Nanban is the Japanese word for ‘southern barbarian’, in reference to European travellers who washed up on the shores of Kyushu – Japan’s most southwesterly main island – centuries ago.
As a result, traditional cooking styles in this province take classical Japanese cuisine and infuse it with ingredients and techniques from overseas. And it’s this culinary mish-mash that Nanban’s founder, Tim Anderson, became obsessed with during his time there, and has now brought to Brixton for the delectation of London barbarians.
You might know him as the (youngest ever) winner of Masterchef back in 2011; since then he’s been running pop ups, residencies and events to get Nanban off the ground. Finally it’s taken up permanent residence in a former pie and eel shop; remnants of which have been lovingly restored, like the fading shop frontage and terrazzo flooring as you enter. The rest is a slick of unfussy industrial chic, with low bar counters and even lower faux-cork stools to perch on. Upstairs is a more expansive affair, with larger dining booths shaped like wheeled boxcars.
Sure, why not.
The nosh is billed as ‘Japanese soul food’, so you won’t find delicate sashimi here – instead, there’s swathes of creamy, slurpable ramen; chicken karaage – deep-fried, marinated chicken thighs; and horumon yaki, a classic comfort dish made with pig tripe, crispy brown rice and pickled radish.
Then there’s the specials; fusion dishes inspired by the produce and flavours of Brixton’s market. Here you’ll find combinations like ackee and saltfish korokke (croquettes), braised curried goat tsukemen with scotch bonnet-seasoned bamboo shoots, and even a Japanese-inspired carbonara, made with spicy cod roe and an onsen egg.
All of which can be washed down with Japanese craft beers and local brews developed especially for Nanban with notes of miso and seaweed – or you can take your pick of the chilled shochu and sake, also enjoyable as part of a cocktail like the Matcha Made in Heaven.
And really, not to try that would be nothing short of barbaric.
NOTE: Nanban is open daily from noon until late (with late afternoon breaks in service on weekdays). You can book a table on their website HERE.
Nanban | 426 Coldharbour Lane, SW9 8LF
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