Nadu brings Sri Lankan flavours and traditional Tamil techniques to the crowd-pleasing restaurant, discovers Stacey Black
Nadu has been on my hit list for a little while now. After a false start back in December 2020, it opened up properly in May this year to nothing short of glowing reviews.
A friend and I headed here on a swelteringly hot summer evening, and were seated in a mercifully cool spot near the entrance to the restaurant. Sitting in our booth and enjoying the breeze from the open front door, we checked out our surroundings.
The space is chilled out and just a little bit splashy. Brightly-coloured posters cover the walls, and the bar to the right is designed to resemble an exotic spot you might stumble across on a pearly-white beach somewhere.
I ordered a Flaming Monkey Tail to sip while I decided what to eat. Billed as being “tangy, spicy and with a hint of smoke”, it is a mix of refreshing passion fruit and mango, shot through with chilli and smoky mescal.
Too engrossed in the menu to notice, I heard my friend say: “Erm, I think your drink is on fire.” The addition of a flaming slice of dried orange is the kind of theatre I can get behind.
My friend is a classy lady, and she chose the Jungle City Cooler. Dry and herby with enough fruitiness to really quench a thirst, this tequila/rum fusion was delicious.
I chose a few smaller dishes for the table – the string hoppers and the legendary spring green poriyal. The noodle-y hoppers are seriously moreish, especially when topped with the spicy and savoury sambols that accompany them. The poriyal is unbelievable, though. Tender and vibrant spring greens are stir fried and tossed in mustard, coconut and moong dahl and the result is something similar to Pad Thai flavours.
Piquant, nutty and a bit spicy, this was easily my favourite dish of the evening.
I was torn over what to choose from the larger plates section of the menu, which is a selection of really saucy curries, stews and bread-based dishes. My friend chose a veggie dish so we could swap and I could double my food intake. We shared the Vambatu Moju, which is a glistening bowl of aubergine, shallots, garlic, coriander and sun dried tomatoes. This is a pretty heady dish with so much going on and we struggled to finish it, which made me sad because it was utterly delicious.
Next time I visit, I think I’ll order this with a side of parottas so I can devour the lot.
My Kaju Kari was no less mouth-watering. Certainly more mellow, but just as delectable, this is a smooth, creamy curry that looks as lovely as it tastes. Cashew and green peas are cooked with a mix of delicate spices in a kind of masala sauce, which is great if you prefer your curries on the milder side.
We were persuaded by our lovely server Ana to try their tear-and-share dosa, and, make no mistake, this is huge! It was literally wider than the table and you could easily eat this as a main on its own, owing to the selection of chutneys that come with it, plus its own sambar on the side. So crispy, it has a really satisfying crackle when you tear off a chunk.
The chutneys range from really mild to quite spicy, so there’s something for everyone, and the flavoursome and hearty vegetable sambar was hefty enough to be a main.
Unbelievably, we agreed to dessert – Ana is very persuasive! I went for the rum and raisin brownie while my friend had the duo of sorbets, both with a rosé chaser. The brownie is rich and gooey but still holds its shape, and the rum isn’t too overpowering. The addition of cooling vanilla ice cream is a welcome touch, and a scattering of pomegranate seeds give it a bit of pop. The not-too-sweet vanilla sorbet is silky and refreshing which works nicely with the second dollop of tangy blood orange sorbet.
The highly-skilled chefs here manage to pack plenty of flavour into every dish without it ever becoming too heady or overwhelming.
The portions are well-considered and reasonably-priced, and it’s the kind of place you could visit for a romantic dinner, or a catch-up with friends. I actually visited again in the same week for a birthday treat.
Nadu is extraordinary, and I can’t recommend this place enough.