Confession time. I actually went to this meal on the same day as the St Patrick’s Day parade, but I’ve just been super lax at finishing the write up. However with the news that Nomad is evolving, Pokemon-style, into The Wilderness, it seems a good time to post about it.
Despite all my known heritage being Irish, I avoid going anywhere near the St Patrick’s Day parade because being up early on a Sunday, surrounded by crowds of (usually fairly) drunk people and not knowing what the hell is up with my bus home is not my idea of fun. I totally get why other people like it, but I’m good with a cup of Barry’s tea and seeing the photos on Twitter. So when I tell you I got up early, got on a bus and went to Digbeth on the Sunday of a St Patrick’s Day parade you better bloody well know it took a lot to get me there. And that ‘a lot’ was a Brum Breakfast Club presents Nomad breakfast.
Firstly, I was a 45 minutes early, because it turns out, much like when it snows, the buses seem to work better when they theoretically shouldn’t; I assume this was down to most people leaving the cars at home (something they should do more of). After a quick trip to Yorks for a coffee it was over to Nomad which has now found a home in BOM on Dudley St. I’ve raved about various incarnations of Nomad before and I like that they’ve managed to create a rather chic place in what’s a bit of a bare-boned warehouse/workshop/exhibition space.
On arrival we were given a cocktail. Now pre-midday drinking isn’t something I generally do but I’m willing to make an exception for Nomad, because they rarely do me wrong. This took the form of a drink they’re calling Viking Bubbles which contained mead, honey and cava. It was lovely; sweet but not overly so and didn’t have that alcohol burn, which made it pretty perfect for a cheeky mid-morning tipple. I paired it with black tea because I could and awaited the first course – apparently we were having a three course breakfast, which is entirely fine with me.
The first course was three nibbles: tansy eggy bread; reindeer moss with bacon, egg and coffee; Forest of Arden honey and homemade yoghurt. The eagle-eyed amongst you will notice the distinct lack of yoghurt in the photo and that was because my ability to tolerate dairy that day wasn’t great, and I’m not about to inflict that on anyone, but I hear it was lovely. The eggy bread had a nice crispness to it and the reindeer moss, as well as looking very pretty, had a nice crunch before disintegrating to create a lovely flavour along with the egg and coffee.
We then had another cocktail, a sea buckthorn mimosa. Now sea buckthorn is one of those slightly divisive ingredients, due in part, I suspect, to its tartness. It’s not often seen on menus, but Nomad have used sea buckthorn before and it’s nice to feel like there’s something a bit different going on. Given it’s a bit sour, it seems to work well with the sparkling wine and balances it out well. This paired well with our ‘main’ course, which like the first course had elements of the drink incorporated into the dish.
The second course was a twist on Kedgeree, made with pearl barley and spelt, topped with poached eggs and smothered in sauce. I have a soft spot for pearl barley so I was delighted at this and I think it gave it a meatier meal, particularly alongside the delicate fish and rich curry sauce. Kedgeree is one of those dishes I think works well for any occasion but feels almost like a bit of a comfort dish, gently lulling you into a lazy Saturday morning at brunch. This one still had that element of safety but the twists just lifted it to be a bit more interesting.
After a glass of freshly-pressed apple juice we were onto, what I think, was the real star of the show. I’d been joking with Nomad over twitter earlier in the morning about them giving us Frosties for breakfast and I wasn’t entirely wrong. Well only in so far as the last dish of the meal was a play on milk and cereal…but with bugs. Yep, Nomad brought out the bugs again and I think, like previous times, this was a bit of a stretch for some people but they bought into the spirit of it and dove in. I’m not sure you can see it in the photo, but there are roasted crickets in the mix and they had a delicious bite along side the crunchy cereal and caramel pieces. It’s also worth noting that the ‘milk’ was actually caramelised milk mousse which you can’t see because it was presented to us first – putting the milk in first is usually a cardinal sin, but entirely forgivable it this time round.
Yet again Nomad have delivered a dining experience that was both fun, inventive and a bit challenging. Whilst this wasn’t from their ordinary menu, it included a lot of the same themes of seasonal, local produce without it being a marketing exercise. The reimagining of three breakfast dishes along side drinks which worked as introductions to the next course gave a flow to the menu which is something often forgotten about. All of the Birmingham Breakfast Club collaboration meals I’ve been to have been superb and this was no exception.
So what’s with the name change?
I mentioned that Nomad are changing their name and whilst this might be largely due to legal reasons, I think it’s a positive step. Having moved around from south to central Birmingham, they’re now putting down roots in a part of the city centre largely forgotten about. And sure, The Wilderness isn’t about how Dudley Street has been lost amongst the regeneration of Grand Central, but more that they seem to be wandering out into a drinking and dining experience that the city hasn’t really seen before.
The Wilderness retains some of the previous team, but also is expanding with chefs coming from rosetted and Michelin-starred backgrounds, as well as an award-winning bartender curating the cocktail menu and a well respected barista from some of the city’s local indie coffee shops heading up the hot drinks programme. Theatrical set designers Stax Creations are transforming the restaurant into a dining experience, with The Wilderness will be open to the general public from 25 May 2016.
Disclosure: Paid for this all myself. Although some might say I didn’t get my money’s worth because that whistle totally didn’t work. Just kidding, it was an amazing meal.