Nodo popped up in the time when doughnuts were all the rage, when Doughnut Time and Donut Boyz were doling out holey sweet treats all over Brisbane. Nodo provided the gluten-free alternative, and did not have quite the explosion of outlets that, perhaps, ultimately contributed to the undoing of its competitors, who have since seen their footprint dramatically shrink. Nodo, in contrast, has been more measured in its expansion, with just a handful of stores to date (four in total, in Newstead, the CBD, Southbank, and Camp Hill).
We had tried Nodo doughnuts before. Although the purists might object, as they have a more cakey texture than a doughnut one, the flavours were rich and discernibly different from each other. We learned that they served non-doughnut dishes at most of the outlets as well, and thought that we should test those out too.
We decided to visit the outlet at the Camp Hill marketplace, which also had outposts of Botanica Real Food, Jocelyn’s Provisions, and Banneton Bakery. Those with a sweet tooth were certainly spoiled for choice there.
You will see the black outdoor umbrellas with “nodo” printed on them before you get to the storefront itself. All the seating is outdoors, under the covered area that frames the Camp Hill Marketplace central square. There are stone seats around the edge of the space, and similarly coloured stone tabletops, with table numbers inlaid in muted gold. The surrounding greenery gives it a garden feel. It was warm on a hot day though, with no fans to move the air. The open space meant that sound could dissipate, so it didn’t get too noisy. Relaxed house chillout music played over the speakers.
A black wall at the storefront has “nodo” in plain lower case font at the top, and a panel with their menu framed at eye-level. You can pause there to consider what you want to order, then proceed in to order and pay at the counter. There does feel like a little pressure to decide if there are others lined up behind you to also get a view of the menu on the wall.
Also at the counter is an assortment of their doughnuts under glass, which may well distract you from your planned brunch order. You will also discover, as you place your order, that you are meant to have already found yourself a seat, as you are asked for your table number. It would help if there was signage somewhere to indicate that that was their expected process. Most of the tables were already occupied, but one fortuitously was vacated just then, and we pointed to that one. As we made our way across after completing our order, someone else almost took over the table instead. While it was not a major issue, it added unnecessary chaos to what could be a smoother process.
The menu had a variety of dishes that would appeal to an assortment of diners, from sweet dishes like a Baked Brioche Waffle, to more hearty dishes like the Cheeky Beef Burger. Dishes like the Frozen Matcha Bowl and Kimchi Omelette indicated that they knew how to appeal to popular tastes. After some deliberation, we had decided on the Porcini Waffle and the Beach Benedict.
Coffees arrived first. The soy iced latte was served with plenty of ice in the glass (ice seemed to take up more than half the volume). It was very mildly flavoured, and had even less discernible coffee flavour as the ice melted. At least it wasn’t bitter.
It was also felt that the flavour of the flat white was light, and could have been stronger. It was smooth and well-textured, however.
The Porcini Waffle was listed in the menu as comprising black garlic butter, exotic mushrooms, kale, soft fried duck egg, toasted hazelnut ricotta, and wattleseed. Those components jumped out at us when we read them, and we could not go past the umami flavours we imagined the dish having. It was brought out on an off-white, faintly speckled circular plate with raised edges, that echoed the light stone materials that the table and benches were made of. It presented as a low stack, with the square waffle making the base on which the other ingredients were placed, and the sunny side up duck egg with its poised yolk blanketing it all. Some of the mushrooms were scattered on the plate, as though they had escaped the tidy heap they had been placed in. We tried the waffle first, and were disappointed to find it dense and squishy, with no crispness on the edges. The waffle did not really taste of anything in itself, but seemed to be there simply to provide something for the other components to rest on.
There were a few different types of mushrooms in the mix, like oyster, king, pearl, cup, and shiitake. They had an earthy flavour to them, and we worked out that they must have been cooked in the black garlic butter (as we could not identify it anywhere else in the dish). They were, sadly, not tender and juicy, but rubbery, and somewhat charred at the edges. Kale leaves were present as a single layer between the mushrooms and the components beneath, but apart from being present as another item on the menu listing and carrying the remnants of leftover trendiness, didn’t add anything to the dish in the way of flavour or texure. Ricotta spread into the grid of the waffle added something of a creamy texture, but it didn’t contribute moisture to the dish, which it really needed. Hazelnuts in the ricotta added a crunch element, which the dish really needed much more of as well, because everything else was soft and chewy. Overall, the dish had muted flavours, rather than the hit of savoury umami we had hoped for, and was dry when the components were combined.
The Beach Benedict was listed as having house baked brioche, house cured salmon, soft poached eggs, beach herb hollandaise, citrus, and kombu. This was served on a similar circular plate to the other dish, with two individual stacks occupying one half of the plate, leaving the other half to negative space. Each of these stacks had a poached egg, folds of the salmon, and kale (again) atop a brioche round, covered with a coating of the hollandaise, and dusted with red spice flakes. The brioche bases were soft and came apart easily. The salmon had citrus flavours and spice heat from the cure and spice powder. The poached eggs had runny yolks, and the hollandaise poured over it was creamy and tangy. We weren’t sure what the beach herbs were meant to be though. This dish not only looked more vibrant than the other dish, but was also significantly more flavourful. There was also enough sauce from the hollandaise and the egg yolks to tie the other ingredients together. It was, however, expensive for what it was, at $22.90.
We had hoped that Nodo Camp Hill would deliver on flavours, given what they had managed to do with their doughnuts. Unfortunately, the food turned out to be hit and miss, rather than the delights we had anticipated. The Camp Hill Marketplace is a good location, with other eateries close by that will draw in sweet-toothed foodies. The al fresco setting does make diners more subject to the whims of the ambient weather though, and through our meal, we had to fend off many evidently famished flies. We might return for the doughnuts, but remain unconvinced about the non-doughnut food.
Price point: $15.90 to $21.90. Our dishes $19.90 and $22.90. Doughnuts $6 each.
Value: Not really, no.
Address: Camp Hill Marketplace, 50/25 Samuel Street, Camp Hill
Phone: 07 3184 4200