Restaurant review

Nandine restaurant review –

You probably haven’t tried Kurdish cuisine, if so, you missed something. Correct this error in Nandine

Without an underground station, Camberwell looks like a small island state. People have heard of it, but rarely visit. I lived there many years ago and it was cheap, if not particularly cheerful, and filled with artsy students from nearby Camberwell College of Arts. It’s always like that.

That hasn’t really changed, Camberwell Grove, opposite Nandine, is still home to the finest Georgian houses that were worth a fortune then, and are worth three times as much today. However, on the main street you will still be approached by guys asking for spare change.

Nandine is right on this main street, light, airy and welcoming, it’s very different from the Middle Eastern restaurants of yore which were usually dark, unfriendly places filled with burly men.

The word Nandine means “kitchen” in Old Kurdish, and it was founded by Pary Baban in 2016, who arrived in the UK in 1995 after being kicked out of her home by Saddam Hussein (remember him?). His loss is our gain.

You get a lively feeling when you walk in; it’s not big, but clever use of space and lots of plywood allowed for a variety of table sizes and created a cool dining area that seats six and with gallery space above.

The sharing plate menu is printed in small print on a brown background, which makes it a bit hard to read, but it’s short. A good sign, so many restaurants in the Middle East have menus as long as the local quarrels and often just as incomprehensible.

Nothing is expensive. A table of four could probably order the lot and spend less than £15 per person.

There are only two of us, so with a bit of regret we skip the delicious Beherat fries (dusted with Za’atar and topped with tamarind, yogurt and mint) and go traditional with mezze dips to start, a plate retina scorching color served with fabulous hot oiled bread.

The excellent hummus is green, which means it was made with beans, not chickpeas. One of the endless debates in this part of the world is over which hummus is more authentic – chickpeas or fava beans. On top, pomegranate seeds pop and there’s a nice citrus undertow.

A dish of Tzatziki yogurt smothered in crispy fresh cucumber chunks, and on top a layer of ubiquitous sumac, that addictive tangy spice made from ground berries. It gets thick with a ladle on this addictive bread, the best tzatziki I’ve eaten although it’s not something I eat often

We’re not too fond of mashed red peppers, which reminds me more of eating tomato puree straight out of the tube; but with a fiery kick. We quickly run out of bread, but soon bring more to scrape our plates.

Stew is such a pessimistic word, conjuring up (sic) memories of school dinners, but here a dish called Tirsak is more of a broth made from split chickpeas, spinach and tomatoes. On top, a fried leek and a swirl of garlicky aioli.

Submerged in the depths well below sonar range is a vegan dumpling called kifta, usually made with lamb, the ubiquitous meat of the Middle East. The dumpling is quite hard to cut with its rice shell, but not earth shattering, and the spinach held its color well, a good rib sticker dish and very homestyle.

And homemade, the spicy sausage that tops another broth, this time pearl barley and chickpeas that have been slow-cooked in a mutton broth that’s really full of flavor. Like a merguez sausage, the sausage is delicately spiced and we fight over it happily.

Our lula kebab main course is a total winner; boneless lamb shoulder, compressed, spiced then cooked over hot coals like a giant kefta. Lovingly lying on a bed of bread that gratefully soaks up the juices, it’s lined with grilled vegetables and comes with a yogurt dip with marinated cauliflower and more sumac and/or za’atar.

We didn’t have the baklava dessert we had planned to try, rather tempted by the novelty of the baked butternut squash. Obviously, it’s usually a savory dish, but many squash can be successfully sweetened, think pumpkin pie.

Here I was not sure if it worked. The skin had been left on and the roasting had made it rather tough. Shots of cream helped, but I wish I had stuck with the baklava.

I liked Nandine and I have no complaints about the prices. For vegetarians there is a lot to enjoy, but I don’t know if vegans can be entirely comfortable there, but I’m never sure what exactly is forbidden for vegans.

Bright, cheerful and packed early even on a Monday night, Nandine is such a heartwarming local gem that I even gave the local gem a quid who accosted me outside as we were leaving.

Photos of Nandine PR

Book on 0208 001 8322 or consult their Facebook page.

45 Camberwell Church Street, Camberwell, SE5 8TR