“Is chef Max trying to outdo Robert Thompson?” reflected one of our dining companions in amazement during our dinner at Brading’s newest restaurant, the Nordic-influenced Heima. Well, no, he isn’t. As the evening went on it became clear that Heima has very much a style and context all of its own; the influence of Danish locavore alma mater Noma is powerful on this menu. The smartly modern restaurant in the Old Rectory Mansion building lent the place a domestic, intimate feel that goes well with the comfortable, rich and plentiful food.
We’ve eaten in venues whose menus are obtusely opaque; folderols of this and that almost deliberately designed to intimidate naive diners. Heima interjects the occasional (to us) unknown ingredient – rutabaga anyone? However, the meal was presented with intelligent and attentive service, each dish explained well, and sometimes even delivered by the chef himself. We were comfortable asking about menu items we didn’t know, and in return we got extensive answers. For the record, rutabaga is a kind of swede, but you knew that already. Nordic, see?
Kicking off, slices of pork belly and local black pudding formed a substantial meaty base, and a pair of delicate quail’s eggs were the perfect accompaniment. Robustly flavoured, with a powerful barbeque sauce kick, this was a magnificent starter. In Heima, they love beetroot; it was the showcase of Cat’s gentle and refreshing starter of Green Barn goats cheese earthy beetroot, tangy pickles and granite.
Rutabaga purée arrived as a thick creamy smear on Cat’s main of chicken and kales. Forget everything you think you know about portion sizes in finer restaurants; Heima demonstrated that you can have quality and quantity. The skin-on chicken was succulent; really moist and soft. The mix of kales was the outstanding part. From firm deep-green leaves to tiny compact heads and looser paler cabbage, the greens were a pleasure.
Matt’s roasted seasonal pheasant was a revelation. The massive chunk of meat was accompanied by kale and roasted heritage carrots. Usually pheasant comes very well-cooked and in some sort of heavy sauce to counter the dryness that the lean meat can bring. This, by contrast, was light in colour and taste; freshly cooked until just pink, and still had plenty of texture and juice. An impressively massive knife was brought out for Matt to dissect the pheasant breast from the bone – worth having, as he wasn’t going to send back any of that meat if he could help it.
Goat’s cheese and beetroots £7.90
Pork and quail £8.80
Chicken and kales £15.90
Pheasant and carrots £17.40
Beetroots and mulled wine £4.50
Chocolate and orange panna cotta £5.50
We sampled the restaurant’s signature carrot cake as a pre-dessert. Tiny morsels of warm-from-the-oven cake were decorated with gentle frosting and the platter was garnished with beetroot granita and carrot caviar. Yes caviar made from carrots. It’s beyond explaining really, you probably should just go and try it.
Just as Cat’s main had well-thought out textures and flavours, her dessert was also well-conceived. A surprisingly rich chocolate and orange panna cotta, with an acidic balsamic vinegar cut through to make a creative and delicious combo.
Matt’s modest-looking dessert hid a really exceptional beetroot experience – the third plate of the night to feature the vegetable. Like many of the dishes, the initial understated appearance and naturalistic colours was belied by the complex and carefully created result. A little glass held a portion of beetroot juice and mulled wine-infused jelly. This outrageously spicy mix looked innocuous at first, but a few sips revealed something exceptional. Rich, sweet beetroot juice sat on top of the thick, cinnamonny jelly, making a superb winter warmer to finish the meal.
Heima is a courageous venture, and an impressive one. Chef Max Rosenberg takes his food seriously; and the detailed presentation using local, foraged ingredients and a strongly seasonal menu gives a dining experience that is comfortably competing with more established high-end kitchens. It’s also remarkably good value – excluding drinks, four of us dined generously for less than £29 per head. This is a place that we definitely recommend. If like us you think the strong ambitions and high aspirations of Heima are something to be encouraged, then get down there now and enjoy it.