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    Food and Restaurant News, News, Pop-up and Event reviews, Reviews

    Brum Breakfast Club at Nomad

    Kedgeree_pearl-barley_spelt

    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.

    cocktail_tea_nomad_brum-breakfast-club

    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.

    nomad_eggy_bread_starter

    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.

    sea-buckthorn_mimosa_nomadWe 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.

    Kedgeree_pearl-barley_spelt

    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.

    apple_juice_nomad

    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.

    bug_cereal_nomad

    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.

    Musings

    Where independents lead, chains will follow…

    img_5712Brummies, we’ve got to stop being so harsh about our city.

    This morning I awoke to a headline in the Birmingham Post’s daily bulletin “Restaurants being ‘pushed out’ of Birmingham city centre by big chains” and of course it was the first thing I read (before coffee, rarely a good idea).  And I wondered if I was living in another Birmingham.

    Whenever I head to Manchester, I jump off the train, swing a right and make a bee line for the Northern Quarter and all its fab little indie hot spots; I’ve been to Bristol several times and yet to find any shops, but I know several streets with some great eateries; but Birmingham, we’re a bit messier than that.

    We don’t have a maze of streets, a Northern Quarter or such ilk.  In fact, I saw a similar discussion unfold about the city’s creative sector and where our ‘Northern Quarter’ was, because good lord to we like to compare ourselves to Manchester.  But even then I pointed out that we don’t have a quarter, we have Digbeth and the Jewellery Quarter and Moseley and Kings Heath.  We don’t have a quarter, because our independent scene is a lot more scattered than that.

    As I see it, independent venues are usually risk takers, leaders if you will, doing something a little bit different in the city.  And without the purse of a large chain behind them, they opt to go on the outskirts where rent is cheap.  Take John Bright St for example.  For nearly five years there was nothing worth visiting there except The Victoria.  It took years before Brewdog (its indie qualities debatable), followed by Cherry Reds and now the chains – Turtle Bay, The Stable (51% shares of the company belong to Fuller’s brewery), easyhotel is looking to build, rumours of a pub chain too.  And Moseley seems to be going the same way.

    Independents lead the way, more often than not the chains follow.

    And that must be incredibly frustrating for some; just as an area is beginning to get a reputation for being worth going to, those chains with buying power can use their reputation and wallets to beat the places that made it worth going to in the first place.

    useitloseit

    Another post I wrote recently on a similar topic

    So are Birmingham’s independents being pushed out of the city centre?  I’d argue it was never really their playground to start with.  I’ve never considered Birmingham city centre to be a haven for independents, but then again neither have I Bristol nor Manchester.

    And I’m not belittling the need for more centrally located independent venues, because I don’t want Birmingham to become a homogeneous version of every other city centre.  But I also don’t expect to see Grand Central Birmingham awash with them either (that said the excellent Yaki Nori, a Birmingham independent, is in there).  Rents in the city centre are high, of course they are, they’re prime locations and as city on the up it’s hard to see this stopping.  And landlords want the safe bet of a national chain they know will pay.  It’s massively frustrating as someone that wants to sit in an Andy Low ‘n’ Slow or The Meatshack venue, but can’t because they can’t find space.

    And it’s not all doom and gloom: Original Patty Men have managed to find a great location tucked around the corner from the Bullring; Nomad are right by New Street Station; the Jewellery Quarter is awash with places; suburbs like Moseley, Kings Heath and Harborne have got some great indie eateries; and of course we can’t forget the likes of Sparkhill and Sparkbrook where the majority of the Balti Belt in indie.  Hell, get an Independent Birmingham card, show there is an appetite for independent venues in the city.

    Don’t be fatalistic; demand better, support what we’ve got, and don’t give up.

    Pop-up and Event reviews, Reviews

    Review: The Man and the Myth

    man_myth_menu_urban_coffee

    With the exciting news that Nomad are setting up a permanent home in BOM Lab on Dudley Street, it reminded me that I still needed to post about my trip to The Man & The Myth, Nomad’s pop up, experimental kitchen and testing ground for Bar by Nomad.

    I’ve eaten at Nomad a few times now, for both their No Rules evenings and when Nomad first popped up at the Kitchen Garden Cafe.  I’ve said it before, but it’s worth saying again, I think Alex Claridge is one of a handful of chefs really trying to do something a bit different in the city.  Sustainability, locally sourced and foraging are all buzzwords bandied around various types of cooking, but Nomad embody it; like their namesake they cook using ingredients that can be found at the time of cooking – seasonality and locally sourced are an integral part of what they’re serving up.king-oyster-mushroom-beef-dripping

    We start the evening with bread from Brummie bakers Peel & Stone.  It is typically delicious and the butter, liberally sprinkled with sea salt, certainly helps.  This is followed up by a palette cleansing liquid amuse-bouche of tomato, basil and cucumber, garnished with a delicate purple flower.

