David Adamson settles down for some lunch in gown town

Students in all cities need a place to call their own. Last month I drove down Mauldeth Road in Manchester on St Patrick's Day as tributaries of twentysomethings in emerald green poured towards the train station, leaving Fallowfield a relative ghost town. Back in my student days in Sheffield, Broomhill was almost an extension of the university campus, whether the locals liked it or not. 

Smithdown Road seems much the same, and while not as well-equipped as the other cities' suburbs there's some promising green shoots starting to show. One of which is Nomad. 

2024 03 05 Nomad Exterior
Outside Nomad Image: Confidentials


The interior is all very Brooklyn in that sparse, wood-lined way, with hanging plants and a muted, comforting colour scheme. The coffee machine is both ultra modern and retro-looking, they're playing In This World by Moby ("Lordy don't leave me…"), and the woman in front of me has a bag you'd see Toni Collette moping about with in About a Boy. It's not that it's conceited, it's a warm and welcoming place, but cafes and bars of this ilk are so common now that it can feel, in much the same way a deli would hang pictures of vespas and piazzas, a little off the shelf. 

Look over at the shop on the corner of Smithdown and Ullet Road - a Doll's House Specialist, complete with dedicated 'Doll and Teddy Hospital' - and you can see that what transformed the likes of Burton Road and Kelham Island hasn't arrived here just yet. But it has to start somewhere, and so Nomad, if it were to hang on tight, could very feasibly be an early landmark of a changing part of the city. Now it just needs to jazz up the menu.

2024 03 05 Nomad Interior
Inside Nomad Image: Confidentials
2024 03 05 Nomad Doll Hospital
Doll and Teddy Hospital Image: Google Maps

The Main Event

It was a Wednesday lunchtime, so I wasn't quite in the mood for the brunchier side of the menu - eggs benedict, florentine or royale, Full English, waffles. That left a few options, and I went for the B.L.T (£7), which in my book, when done well, you can't beat for a quick lunch. It doesn't need dressing up in focaccia or festooned with added fancies, it's a very solid sandwich. 

I think white Warburtons-esque loaf has a charm to it when I'm making a sandwich in my kitchen, but for £7, even with Moby oozing out of the speakers, it's just a bit cheap. Then there's the butter. Decent butter can cover a multitude of sins, but this was the yellow marg your gran would baste onto the sort of butty that would leave you feeling vaguely greasy. Seven pounds is just too steep. 

The branded mugs and saucers are a nice touch, but you can't chomp into that and leave Nomad satisfied and ready for the afternoon, much like you can't eat eggs benedict every day. You have to have good sandwiches.

2024 03 05 Nomad Blt
The BLT Image: Confidentials
2024 03 05 Nomad Blt Open
Inside the BLT Image: Confidentials

Judgement Day

The scaffolding of a good cafe is around Nomad ready to be filled, from the interior to the welcoming and friendly staff and the relaxed atmosphere, but the menu has to be what keeps people coming back. Step up on the sandwiches, maybe add a few rice bowls with fresh veg, salads and dressings, and this very promising green shoot in a fertile area will begin to blossom.

NOMAD, 431 Smithdown Road, L15 3JL

2024 03 05 Nomad Exterior Sign
Nomad, Smithdown Road Image: Confidentials
  • Food 5/10

    BLT 6

  • Service 4/5

  • Ambience 3.5/5