You’ll remember my rave about my trip to Adam’s for its special Birmingham Breakfast Club collaboration. Well, I missed the Simpsons one, gutted as I was, but managed to make it to their latest event – Birmingham Breakfast Club meets Nomad, with a special brunch on offer.
If you’re au fait with the food scene in Birmingham, you’ve most likely heard of Nomad. But for those of you who haven’t, it’s the brainchild of talented chef Alex Claridge, who appeared at both The Warehouse Cafe and 1847 then went on to launch Nomad as a pop-up in various places across the city.
Late last year, Nomad found a permanent home on Dudley Street, a few doors down from the ‘porn cinema’, just next to some phone boxes. Don’t be fooled by the surroundings. Walking through the door is a bit like going down Alice in Wonderland’s rabbit hole. No, there’s no Mad Hatter (well, not quite) but Alex is well-known by now for his unusual ideas that not only prove a hit flavour-wise, but seem to have captured people’s enthusiasm and imagination.
The focus is on food that’s grown or foraged in Britain but again, don’t let that fool you into thinking its traditional or boring in any way, shape or form. I’d read before that I was likely to end up being introduced to things I’d never heard of, let alone tried, and this brunch was no exception.
Alongside tea and coffee, we started with ‘Viking Bubbles’, a sweet fizzy cocktail of English mead wine, Forest of Arden honey, and Spanish cava. Certainly something that slipped down quite nicely ready for the first course.
This dish was a delicate combination of eggy bread and tansy, reindeer moss with bacon, eggs and coffee, and Forest of Arden honey with a cute mini teapot of homemade yoghurt.
The eggy bread was crispy and slightly sweet thanks to the addition of the tansy – a flowering herb in case you didn’t know (I didn’t!). The honey was flowery sweet with a nicely munchable honeycomb, while the pot of yoghurt calmed the sweetness with is slight sour taste.
But for me the winner was the reindeer moss – beautiful to look at, with a tiny crunch before it fell apart in your mouth, the delicate blobs of ‘egg’ adding a smoothness and richness, and a scattering of the ‘coffee’.
When just one course boasts so many elements and at least two ingredients you’ve never heard before, let alone tried, you can instantly see why so many people have been excited by Nomad.
Next up, we were treated to a Sea Buckthorn Mimosa. Yep, another ingredient I hadn’t heard of. Turns out Sea Buckthorn, which tends to grow near the coast, produces orange, grape-sized berries that are quite sour on their own, but perfect for a champagne cocktail.
Next up, another classic with a twist. Kedgeree made with pearl barley and spelt, topped with poached eggs and sea buckthorn sauce. This, folks, was seriously good. Absolutely beautiful.
The pearl barley and spelt were cooked perfectly, soft but with a bit of bite, delicate fish, perfectly-poached eggs, and a rich curry sauce that was so good I wanted to pick up my plate and lick it. I could eat a LOT of this, whether it be for breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner. Just give me more.
After a cleansing glass of freshly-pressed apple juice, we moved on to the final instalment. For anyone whose read about Nomad’s previous offerings, you’ll know they do bugs. Yep, you read it right. Bugs. Creepy crawlies. Insects. Whatever you want to call them.
This brunch was no exception. See it’s not just about the food, there’s a certain element of theatre here at Nomad, our last course being the perfect example.
First, a bowl containing a scoop of indulgent-looking caramelised milk mousse. Then an individual box of Kellogg’s cereal. You know, those variety packs you had as a kid? Makes sense, right? Cereal and a twist on milk.
Except it didn’t stop there. Pour your cereal onto your milk and you got a variety of the cereals mixed together, some honeycomb-ey kind of brittle, not to mention a fun little toy.
But that wasn’t even the full extent of the surprise in store. If you looked carefully, hidden among the pieces of cereal were some other crunchy little additions – roasted crickets. A surprise more for your expectations than your tastebuds, since the little critters were similar in crunch to the cereal and so small you couldn’t discern a particular taste. But fun, all the same. If you peep closely in the pictures below you’ll spot them…
So there you have it, my first Nomad experience, and a blimin fine one at it too. I’ve heard mixed reports about what these guys are doing – some people rave about it, some think it’s a bit gimmicky and overrated. I have to say, I’m a fan.
It’s refreshing to try different things and to have a bit of fun injected into your eating experience. Yeah, you might not want tansy, reindeer moss, sea buckthorn or crickets every night, but what’s the harm in challenging yourself once in a while?
Nomad is pushing the boundaries of ingredients you try, things you’re prepared to eat, and expectations you might have, and I reckon that’s got to be a good thing.
We paid in full for our brunch at Nomad, as part of a special event organised by Simon from Birmingham Breakfast Club. Look out on his website for future events.