Peter Morrell and his wife are overwhelmed by the aromas, flavours, and presentation of the authentic and innovative food in this unique eatery
One of the great beauties of living in London is access to food from all corners of the world. Many restaurants are opened by migrants who have a compelling story to tell about their journey here, and how the food they serve was shaped by that journey.
Nandine is no exception, it was founded by Pary Baban who came to the UK in 1995 after being displaced by the Saddam Hussein regime. Before this, Pary was travelling around Kurdistan for seven years where she was seeking refuge from the Hussein government in distant relatives’ homes.
Throughout her displacement in her late teens, Pary became deeply interested in food and the styles of dishes her family members cooked in the different regions of Kurdistan. She started to make notes about what ingredients they used and the recipes they created in a diary that she still uses today. These recipes have formed the basis of the menu at Nandine.
There was a very friendly welcome on arrival from the service team at Nandine, a small and cosy dining space, with its exposed painted brick walls, and intriguing straw lampshades. We were there early on a Wednesday, and it was packed with groups of young, bright diners, giving the restaurant a very upbeat atmosphere.
The menu is divided into starters and main courses. The puddings are on a wall mounted board. For a couple it’s recommended to either have three or so starters and share a main course or have one starter and a main each.
Looking at the starters there was an array of interesting choices. The aubergine platter was tempting as was the handmade spicy sausage. Our final choice was the Mezze dips, the Beharat fries, and the mutton and rice based Qabuli Rash.
As the dishes started to arrive, we began to appreciate exactly how good the food looked and tasted. The Mezze dips were an attractive trio, a green tinged lime hummus, a deep red pepper muhammara with walnuts and pomegranate, and a cooling Tzatziki. These were all packed with flavour. The za’atar spiced flatbreads served with the dips were oven fresh, and very tasty. The mutton dish had smoked basmati rice studded with small cubes of spiced meat, nuts and raisins, and topped with fried leek, it was a good blend of tastes and textures.
The final starter is probably one of the most attractive and unique dishes you will find in London, the Beharat fries. The fries were coated with a blend of spices, and then topped with yoghurt, mint, and pomegranate seeds – it was crispy, crunchy, tart, and delicious.
We shared two main courses, the Bal chicken wings, and the Lula kebab, the meat for both dishes were grilled over an open charcoal fire. The wings were tender with a good marinade and served with pickles. The kebab, actually two, were huge, each about 20cm long. They were made from minced shoulder and flank, two of the most flavoursome parts of a lamb. The kebabs were assiduously spiced, and the juices had soaked into the flatbread below, a real treat. Grilled vegetables, labneh, ambeh pickles, and salad completed the dish which was a delight.
There is a good drinks list, inventive cocktails with a Kurdish twist, for example a Sumac and Pomegranate G&T or a Kurdish negroni. If you are more of a wine or beer person, the wines start at a reasonable £26, and there are craft beers for you to enjoy, as we did on the night. Non-drinkers are also well catered for.
One word of warning, the portions are very generous, so try and leave room for dessert. We didn’t unfortunately, but they did look very tempting. There were selections of both Baklava and Halva, and Belachuck, candied butternut squash served with tahini ice cream.
The food is very flexible, a party of carnivores, vegetarians, and vegans can all sit together and have a good meal. This food, born out of adversity, helps people to unite and celebrate their friendships.
This was very much my type of food, a feast for the eyes with lots of colourful ingredients, very fresh, well spiced with good combinations of aromas, tastes, flavours, and textures. Add to this the atmosphere, friendly service team and value for money, it’s a restaurant I can thoroughly recommend.
45 Camberwell Church St
London SE5 8TR