Review – Namul
In recent years, Brighton has seen a much-needed and very welcome boom in places serving delicious, authentic ethnic food – you only need to look at the popularity of The Chilli Pickle, La Choza, Pompoko and Street Diner to understand how gratefully Brighton’s hungry hordes have received these fresh, affordable new offerings.
And my very new favourite is Namul, the tiny Korean café on Gardner Street in the North Laine. With seating indoors for around four people, and just a few tables outside, it’s really more of a takeaway place (they do home delivery, too) but don’t let its diminutive size put you off – it’s absolutely worth a visit. The staff are smiley and lovely, too.
At first glance the menu may seem confusing, but their speciality is the ‘bibimbap’, a bowl of rice topped with vegetables, meat or fish. You pretty much customise your own dish. First, choose from one of nine bibimbaps – veggies can go for the Classic, the Simply Tofu or the Mushroom Special, while non-veggies will love the Beef Bulgogi, Just Eel or Angry Calamari. Next, choose your rice – white, brown, black or rice noodles. Then you finish by choosing one of four sauces.
I was in the mood for something sharp and zingy, so went for the Kimchi Adventure bibimbap (£5.95), opting for white rice and hot chilli gochujang sauce, which was deeply savoury, spicy and utterly moreish. (I actually need to find out if I can buy this by the bottle as I would pour it over everything.) The rice arrived topped with various morsels of gorgeousness – crunchy green beans, egg, shiitake mushrooms, dried seaweed, mooli and carrot, plus a generous helping of the sautéed kimchi (pickled cabbage).
The whole thing was divine. The combination of flavours and textures was just so fabulously good – the crunchy, salty, sweet and sour kimchi next to the slippery, meaty mushrooms, crisp beans and comforting just-warm rice, with that amazing chilli sauce holding the whole thing together. I demolished it. I even went a bit nuts and told passers-by to stop and eat there, though I needn’t have done so – as I sat there in the sun, happy as a clam, a steady stream of people popped in and out to buy takeaway lunches.
And Namul doesn’t just stop at bibimbaps. The menu includes some tasty-looking sushi rolls, soups and salads, though the Teriyaki Eel Bento (at £8.50 it’s the priciest thing on the very reasonable menu) will definitely be my choice next time I visit.
Next time you’re in the area, please do your tastebuds a favour and grab something from Namul. I promise you won’t be disappointed. Now I am just willing them to move to a larger premises so I can go there one evening for a proper pig-out.
Namul, 49 Gardner Street, Brighton. For info on home delivery, call 01273 973878