As I’ve reported recently, there’s a lot happening in the area affectionately known as Kemp Town Village and its surrounds. As a former resident myself, over the years I’ve seen the cyclical rise and fall of the stretch from Upper St James Street through to St Georges Road and right now this district of the city is most definitely on the up.
Metrodeco continues to thrive under their new owners and their talented chef. Neighbouring Brighton Curry is serving up some of the finest Indian cuisine in the city. The pub scene is also getting its act together with the recently opened Fallen Angel serving craft beers and cocktails, whilst The Kemp has clearly established itself as the hub of the ‘village’ with a buzzy vibe and an impressive menu of food provided by their Arissy Kitchen.
As a frequent visitor to Butlers Wine Cellar, I’ve walked past the brightly painted Nanima on the corner of Bloomsbury Street and St Georges Road on numerous occasions but as its always been busy – no matter what the time of day – I haven’t managed to squeeze myself in.
So a couple of weeks back, as I was wandering by with a colleague, I spied an empty table and jumped at it. Clearly if this corner café is a popular as it seems then its long overdue a review lunch.
The interiors are bright and boldly painted with a counter of enticing looking dishes running along the length of the café. Owners – head chef Nicky Allon and restaurant manager Lonnie Allon – present an ever-changing menu: a mash-up of Asian dishes and flavours in the widest sense of the continent, ranging from India to Japan. And – perhaps most interestingly – the menu not only changes daily but also throughout the day itself. Basically, Nicky cooks what takes her fancy, when it takes her fancy, ranging from easy grab-and-go spicy sausage rolls and stuffed bao buns through to home made cakes and their build-your-own bowls.
I started with Thai Tom Kha soup – a homemade vegan soup with mushrooms that packed a spicy and umami punch. I had a distinct feeling of it being healthy but also rather decadent. My dining partner opted for Korean spiced chicken which was perfectly nice but in my mind didn’t quite live up to my expectations, but then again I’ve been to Korea on holiday numerous times so perhaps its unfair to compare.
And so to our mains – the build-your-own bowls. Now this should be a fairly simple concept – and its one that is increasingly popular in many eateries – but I have to admit that the explanation of the format did hurt my head a little but we got there in the end. In a nutshell, you choose a base of rice or noodles plus either vegetarian or meat – or fish – curry, with an option of further items. It all got a bit complicated in my mind but then again maybe I just wasn’t my sharpest that day.
I opted for Sri Lankan chicken curry with coconut steamed rice and a spicy Malaysian slaw. It was a really hearty – and tasty – portion with impeccably balanced seasoning. I can’t not mention the coconut steamed rice; rice can so often be boring but this was astoundingly delicious. Light as a feather and beautifully aromatic, I think I could say this is the best rice I’ve ever eaten anywhere.
My dining partner enjoyed her Vietnamese ginger salmon with mixed vegetable vermicelli noodles and sweet potato curry. Now whilst being a painfully slow eater, little miss greedy guts can usually polish off anything put before her but even she was defeated by her plate, although she did manage to get a generous slice of warm orange curd and chocolate fudge cake down.
We did go a bit all-out for a midweek lunch. Our two starters, two mains and dessert with a wine and mango lassi came to £66 including service, although I must absolutely point out you can buy a substantial bowl for £7.50-9.50 to eat in or take away. This is incredibly good value, home-cooked food that is accessible to everyone.
There’s a lot to love about Nanima. Clearly Nicky and Lonnie have a huge passion for the food they make and serve. The café is pleasingly informal, and I dare say it would be easy to share a table with a stranger and strike up a conversation about the food alone. If you were looking for an excuse to explore this increasingly exciting district of the city then Nanima is it.
Nanima Asian Kitchen & Café, 36 St. George's Road, Brighton BN2 1ED
01273 600 932 • www.nanima.co.uk