    Having been a bit thrown by travelling all evening and eating a late lunch, my friend Roz and I decide to take Nomad up on their offer of trying all of the small plates as a relaxed tasting menu, sharing most of them but having a couple each to ourselves – there are some things you know are going to be too good to share.  The first dish of king oyster mushroom in beef dripping is nothing special to look at, but tastes great; a superb play on the idea of mushrooms being a substitute meat, this is indeed meaty in both texture and taste, coming from the beef dripping.
    courgette_nasturtiums_capers

    This is followed by a riotous collection of greens; courgettes, nasturtium and ‘capers’ (which are pickled nasturtium berries).  The flavours combine well with a nice bite to the courgette ribbons and saltiness from the pickled nasturtium.  It’s an usual, but delightful salad.

    Samphire is one of those ingredients that always delights me to see listed on a dish and this was no exception.  The vibrant green stalks have a lovely crisp, almost coastal saltiness to them and work well with the earthy beetroot and smoked yoghurt.

    pea_broad_bean_black_pudding_mint The pea, broad bean, black pudding and allotment trimmings dish is possibly my favourite of the night.  Served warm, the broad beans and black pudding have a delightful heartiness to them that feels nourishing.  It’s a nice contrast of colours on the plate too and the iberico black pudding is just something else entirely.

    Following the broad beans and black pudding is the cauliflower, hake and pickled dulse.  The dulse seaweed has a nice salty and slightly smoky flavour to it – it’s no wonder people are claiming scientists are able to bring humble dulse one step closer to tasting like bacon.  It works well with the hake and cauliflower to make a lovely dish.

    figs_cheese_toast

    Summer truffle and figs with Cotswald brie takes us into the sweeter dishes.  I adored the figs and whilst I enjoyed the brie, my lactose intolerance was playing up a little so after nibbling on the, effectively, cheese on toast I settled for savouring the figs.  For people who aren’t overly keen on sweet things and instead prefer the cheeseboard over dessert, this was the sort of taster plate which would satisfy both.
    wild_blackberries_yoghurt_mint

    The final dish on the menu was the wild blackberries, blackberry sorbet, caramelised yoghurt and mint.  This dish was beautifully presented and everything tasted spot on, but something about it just felt a little disappointing to me.  Having been used to Nomad pushing unusual ingredients, this dish felt a little safe – I almost midded the wood ants that Alex Claridge and Nomad have become somewhat infamous for!

    That should’ve been our last dish of the evening, but earlier in the week a regular diner of Nomad’s pop ups donated a glut of plums that had been growing in their garden and needed using up.  This resulted in a bonus dish of plum, almond cake, creme fraiche and lavender.  For me, the plums were too tart for my liking, but certainly fulfilled my desire for something a bit different to end the dining experience with.plum_cake_creme_fraicheAs with all previous trips to various incarnations of Nomad, the experience was incredibly enjoyable.  The staff were, as ever, superb in both their service but also their enthusiasm for the dishes they were serving.  Each of the dishes was incredibly well thought out and overall the experience introduced me to new ingredients and gave my palate an adventure.

    Nomad is moving to a new home in BOM Lab on Dudley Street (sort of round the corner from The Electric) from Friday 13th November.  During the day they be serving snacks and small plates, with fixed multi-course menus, full cocktail and experimental drinks matching during the evenings.  Plus they intend to continue to continue working closely in their allotments and with foragers, gamekeepers and small local farms.  By the looks of it they’re booking up quickly for November, so if you want to be one of the first in, head over to their online reservations diary.

    http://foodbynomad.com/

    Disclosure: Alex invited myself and Roz down for a complimentary meal but didn’t expect us to write about it, and in my sleep deprived state I hadn’t intended to. But uhh, that’s sort of the point of running a food blog, right?

    Pop-up and Event reviews, Restaurant reviews, Reviews

    Nomad at the Kitchen Garden Cafe

    nomad_menu_july2015

    It’s fairly typical of me to do things arse about face and go to a wacky side project event before getting round to the real deal.  Which is exactly what happened with Nomad – I went to the first No Rules event back in April (I’ll get round to reviewing it eventually), which is when Alex Claridge and his team also started their residency at the Kitchen Garden Cafe.

