Every now and then some pop culture phenomenon bursts onto the scene and takes everyone’s breath away. Ask your nan about the impact Elvis ‘The Pelvis’ had on the newly-created teenagers of the 1950s. Dangerous stuff for a post-war Britain, still recovering from being on the ration. And what about the outrageousness of punk, blowing away prog-rock cobwebs with its raw energy and vital-stabbing rhythms?
Let’s not throw try-hards like Madonna (did we already mention your nan?) or Miley into the mix with their manufactured schlock. No, we’re talking about visceral, knee-jerk rock ‘n’ roll rebellion. You know it when you see it – and in Newport, we’ve found it at Nomad, delivered to you on a glazed tile.
We’ve been following the progress of Nomad chef Ryan Burr’s career with increasing interest. Way back in 2010 Matt commissioned Ryan to create a supper for one of Cat’s famous birthday parties. Ryan devised a wonderful re-imagining of a 1970s dinner party. That same year he opened his own restaurant in Ryde – the Bay Grill – in which he demonstrated his enthusiasm for local ingredients, gustatory titillation and amazing attention to detail.
Following time spent overseas this wunderkind of the kitchen is back and, with a hop (Burr Grills at Seaview) and a skip (Burr Grills at Blacksheep Bar) he has now jumped into premises in Newport with business and kitchen partner Nick Foster. Their combined love of exotic ingredients, stimulating food and a tangible passion for their product has seen Nomad rise rapidly through the ranks to become one of our must-visit restaurants.
Apart from the riotous food, the exciting thing about Nomad is the seat at the counter where diners can watch the magic occurring. Soft meat is arranged on your plate with the tender touch of a new lover, a nest of ‘slaw is twirled alongside and petals artfully scattered over the dish.
But what’s the food like? Well, we’ve learned to just sit there with our beaks open like baby birds awaiting course after course, with the inspired ‘shut up and feed me’ option where you simply buy your ticket and take the ride, getting whatever the chefs feel like giving you. Less adventurous diners can, of course, choose their own meals from the menu of share plates. And what a choice! The night we visited, pork belly carnitas, tempura fish taco and twenty-four hour beef short rib were among the delights on the menu – and the selection changes practically weekly. We know, because we keep going back to check. Vegetarians are well-catered for – Cat can vouch for the spectacular truffle mushroom quesadillas – and wheat-dodgers will be delighted to hear that most dishes are gluten free.
Four or five dishes is the norm for ‘shut up and feed me’. We started with delicate tuna tostadas with smooth spicy guacamole, a preamble to the utter bonkersness of Asian duck and boozy cherries in steamed bao buns. The brilliant white rice buns were so soft and fluffy they were like eating a cloud. We’ve genuinely never eaten anything like these wonderful doughy taste-bombs before but would most assuredly do so again.
How the talented chefs give familiar ingredients textures and flavours beyond their usual limitations is a mystery to us, despite our constant ogling as we watched the fellas cavort around the little kitchen. It was a ballet of strewing, rolling, squirting and decorating. Mysterious, and some familiar, garnishes were scattered like fairy dust to give each dish that magical sprinkle. Take the beetroot and gin marinated salmon fillet. It looked like a regular skin-on salmon fillet but the resemblance to anything earthly ended there. This was a heavenly slice of fish, pinker than a teething baby’s cheek and with the moistest, silkiest texture. The botanical pickled veg added a zingy accompaniment; drizzled mint salsa and garlic aioli cooled it down again.
Shut-up-and-feed-me £25 p/p
(four/five dishes each)
Red Stripe £3.50
And, if you think that Nomad is just about the Mexican street food and Asian spices then think again. The desserts are equally deserving of hyperbole. We watched as millionaire’s cheesecake and cubes of chocolate ganache were bookended by cherry parfait and cinder toffee then drizzled with salted caramel. One of these sweet foods of the gods would have been a spectacular treat. All of them together was a finale to the meal that we couldn’t resist. And didn’t.
We haven’t had so much fun in a restaurant for a long time. The atmosphere on a Saturday night was strikingly dynamic – the place was jammed, with chefs moving like dancers and diners exclaiming with delight, Nomad felt so alive. The food is unlike anything else on the Island. And it’s good. Really, really, good. We suggested that Thompson’s would elevate Newport’s dinner scene and, with the arrival of Nomad, the town – nay the Island – has an electrifying addition to the culinary mix. Rock ‘n’ roll food has arrived.
This is the full-length version of a review that was first published in the Isle of Wight County Press.
- Outstanding, unique food
- 'Shut up and feed me' option
- Dynamic atmosphere
- Veggie/GF options galore
- Lunchtime takeout menu
- Not for the cautious diner
- You are going to get sticky sauce on your shirt