Nom Nom Nomada
Nomada chef Ruben has cooked at St John & Ottolenghi. Now he's cooking up a storm around Oxfordshire.
We sent off novelist and fellow Oxon gal Clover Stroud to pop her pop-up cherry at Nomada supper club. They were hosting at The Rookery in Faringdon this time but their next dates are 20 and 21 April – ie really soon! – at Miserden Estate Garden Café, near Stroud (menu: Middle Eastern mezze), with another on 26 May in the Cotswolds at Warwick Hall, Burford. OK, over to you Clover – was supper super?
There’s something a little bit Alice in Wonderland about the idea of a pop-up supper club, since it appears as if by magic overnight, before vanishing without trace just as quickly. And a playful sense of magic and enchantment is the precise flavour of Nomada, the Oxfordshire-based pop-up supper club, run by boho-glam couple Nellie Windsor Clive and Ruben Leon Acosta. This spring and summer, catch them – if you’re lucky – at a handful of gorgeous, surprising venues throughout Oxfordshire as they wok up a spot of culinary brilliance, but always just for a night.
The couple were inspired to start the supper club by their own globe trotting travels, and have a great track record, too, having run their own restaurant in Cornwall since 2013. Cuban-born Ruben has cooked all over the world, and his own brand of culinary verve was especially influenced by stints in Thailand, Morroco and Vietnam, and more latterly cooking in London for big name restaurants like St John, Ottolenghi, Sketch and Eight over Eight. He’s the kind of man who thinks nothing of cooking a special dinner for 200 at London’s Fashion Week, so think big, bold, generous flavours and an international palate. Nellie, meanwhile, trained as a florist with McQueens, and spent a decade running weddings and pop ups for high octane names like Piers Adam and Jade Jagger, so to say she knows how to spread some glamour around is an understatement.
Nellie has a keen eye for choosing quirky, artisan venues for each supper club; I caught them on a rainy evening in late March at The Rookery, in Faringdon, a pretty café with tall ceilings and heavy beams that was the town’s old carriage makers, and really suited the idiosyncratic atmosphere of Nomada that Ruben and Nellie are shooting for.
I hot desk at The Rookery quite often, but Nellie had transformed it from a place for a great flat white into a properly glamour venue, with bunches of daffodils and spring flowers stuffed into glass milk bottles, and twinkly candles on almost every surface. A huge party of friends were spread around a central table, surrounded by smaller tables of two or three, so that it felt a little bit like arriving at a friend’s house. I was meeting two girlfriends, and the buzzy, communal vibe felt just right for an evening of gossip and good food, so say nothing of a few cheeky mojitos.
SCOFF & QUAFF
Nomada will have a different culinary theme at each event, and the Morrocan-themed meal really suited the relaxed atmosphere of the evening. We fell upon the tall glasses of mojito Ruben had prepared, stuffed with fresh mint and crushed ice. The cocktails were suitably potent, setting us up for the shared platter of starters which included babaganoush topped with labneh and beetroot, and studded with jewel-like pomegranate seeds.
A supper club might replicate the atmosphere of eating at home, but don’t be fooled: Ruben’s rich, creamy babaganoush bore no resemblance to the watery efforts I usually come up with in my kitchen, perfectly off set by bowls of sharp green tabbouleh and home-made Iranian flat bread. The dish was as pretty and colourful as it was delicious, and was followed by a silky vegetarian tagine served over buttery couscous.
These were big, generous helpings, the tagine scattered with plump chick peas and flavoured delicately with warming herbs and spices. Pudding was an exquisite plate of orange and pineapple tartar, the finely sliced fruit coloured with a flutter of pink petals, with Turkish delight in a little dish beside it. It was as close to fairy-food as I can dream of. We had coffees, too, and had brought a bottle of our own wine.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: With it’s relaxed and informal vibe, Nomada is a great place to take a big gang of friends for a really special evening out but that doesn’t mean you are obliged to speak to everyone there: we had a girly evening out and didn’t feel we had to join in with any other tables
Not For: I’m not sure it’s the place I’d go for a first date, or if you’re looking for a seriously intimate dinner.
The Damage: A great value £35 per person, but bring your own booze.
Nomada; firstname.lastname@example.org; 07564462692
Words: Clover Stroud