    From Warehouse Cafe via Bistro 1847, Alex has finally gone it alone set up his own pop up restaurant, Nomad…with the help of some talented collaborators.  Building on the idea of using fresh, locally sourced ingredients, Alex and his team have made this less about a new fad and more about binding the evening’s menu with its location.  If nomads roam from place to place, taking little with them and living off what the land has to offer, then Nomad aims to do this with its menus.  It’s an incredibly simplistic concept, at heart, but it takes a brave chef to throw themselves at the mercy of mother nature – particularly in Birmingham.

    In some ways the Kitchen Garden Cafe is pretty perfect for Nomad’s first incarnation.  The earthy, secret garden venue in the heart of a suburb lends itself to a menu that relies heavily on locally sourced ingredients.  In fact, as the night goes on we’re told that one of the dishes will not be on tomorrow’s menu due to the integral ingredient dying back in the summer heat.

    nomad_tomato_soupThe first dish is listed simply as tomato, which worries me because the texture and flavour of raw tomato is just something my brain can’t quite reconcile.  Thankfully we were presented with a small bowl and a teapot with what can only be described as a clear liquid which tasted more tomato than most tomatoes I’ve eaten – in a good way.  The broth had a love salty acidity to it which really brought out the flavour of the tomato, without overpowering it and counterbalanced the sweetness perfectly.

    nomad_rabbit_carrot_cake

    The next dish was hay smoked rabbit and carrot cake. For me these were two delicious ingredients, the subtle sweetness of the carrot cake and the smokiness of the rabbit were delightful separately but just didn’t work as well for me together. To remedy this, I ate the cake first and then finished off the rest of the rabbit. Which was delightful.

    nomad_artichoke

    By far the simplest dish of the night was the globe artichoke, seared lettuce, egg yolk and nasturtium.  But simple dishes require the most precision and this dish had perfectly balanced flavours.

    nomad_trout_pearl_barley_risotto

    The main course, as far as tasting menus go, was wild sea trout with broad bean, pea and pearl barley risotto.  Pearl barley is a criminally underused ingredient, in my mind, and the lovely vivid green colour of the risotto with the light flavours really complimented the fish.  It was the perfect summer dish.

    noad_sorrell_ice_Cream_ants

    If you’re not used to eating anything you’re told is food, then the palette cleanser of sorrel and raspberry with wood ant massacre might’ve put you off.  I’ve (knowingly) eaten ants a couple of times before and their pepperiness has always been an interesting flavour.  Along with the sorrel and raspberries this made for a nice crisp, yet tart set of flavours to reinvigorate the taste buds for pudding.

    nomad_sea_buckthorn_meringue_pie

    Until this dish arrived I was ready to call the trout and risotto my favourite dish of the night.  But this for me was just something else.  It’s the first time I’ve ever eaten sea buckthorn, a miracle ingredient if some naturopaths are to be believed, but for me this is one, if not the, best puddings I’ve ever eaten.  Our waitress, who had been brilliantly helpful all night, recommended we try a little of everything together and this was without a doubt the perfect way to eat this dish.  The slight sweetness from the carrot and cumin terrine with the creaminess from the meringue and crunchiness from the cocoa nibs satisfied all textures and the flavour was just something else entirely.

    nomad_doughtnut_chocolate_soup

    Just as I thought we were done, we were presented with chocolate soup and a doughnut.  The soup was light and full of delicious bitter chocolate flavour, teamed with a lovely simple sugar doughnut.  One one hand it felt like someone’s nan making sure you weren’t leaving hungry, but in some sense it also entirely played up the idea of fine dining’s notorious small portions.  Or maybe I’m over thinking it.  Either way, it was a lovely end.

    It’s clear the Nomad team are passionate; from the kitchen team presenting unusual yet well considered dishes, to the waiting team who are attentive, friendly and knowledgeable.  Nomad won’t be sticking around Kings Heath for long, they’re due to move on at the end of August and tables are booking up quickly, so get in whilst you can – you won’t regret it, Nomad are producing some of the most interesting dishes you’ll find in the city at the moment.

    http://foodbynomad.com/

    Disclosure: I was invited down by Nomad as their guests to try their food. I think it was an ruse to see if I’d eat ants; frankly the thought of raw tomato was more horrifying. As ever all opinions are products of my own twisted little mind and remain honest.

