We are unashamed fans of chef and restaurateur Ryan Burr. We’ve followed his career from its early days at Chale Green Stores, via his eponymous street food pop-up Burr Grills, to the rock ‘n’ roll Asian-Latin fusion of Nomad. Now he’s back almost where it all started.
We remember with breathtaking clarity enthusing over Ryan’s cooking at Ryde’s Bay Grill. And ten years later he’s back in the same venue at Appley, hosting Cadet Beach Club. It’s true that he’s closed almost as many venues as he’s opened, but it’s also true that every time this talented guy re-ties his pinny he’s got something even more remarkable on offer – something that people love with a passion.
We’d heard promises of spectacular seafood, sushi omakase-style, and – what’s that? Actual oysters? We momentarily flicked our eyes from the menu to the view through our window overlooking the vast golden expanse of Appley beach, with the glittering towers of Portsmouth twinkling beyond in the sunset. But even the spectacular view couldn’t keep our attention when there was sushi, pork carnitas, lobster, steak, and those fresh Cornish rock oysters on offer. Choosing from this cornucopia was going to be hard. So why choose? We ordered half a dozen dishes which before long appeared with a flourish.
We knew the sushi would make love to our cameras; tiny nuggets of delight colour-popping in our lenses. Golden bubbles of delicate caviar; purple-stained sticky rice; naked crimson flesh arching invitingly, secured to its rice bed with a ribbon of seaweed paper. Hiding beneath were slices of the finest refreshing pickled ginger, and a tiny but all-powerful emerald daub of what could only be real wasabi.
Tweezing the Japanese-style delicacies mouthwards, we paused to appreciate the detail. Some studded with tri-colour sesame seeds, another stuffed with folded omelette. End-on chives peeped out among succulent slivers of raw salmon and that meaty slice of tuna. One by one we popped them into our eager holes, exclaiming at the artistry; savouring the textures and subtle flavours. Gorgeous for the cameras, yes: but even better for eating.
That tofu and peanut butter bao bun though. It was as pure as the first time. Bridal white. Yielding; delicate, yet mischievous. Cat accepted it gently in her maw, the way a mother cat might pick up her kitten. “I feel like I’ve been dead for months,” eulogised Cat, relishing the sweet satay-swaddled tofu, “And now I’m alive!”
The last of the sun glowed through the semi-translucent cases of the prawn har gow dim sum dumplings. Inside each pellucid wrapper was a delicate mouthful of mashed prawn. What gave the shrimp bonnets their zing was the lime leaf ponzu dip; tangy and tongue-tickling, both fruity and sour.
Crab pot £10
Tofu bao bun £7
Sushi omakaze £20
Chicken katzu £15
Pudding x 2 @ £7
The chicken katsu drew audible gasps as it landed on the table. A vast steaming slab of breadcrumbed chicken luxuriated under the caress of a sweet, rich, almost marmalady katsu curry sauce. Perfectly adorned with a galaxy of seeds, this was an epic katsu indeed. The accompanying chips and coleslaw – good though they were, faded into insignificance beside this magnificent offering. And this was no empty Instagram-fodder: the fresh, soft meat soaked in the aromatic sauce with hit after hit of flavour sensation.
We rested a while; stomachs almost full and brains whirling with adjectives. With marvelling eyes, we stared in awe as, at the adjoining table, a vast platter arrived. The Cadet signature ‘taste of the sea’ for two was laden with leaf-poached sea bass, lobster, breaded soft-shell crab, fries and Asian ‘slaw. When the last of the lobster remnants had been sucked dry, it took three servers to remove the charger and the raggedy remains of the seafood.
And still our own dinner made us gasp. More bao bun for dessert; this time cooked doughnut-style. Channelling pina colada, the gaping bun overflowed with coconut ice cream and pineapple shavings. And, if that wasn’t enough, it was dusted with white chocolate soil. If George Michael had been a pudding, perhaps the Club Tropicana crooner would’ve been this pudding; a doughnut perhaps, yet refreshingly tropical. And then there was trufito. Well, chocolate lovers are gonna get the horn for this rich pudding. Oh yeah. Brittle, then soft; hard then cold. Intense chocolate, black and bitter – devilishly good.
Cadet Beach Club is something new in a familiar venue. We were delighted by the dense layered flavours; elegant nibbles, playful dips and, with understandably more of a seaside atmosphere than the urban Nomad, unconstrained seafood flourishes. The cocktail vibe and the lively engaged service are very much there, along with the Asian and even a hint of the Mexican influences that Nomad once successfully brought us. This new restaurant’s breathtaking dishes and superlative service might just have what’s needed to keep the venue alive outside the high season. If Ryde, and the Island, is ready to support a venue of this scope and imagination, Cadet Beach Club is going to be a huge success.
This is the full-length version of the review first published in the Isle of Wight County Press.
- Sea views
- Venue is up stairs