Ten years ago, when this blog was more about travel than grilling, I received an email from the gastronomic Isle of Wight reviewers, Matt and Cat. They were polishing up a review of the Dairyman's Daughter in Arreton and while looking for a picture to round out their review, stumbled upon mine from one of our recent visits. They asked to use it, which I readily said yes, and our transatlantic food relationship was born!
A lot has changed since our initial meeting a decade ago. First, I'm not shooting horrible looking photos on my Treo 650, I'm shooting them on my iPhone *. Second, the quality and choice for island eating has increased dramatically.
During a visit to the Isle of Wight six years ago (I can't believe it was that far back!), Matt and Cat whisked me to The Bay Grill. At the time, it was a new restaurant run by Chief Ryan Burr. As I was promised, The Bay Grill delivered on all fronts. Those pictures from our meal remain some of my favorite.
Since then, Chef Burr ran another island restaurant, spent some time abroad, and is now back on the island. At Matt & Cat's recommendation, Zoë and I joined them at Chef Burr's new restaurant in Newport: Nomad. Our feast hit every note on my flavor spectrum. It was filling, original, and far from typical English fare. We all loved it.
Nestled into the side of the Wheatsheaf, Nomad's dimly lit rustic interior seats about thirty and sports an open view of the kitchen. Unfortunately for us, but good for him, Chef Burr was off. He was out getting some rest after the Chef and his team, Nick Foster, and 2014 Australian MasterChef contestant, Scott Yoeman, cranked out the VIP food for the recently held Isle of Wight Festival.
Scott and Nick took great care of us.
Nomad is inspired Mexican street food with Asian influences, which translates into small plates, bright colors, and a myriad of flavor combinations. On the beer front, it also mandated only one choice: Red Stripe. I think Matt looked at me cockeyed as Scott brought the chilled glass and tall can to the table. Matt knows I'm all about my "bitters," but in this case, the recommended Jamaican lager seemed more than appropriate.
While the menu had twelve selections, it was the feature selection Matt & Cat suggested. This alluring choice titled, "Shut Up and Feed Me," was a hand-picked collection of the best dishes of the day. How could we refuse? My tapeworm was at the ready.
We started with Chicken San Choy Bau Lettuce Cups.
And moved onto the Isle of Wight Heirloom Tomato and Squid Salad with Latin Salsa Verde.
I'm not a huge tomato eater, but I couldn't get enough of this. The small pieces of squid put me over the top. I could have easily had a second plate.
Next were Isle of Wight Asparagus Chips with Curried Egg Gribiche. Gribiche is a mayonnaise emulsification somewhat like a tartar sauce.
Before serving, I watched Nick dropping the egg yolks onto the plate and wondered what we were getting. No matter the process of assembly, it was divine.
The asparagus, cooked softly and accentuated by the crunch of the breading, was the ideal compliment for the slightly spiced dip. As with the dishes before it, this was polished off in record time. The area surrounding my plate was dotted with errant pieces of breading and drizzled egg. My eating is always a little...rambunctious.
Rounding out the mains were Cumin Roasted Lamb Ribs with Honey and Lemon.
Braised for an exceptionally long time, meaning I forget, the meat was tender and succulent. The lamb's flavor amped by the freshly squeezed lemon juice we worked over our plates. Not to be left alone, the lamb was joined by Triple Cooked Bravas Potatoes, Confit Garlic, and Rosemary.
Much like the basil with the previously devoured heirloom tomatoes, the rosemary in the potatoes was fried. I'm not sure how this is done exactly, but I need to find out. The herbs added not only flavor but texture with their unique preparation. I was smitten.
The parade of food was perfectly timed as none of us ever felt full. This was a good thing. There was still dessert. Our final course was called Eton Mess, a traditional English dish of fresh fruit, broken meringue, and cream.
One of my favorite ingredients here? The small pomegranates. It's all about the details.
As were winding down, Scott showed us Chef Burr's jacket they recently had framed. The cuff was signed by well known British Chef, Heston Blumenthal.
Chef Burr has yet to see it on the wall.
After a few more beers and an endless night of catching up (It's been four years since I had dinner with Matt & Cat at the Pointer Inn) we walked out to the chilly Newport streets with full bellies.
A lot can happen in four years, which makes me wonder what culinary direction the island winds will direct Chef Burr for my next visit. Whatever it may be, I'm certain it will be successful and most importantly, Matt & Cat will have it covered.