426 Coldharbour Ln, SW9 8LF
Nearest tube: Brixton
020 7346 0098
“Forget exquisitely rendered raw fish and nose-clearing wasabi on rice – this is Japanese comfort food, fresh from the deep-fat-fryer.” The Telegraph
Four years ago, at the tender age of 26, Tim Anderson was the youngest winner of Masterchef; he served daring food throughout the contest, including a dish of monkfish liver with umeboshi ketchup in the final. Since then he has been busy running various pop-ups and supperclubs under the Nanban name, including a pop up at Brixton’s Market House last year. He has also written a cookbook and subsidised his income by performing cooking demos around the world. Anderson is from Racine, Wisconsin, and moved to California for college where he took a course in Japanese food. He then spent some time teaching English in Japan, where he met and fell in love with an English woman. They moved to London in 2008, and Anderson become the manager of a craft beer bar, Euston Tap, before he entered Masterchef and embarked on a career as a cook. His first restaurant, Nanban, opened last month in a former pie and mash pub near Brixton tube, I went along in its opening week.
They have done a nice job of the interior refit and tried their best to restore some of the original shop’s features (the space was most recently an unremarkable Japanese/Chinese restaurant). Anderson has dubbed Nanban as a Japanese Soul Food restaurant and the menu focuses on ramen and noodles, although there are some side steps, including a wacky burger topped with tea egg mayo and gochujang sauce. The menu nods to its location close to Brixton’s bustling food market by adopting some West Indian and Caribbean influences, including a curry goat ramen and a salad using the best ingredients found at the market that day. The restaurant’s subtitle is “izakaya” – which essentially means a Japanese pub with food. This has allowed Anderson to show off his craft beer heritage: he will be producing a range of collaboration beers with a Japanese bent. Currently the menu boasts a matcha flavoured saison from Bermondsey heavyweights, Brewing By Numbers and the restaurant’s staple beer is a wheat IPA with yuzu from Hackney’s Pressure Drop.
The highlight of our meal was the curry goat tsukemen (£9.5). In lieu of the traditional ramen broth was a curried meat stew: succulent nuggets of goat came swimming in a thick, fiery soup supplemented by a tea-pickled egg. Again, the noodles were exemplary – a rich yellow in colour, they were firm and springy, pepped up by some spiced bamboo shoots. Nanban’s atmosphere was fun and bustling, but our service was hurried and unfriendly – hopefully this can be put down to teething problems and the staff will be more relaxed now.
Verdict: fun, challenging and (generally) tasty food paired with top-class beer 7.5/10