A couple of weeks ago Stew and I travelled down to Brixton after work one evening, to see the wonderful Chet Faker play at the O2 Academy. We wanted to get a bite to eat beforehand, and as I haven’t visited Brixton too many times before, I asked a couple of colleagues who live in the area, for recommendations. They both mentioned a Japanese restaurant called Nanban. Not only do we love Japanese food, but the last time we saw Chet Faker was in Tokyo, and immediately after the gig we grabbed a big bowl of ramen at a nearby restaurant. So it seemed fitting to go to Nanban and continue the tradition.
Having travelled all over Japan and eating ramen on many occasions, it’s been difficult to find anywhere here in the UK that can compete. In Japan, restaurants tend to specialise in one thing, and one thing only. This means that whether you go to a ramen bar, a sushi train or a tonkotsu restaurant, it’s likely that you will eat the best ramen, sushi and tonkotsu of your life! Unfortunately we do things differently in this country. Menus are often varied and dishes are often not the best. It’s so much easier to do one thing and do it well! Unfortunately Nanban was the same. Although the food was nice, it was not traditional. We only tried the ramen and snacked on some fried lotus root, but in comparison to ramen we’d eaten in Japan, it was very different.
I understand that Nanban is trying to create something a little unusual, with dishes such as fried chicken wings, ox cheek taco rice and Japanese Carbonara. But for me, it doesn’t work. For me the mix of flavours from all over the world was all too much. Everything was competing with each other in my bowl of ramen, and yet nothing stood out. Whilst the broth was okay, the egg was sweet which was very odd. It was so sweet and sugary I couldn’t eat it. (I’m not great with sweet and savoury flavourings).
This isn’t to say that perhaps other dishes on the menu would be better. They’ve won several awards, so perhaps we just had a bad day, or perhaps we have very different taste buds. Who knows! I wouldn’t write it off completely as the lotus root crisps were nice and my cocktail was delicious. However, for the price, I feel there is better Japanese out there! Including service charge we paid £25 each for 1 drink each (my cocktail was a happy hour deal), 1 starter, 2 bowls of ramen and 1 dessert. The portion sizes were also rather on the small side. Traditional Japanese ramen is served in bowls bigger than your head! It’s cheap and is intended as a good staple to fill you up and keep you warm on a cold day. It’s quick and easy and tastes incredible. This was lacking on all accounts.
I don’t tend to write bad reviews on here, and I was not compensated in any way to review Nanban. I just feel that whether you have a good or bad experience it’s worth sharing.