Nanban seem to think it needs.

Sarah B
Tastemaker

Embarrassingly, I'm a sucker for a restaurant with good graphics and so Nanban has been on the list for a while, of course the fact that it is crafted by dear Tim Anderson and serves Japanese food of any variety also helped and although it didn't blow me away it also did not disappoint. My 'Leopard' Tsukemen was the first deconstructed Ramen I've ever laid eyes on and although not that impressive to behold it is for good reason; it keeps the ingredients firm and fresh. However you really ought to go right ahead and pour the entirety of the broth over your ingredient bowl and not allow even a splash to fall onto your front because when it's all gone you will be quite seriously regretting it and sucking on your T-shirt. Apparently the Sasebo burger and Mojiko Yaki-Curry are equally easy to inhale because they disappeared from my friends' plates faster than I could try them. Oh and as for my poison, the Green Tea-ni was delightful.

Kishma S
Tastemaker

Meh.

The menu for Nanban sounds sumptuous and coupled with the fact that it was voted the best restaurant in Brixton in 2016 I was sure I was on to a winner. Instead, I was hugely underwhelmed.

I love the concept of Japanese soul food and the fact a lot of the food had a Caribbean accent (ackee, Saltash, jerk seasoning). There is also a daily special salad and fish of the day that is sourced from Brixton market which I found cool because it not only provides the freshest food (dependant on where they are actually sourced from) but supports local businesses which is a double win.

In all honesty I just didn't find that the food tastes as good as it sounded. 10 pepper prawns were spicy ish but their relationship with chillies was obviously a brief fling rather than a deep love affair. The jerk belly was very tender, almost to the point of being soggy as there was no crispness to go with the softness. I chose the 'leopard' for my main and although it looked great, I just didn't find anything special about the flavours or how it was cooked. The same applies for the chocolate desert and pink lady cocktail.

The food sounds great and looks it too I just didn't feel like the flavours delivered.

Danielle-Louise W

I went here for my Birthday this year - read about it here : illhavewattsheshaving.co.uk/entering-my-28th-year It was completely bonkers, but a really enjoyable experience.

Tiago Almeida
Tastemaker

This is now probably my favourite restaurant in Brixton.

Outstanding flavours that explode in our mouth. Super friendly staff. Amazing decoration.

I'm already planning my next visit to explore the menu.

Hannah W

The worst service I have ever encountered, had better at nandos self serve. Had to wait shockingly long time for my starter and also my main. Incredibly disappointing. Food was good.

Ellen W

I'd been eagerly awaiting the opening of Nanban since it's inception by Tim Anderson, one of Masterchef UK's most loveable and quirky contestants. For just shy of £12 I thought the pork ramen I ordered was not only delicious (the combination of whole garlic chips, tender pork belly and pickled mustard greens constituted a powerful flavour combination that a foodie's dreams are made of), but the dish was also great value for money. Washed down with a bottle of Brixton brewed beer in an intimate Japanese interior, Nanban is soul food well suited to the tight-knit, yet multicultural community of South London. 


Simon L

Not very good. The food is average at best and a little bit over priced. The tonkotsu broth is more akin to gravy then soup. Some people like it that way but it does mean the flavour stays with you after the meal. Quite cloying. What made this a particularly bad experience was the service. My wife got her main first, fine, but she had finished her meal and my food still hadn't arrived. I chased a couple of times and there wasn't an apology. Sometimes you have bad nights, but the fact they didn't even notice shows a lack of care. Oh, and they still had the cheek to add a tip to the bill. 

Matt Chorlton
tastemaker

Having been an avid watcher of Masterchef around the time Tim Anderson triumphed, I was pretty excited about Nanban opening. However, unfortunately my recent visit disappointed on pretty much every level - being saved from the ignomony of a single star only by some delicious Chicken Trotters and an excellent exclusive beer from Pressure Drop.


Mr Anderson has obviously been chatting to Thomasina Myers for a while, as the menu and restaurant set-up is very similar to her more established 'Wahaca' that has spread across the capital (and slowly, the country). A selection of small plates or larger mains are on offer covering slight twists on Japanese cuisine. 


I visited a couple of weeks back with a group of 7. First things first - the service: as the addage goes, a good version of this is free, something that the team who were working that night had obviously forgotten. We ordered two round of drinks, starters and a main each, with the whole experience taking over three and a half hours. Genuinely I thought we had somehow managed to develop the ability to become invisible we were that ignored. As for the food, as well as the aforementioned (and delicious) Trotters, I opted for the fried chicken thighs (Chicken Karaage), which were fine, but not noticeably Japanese and the 'Leopard' Tsukemen (dipping ramen). Outside of the service, the latter is where the meal really failed to impress. Being served a bowl of noodles that look like they've just been tipped out of a super noodles packet alongside two measly slices of the fattiest pork belly I have ever seen and a pile of parmesan shavings wasn't a great start. However, some of the best meals I have had haven't exactly excelled on aesthetics...but unfortunately the taste was also a let down. The broth was fine enough, but couldn't save the rest of the components.


It seems like mixed reviews are the order of the day in this place - maybe quality really depends on the team on shift...if this is true, the bods in charge really need to find more consistent quality.

Sarah J Peach

Ah, the previous reviewer seems to know the price of everything and the value of nothing - it certainly seems to have gone over his head here at this place....  As usual, Mr Anderson's touch is the culinary equivalent of gold:  The chicken karaage (spicy chicken thighs) were moreishly delicious, tender, perfectly flavoured, then I had the Miyazaki Ramen which was a mahooooosive bowl of gorgeousness: thick thick saucy pork and fat noodles, and egg - I couldn't finish it all it was so big and filling.  My dining partner had the Yaki-Imo which we stuffed madly into our faces (they are baked potato pieces with a buttery salty sauce - so wrong, so addictive) - I actually licked the plate of the sauce - in public - not caring - it was so good.  Partner had the Curried Goat Tsukemen and we groaned at how wide our bellies had become, not being able to stop shovelling in the good saucey noodles and meat.  You really don't need those starters here, but you would be seriously missing out if you didn't, so it's an actual dilemma.  The staff are kind and unassuming and helpful;  I was intrigued that they didn't have the more well-known warm sakis on sale but maybe that's too mainstream and usual.  I can't fault this man's cooking or choice of restaurant set-up.  Perhaps the answer is just a dish a time, and to come here regularly til you've tried everything, then once a week to have your faves.  

Hong-Anh
Tastemaker

I've been eagerly awaiting the opening of Nanban; it's been flitting about Brixton in a temporary state for a while now but Tim Anderson's venture has set down roots nearby the hugely popular Brixton Village. Ramen is the name of the game at Nanban but there's plenty else to tempt you if noodles aren't your bag. Some of the stand-out dishes that I had went I visited included the horumon yaki (tender and flavoursome strips of tripe in a tangle of miso-drenched crunchy vegetables) and the must-have mentaiko pasta (think a Japanese spaghetti carbonara, creamy and rich and redolent of the sea with the generous cod roe dotted throughout). The much-talked about curry goat tsukemen is well worth the trip and is playful and delightful in equal measures, which actually pretty much describes the cooking at Nanban full-stop. If you enjoyed the food at the Bone Daddies' spin-off, Shackfuyu, you'll enjoy Nanban's witty and informed take on Japanese food.