Photographs: David Straight
Nanam is a small suburban Filipino restaurant just off that really big roundabout in Royal Oak, only it’s not really what you expect. Inside, it’s a riot of industrial lights and half-stripped brick walls and mad splattery paint. Any night of the week, and Sunday lunch too, it’s fabulously busy with mix of Filipino families and locals; the service is low-key, super-friendly and very, very helpful. There is a short list of beer and wine – cleverly chosen – and a short bistro-style menu which they’re happy to explain to you in some detail. A huge dinner for two costs about $75. In other words: this is what suburban Auckland eating should be like.
The food’s great. It’s Filipino, but as their website warns you, this could mean anything thanks to the regionality and different colonial influences, and they’ve also twisted and tweaked some classics. This is a good thing. It’s loosely Asian, but there are Spanish-ish touches: the TacoPao ($12), for instance, which are sticky pork buns – the bun is bright red – served with pickles and peanuts and pork chicaroon, which is basically crackling. There are lamb “croquettas” ($12), crispy on the outside and falling apart inside with a zesty mint and craime-fraiche dip. We loved the relyenong squid ($18), grilled squid stuffed with vigan longanisa which is a spiced pork mixture with loads of onion and garlic: it comes with roasted tomatoes and onions. We also liked the pinaputok na isda ($20), fish cooked in banana leaf with curry lentils and beans. It was weird, but in a good way.
Desserts are fabulous: be sure to have the halo halo ($11), which means “mix mix” – a sickeningly sweet trifle-like confection of purple yam pudding, caramel and about a thousand other sweet things. But you really need to go for the roast chicken sinigang ($22): beautifully tender, the skin rubbed with tamarind; the chook comes with a grilled eggplant salsa and watercress puree. It is delicate and yet still zesty. Exactly the kind of thing you want from a local. SFG
HOURS Dinner, Tuesday to Saturday from 4.30pm. Lunch, Sunday from 11.30.
ADDRESS 126 Symonds Street, Royal Oak, ph 625-6558. nanamrepublic.co.nz
IMPORTANT DETAILS No bookings, but there’s a bar and they’re usually bang on with wait times.