I’ve never had Kurdish food before, but various members of my family have had an interest in Kurdish culture for a while, so when I heard about this interesting, not-too-pricey restaurant in Camberwell, I decided to go along and sample some of the cuisine.
I went there accompanied by three other people who all seemed as taken with the place as I was. Nandine can be found on quite a busy street, surrounded by other food venues and grocery stores, of varying calibre. The first thing I noticed upon entering Nandine was how busy yet laid back the place was; the emphasis on pale wood grain and balmy amber lights created a really nice, warming but casual setting. I then noticed the cute mezzanine seating area, some kind of cross between a treehouse and a 90’s wooden bunk bed (sadly we were not seated there).
With some time to spare before the others arrived, my partner and I ordered some drinks, and I was immediately taken with the interesting sounding ‘pomegranate and sumac G&T’: and it was indeed, interesting. It took me by surprise as it immediately gave way to an intense, almost savoury, sumac flavour, (with an undertone of dried fruit, such as dates or raisins) before melting into a sweeter, more expected flavour. Despite being an unusual choice, everyone on my table enjoyed it, and I would definitely recommend it, especially if you like adventurous food choices.
On to the food: given the low prices (£7-12 per small plate) we decided to get some plates to share – effectively five plates per couple. My partner and I ordered the Kurdish dumplings, an aubergine platter, an aubergine stew, some fries (covered in pomegranate seeds and tamarind yoghurt), and a lamb and rice stew. The portions were slightly smaller than I expected, but equally more filling than I originally thought.
The aubergine platter was delicious – I grew up in a family of aubergine lovers, so none of it was particularly new to me, but still excellent, and a good selection of dishes as well, baba ghanoush, a spicy chickpea aubergine dish, and an aubergine and red pepper salad. Definitely one I’d order again. Continuing strong: the dumplings were unlike any I’ve ever had (and I know my dumplings). They seemed to be made with some kind of starchy ground (or partially ground) rice flour, a bit stodgy but with a crispiness which took away from that. The meat was really well spiced, which again cut through the starchy dough. Sadly there were only three in a portion, so my partner and I fought over (shared) the last one!
Moving onto my favourite dish of the night: Qabuli Rash. This is the mutton and rice dish, and I don’t think I’ve ever had mutton as melting and tender as this. The rice was lightly spiced and a bit smoky, which paired really well with the richness of the mutton (as did the crispy fried leek on top); overall this was a very popular dish with everyone on my table, and one I would 100% recommend if you eat meat.
The last two dishes were also delicious: I sort of knew what to expect with the fries so although they were lovely (the tamarind sauce especially) they didn’t surprise me. The aubergine stew was ok – not on the same level as the aubergine platter, and not quite as fragrant and flavourful as some of the other dishes, but a good vegetable side, if that’s what you’re looking for.
We couldn’t resist ordering some halva for dessert; and please believe me when I say it was the best halva I’ve ever had. There were three different types, one which seemed to be pomegranate and rose flavoured (I LOVE rose flavoured things, so this was unsurprisingly my favourite), one pistachio flavoured, and one topped with coffee – not my favourite but definitely up there! If you have a sweet tooth I’d probably recommend going to Nandine simply to try the halva.
Overall, it was a cosy, fragrant, and wholesome dining experience. If you know and love Kurdish food, are new to it but enjoy middle-eastern food, or just want to try something new, I would strongly recommend it. The prices are reasonable, the staff are friendly, and most importantly, the food is delicious.
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