    Food and Restaurant News, News, Pub and Drinks News

    Coming Soon to Birmingham #3

    comingtobrum3

    It’s time for another of those Coming Soon posts, because it seems 2015 is THE year to open up in Birmingham.  With Gas Street Social already open and positive reports flooding in, it’s been joined by a few others I mentioned in a couple of my other Coming Soon posts – Amanita on Bennets Hill has just opened and The Botanist on Temple St is due to open in a couple of weeks.  So that means there’s space for some more names on the Coming Soon board…

    Rub Smokehouse
    With their first venue opening in Nottingham late last year, Rub Smokehouse and Bar are looking to expand to Birmingham in the summer.  All about American style smoked meats, think brisket, burgers, low and slow cooked pork shoulder, plus bourbon and a range of cocktails.  Given the city’s appetite for low and slow smokehouse style food it looks like an interesting addition, plus with a late night cocktail bar and a license til 4am it sounds like a night out in one venue.
    http://www.rubsmokehouse.com/

    Aluna
    I can find very little information about this, other than it’s going to be a bar and grill located in The Mailbox.  Their Facebook page went live end of last year, but they’re clearly not advertising it…however rumour has it there is some goings on.  It looks like Coventry-based 360 Commercial Interiors might be involved in the refurb and there’s a rather snazzy logo on their website’s holding page – could it be hinting to some molecular style cocktails, perhaps? EDIT: a little bird tells us it might be a Nuvo venture, but don’t quote me on that.  http://www.aluna.uk.com/

    Bistrot Pierre
    Serving up provincial French cooking in a relaxed atmosphere and established in 1994, the privately owned family company has 12 bistrots located around the country, including Stratford upon Avon and Leamington Spa, and it looks like they’re coming to Birmingham (and Bath and Newport).  They’re aiming to open in a former tollhouse on Gas St, not far from Broad St and the Mailbox, although there are no dates confirmed as of yet. http://lebistrotpierre.co.uk/

    Nomad
    Focusing on memory, place and nature, Nomad is a three month residency run by Alex Claridge, previously of Bistro 1847 and Warehouse Cafe.  It’s being held at the Kitchen Garden Cafe in Kings Heath from the beginning of April with two fixed menus on Fridays and Saturdays, ranging between four and twelves courses, with menus changing regularly to incorporate ingredients as and when they’re ready from foragers and their allotment. www.foodbynomad.com

    Soho Rooms
    Set to open on 24 March in an ex-strip club, the Soho Rooms on Holloway Head  are aiming to be a luxurious steak restaurant, bar, Shisha lounge and karaoke. http://www.sohorooms.co.uk/

    Nosh and Quaff
    I’ve tweeted and facebooked about this a lot already but managed to miss it off the previous Coming Soon posts, and as the name for 130 Colmore Row’s newest occupant was finally announced recently and the signage has gone up it seems worth mentioning.  From the group that brought you Lasan, Fiesta del Asado and Raja Monkey comes Nosh & Quaff, lobster and beer focused -a venue no doubt aiming to attract the afterwork crowd.  Expect to see them opening around May time. http://noshandquaff.co.uk/

    Woktastic
    Ever since they closed their doors to make way for the new Paradise Circus development, Woktastic have been teasing us with the prospect of a new venue…and then they announce three!  Along with the re-opening of a city centre Woktastic in spring (exact location to be confirmed), owner Ali Karakaya has also announced Yaki Nori, a fast food concept which will open in Selly Oak and Grand Central Birmingham. http://www.woktastic.co.uk/

    Praza by Pushkar
    Broad Street based restaurant and cocktail bar is expanding out to the Hagley Road in Edgbaston.  Praza will continue Pushkar’s North Indian cuisine, but also hopes to bring a more international flavour to its dishes all headed up by head chef Bishal Rasaily. http://praza.co.uk/

    La Tasca at Barclaycard Arena
    Was I the only person not to notice La Tasca quietly close their previous Birmingham venue?  Well they’re returning to the city with a new location in the Barclaycard Arena and are due to open at the end of the month.  The Spanish tapas restaurant joins Ed’s Easy Diner as the second restaurant in the newly refurbished arena. http://latasca.com/

    Fiddle and Bone
    Okay, so this one is already open by I missed it off both lists last time and was rightly berated for it.  I’m yet to go down, but the sympathetic restoration and return of live music to this well loved pub has drawn some positive reports. http://fiddleandbone.co.uk/

    Any that I’ve missed? Feel free to email me, send me a tweet or drop me a Facebook message!