OF ALL THE THINGS that should be easy, peasy lemon squeezy, then ordering food in a tiny restaurant should be up there. Especially a restaurant that’s no more than the size of a Bento Box with high tables and high chairs putting me on eye level with the waitress as I go through the menu.

A menu that itself speaks in the lazy, comfy, feel right at home here, folks, food language of the first hipster stage of the early 21st century.

It talks of “ridiculous dressings”, tofu being “so salty, so spicy, so enjoyable”, garlic and chilli cucumbers “zingier than any cucumber has a right to be”. You get the drift, there are kitschy chalk boards, friendly admonitions, hip ’n’ happening messages all around this place. They say: we’re approachable – we’re one of you. I like all that. I’ve spent a lot of time in Michelin star places recently and I can't tell you how weary I’ve become of opaque menus and falsely enthusiastic staff endlessly and meaninglessly reciting lists of what’s in the food.

Surprisingly, given the welcoming vibe in Nanika there ain’t nobody here tonight but me. But I’m looking forward to my food because, frankly, I like the little guy or little guys sticking their necks out and bucking the deep fried freezer food trend that blights Scotland’s middle market restaurants.

So how does it all go so completely wrong?

Honestly, I’m still be wondering this as I walk out 40 minutes later shaking my head. I say walking out but driven out really. By music that’s so unbelievably loud and so clearly being played for the benefit of the people who work here that it’s actually rude. By service all round that smacks of such a completely distracted disinterest that my jaw is literally bouncing off this little wood table as I wait.

That music again, deliberately or not, creates a sound barrier between the people behind the counter, like two feet away, and the customers (OK, me) weirdly destroying the unique selling point of this place – its potential intimacy. Instead of there being friendly interaction between the chefs two feet away in their open kitchen and the eaters there's a vacuum filled with blare.

Yes, they’re also very taken up with dealing with take-away orders and people occasionally pop in and out to collect their stuff but really it's not good enough.

Getting back to that ordering anyway. Right at the start the waitress is so distracted that I quickly give up asking questions, feel weirdly hustled and make some quick choices. Not so quick though that when later a salmon and sweet potato bowl with celery pear and ponzu dressing arrives I forget that I didn’t order it. I eat it anyway.

Joanna Blythman: Greasy spoon joint? No way. This is brunch bliss

It’s chunky, saucy, vibrant and well put together, a heap of sticky rice in the bowl, a sprinkle of sesame over all, everything with that tart aftertaste it should have, but its powerfully rather than subtly, or even carefully, flavoured.

Now, I did actually ask what the spicy prawn fries with sriraracha prawn floss, scallions and ponzu mayo were – and I clearly didn’t actually understand the explanation. Am pretty sure I got the impression it was fries made from prawn rather than er, fries made from fries. But they are indeed just fries. Heaped with enough spices and fresh green herbs and squirted with so many zig zags of powerful white dressing that’s they’re almost overwhelmingly, overpoweringly flavoured. Phew.

Reasonable are the garlic and chilli cucumbers which are indeed zingier than any cucumber has the right to be – I certainly can eat only a few. And a bowl of puffed pork rinds diced with powdered spice is also on the table alongside a pretty little dish of cold, damp pretty vinegary vermicelli salad. But I’m not enjoying this experience tonight. It’s uncomfortable to sit here, so I’m off. Not clearly that anybody cares.


Victoria Road


07383 716676

Menu: Cucumbers zingier than any cucumber should be, rice bowls, eastern fusion food, hip ’n’ happening combo. 4/5

Service: The music was loud, the takeaway seemed more important, nobody seemed interested. Not great. 2/5

Atmosphere: It should be a great experience in a tiny restaurant but frankly there’s no interaction between the staff and the customers and the music is so unbelievably loud it seems almos designed to ensure there’s none. Bad. 1/5

Price: Small things £3, big bowls £9.50, extra Goodness (whatever that is) £3.75. Good value, at least. 4/5

Food: They can make a dish look good, they don’t miss a single herb or spice or squirt of Ponzu mayo, but frankly it can be overpowering. Toning and balancing could vastly improve. 6/10


Joanna Blythman: Greasy spoon joint? No way. This is brunch bliss