We've decided to get to know some of our local business partners a bit better - and today we speak to Lonnie owner of Nanima Asian Kitchen.

Please tell us about your business and what you offer to visitors coming to Brighton.

At Nanima Asian Kitchen, we offer a daily-changing selection of authentic Asian cuisine, but we’d like to think it’s more than simply another option for lunch or dinner for visitors to the city, especially visitors to Kemptown Village. There are many things that make us relatively unique, primarily the fact that we’re a genuinely family-run establishment, with my wife, Nicky, our chef, preparing over a dozen different dishes every day, assisted by her sister, Bea, who prepares all our homemade samosas, pakoras, spring rolls etc as well as cooking up some wonderful Indian-spiced masala chai every morning. I’m responsible for the front of house, with various offspring helping out too, in the kitchen and out front, so our guests know that this is home-cooked food served by a family that really cares about establishing a real connection with the local community as well as offering visitors from beyond an authentic welcoming experience not usually found at traditional restaurants that are far more formulaic in their operation. Our guests seem to respond really positively to the diverse selections each day, with dishes from across Asia, and know that everything is fresh and delicious.

What do you like most about what you do?  

Apart from the very real satisfaction in running a vibrant business with my gorgeous wife, and seeing this become a relative success during the very difficult period of the last three-and-a-half years, my greatest enjoyment lies in knowing that we are part of the vibrant community of Kemptown Village and that we are regarded very highly by many local people, that we are part of the lives of many of our regulars, that we are known by name as are they, and that we get a chance to have genuine exchanges throughout each day. Nanima is not, therefore, just our place of work; it’s where we are who we are and it’s where we’re respected and appreciated for doing what we do. That’s a daily blessing. 

What inspired you to start your business?  

The short story is that in a previous life, when Nicky and I were living in London with our young family, I was mostly involved in book publishing devoted to world cinema and Nicky was mostly an acupuncturist and complementary therapist. After the Great Crash of 2008 I had to pivot from publishing only and opened a small cinema bookshop on Brick Lane, called Cinephilia East; subsequent to this I had an opportunity open a larger establishment in Notting Hill called Cinephilia West, and that allowed Nicky and I to work together for the first time as that venue had a kitchen that she ran while I managed the bookstore, gallery and screening lounge. Although this venture was short-lived it did sow the seeds for other ideas and, after moving to Brighton in 2011 and continuing with other things for a while as our children grew, by 2019 or so we were ready to suspend our other activities and find a local venue to create something of our own again, together. So Nanima Asian Kitchen was born from our desire to work together, to express our autonomy by following our vision, and to devote ourselves to our local community. Oh, and because we knew that Nicky was an awesome chef!

What is the best thing about your work?  

Well, I’m very lucky. Because Nicky’s food is so wonderful, and we’ve been able to find a perfect spot for what we do which is the right size for us to manage as a family and yet is welcoming, with lots of plants and great music as well as damn fine coffee etc, working out front and ensuring good customer service means that I get to experience a lot of very genuine appreciation from our guests. It has to be more than twenty times each day when I’m told something like, ’thanks, that was amazing!’ or ’this place is awesome’, and so hearing that each day is pretty special.

What is your average day like, or is it never average?  

There is a natural rhythm to each day; although it’s long – usually a good fourteen hours straight! – it’s always rewarding. My day starts with the school run for our two eldest kids and/or half an hour in the gym or pool, before an hour or so of grocery shopping at various locations; Nicky provides daily lists depending on what she plans to prepare that day and then off I go. By about 9:30am I’m at Nanima beginning to open up, and I strangely enjoy the process – it’s honest work, sweeping our pavement, preparing our little corner of the world for the day ahead, all aided by fresh coffee and a cheeky fresh croissant or two, while Nicky is in the kitchen beavering away. We’re open from 10am and it’s a pleasure to welcome our early guests, before the lunch period and a sizeable spike in activity; following that there’s a quiet hour or two, mid-afternoon, which allows for a big tidy-up and re-stock, before more cooking late afternoon in anticipation of the early evening dinner service. We’re usually done by about 8:30pm or so; Nicky is usually home well before then so by the time I get back – just a leisurely ten-minute walk east along the seafront – I’m ready for a long cold one…

What would you like to be doing as an alternative career?  

I think I’ve had my alternative careers, in book publishing and editorial administration etc, and this is now what I should be doing; at least, it feels like I’m living my true life which involves a lot of hard work and long hours but is existentially rewarding, which is different to having a job and pursuing a career, even if that seems to be going well. However, as Nanima does allow me to play lots of great music, if I did do anything else it would probably entail music, like being a widely respected radio presenter. That could work!

What is next for you and your business?  

Well, we have recently had reason to pause and reflect on this question, as it now feels that the Covid pandemic is behind us and, after three-and-a-half years since first opening and succeeding in establishing ourselves as a credible local establishment, the next thing is really enlarging our profile across the city. We are increasingly visited by guests from Hove, Westdean, Clifton and elsewhere so we know our reputation is good, aided by a very strong review profile on Google and TripAdvisor etc, and are thrilled that people are coming all the way over to Kemptown Village and enjoy the experience of visiting a part of town they may not have known so well. All that is aided by the recent and future developments on the Eastern Seafront and so we’re really well-placed to accommodate that increased footfall in the area. The next phase, now that we’re no longer in ’start-up and survive birth’ mode, is consolidating our presence on the city’s vibrant café and restaurant scene, and increasing our revenue so that we can get some staff in to help Nicky in the kitchen, bless her!

What do you like most about Brighton and what is the best thing you like to do in the city?  

Oh, where to start! I guess I’ve always loved the size of the city; it’s a perfect human scale – large enough for lots of great things to be happening all the time (great live music, diverse arts, pubs and bars and clubs, great restaurants, specialist festivals etc) but small enough to be genuinely friendly with a civic identity, decent politics, community spirit … and one football team! Although our friends in Whitehawk will have things to say, we are the Seagulls and it’s great to banter football with strangers on the bus. We’re all one. It’s also a great place to raise a family, and of course there’s the sea, and the big sky. Oh, and the football!

Thank you!


Nanima Asian Kitchen

Offering a daily-changing selection of freshly prepared authentic Asian cuisine, Nanima Asian Kitchen has fast become one of Brighton’s most popular eateries since first opening in early 2020, and is now a treasured institution...



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