The Nonsuch Brewing Co., which set up its taproom in the old Peg Beer space in the East Exchange in 2018, has recently started serving food. With just a few choice dishes, this is more than just elevated bar snacks but not quite standard restaurant dinner fare. (There are no desserts, for example.) Instead, the tight menu keeps to some core offerings — a sausage, a burger, a fish dish, a salad — but changes the details, depending on what’s in season and what’s come in from suppliers.
Nonsuch Brewing Co.
125 Pacific Ave.
Nonsuch Brewing Co.
125 Pacific Ave.
★★★★ out of 5
DETAILS FOR DINERS
Prices: Mains and shared plates: $9-22
Hours: Tuesday-Thursday and Saturday: 4:00-11:00 p.m.; Friday: 1:00-11:00 p.m.
Noise level: medium
Light level: flattering but not dark
Wheelchair accessible: yes
Liquor: beer only, but good beer
Bonus: Nonsuch Brewing Co., or La Brasserie Nonsuch, as it’s also called, seems to be a fairly bilingual joint
Chef Tyrone Welchinski favours simple, honest preparations that let the ingredients come forward. The kitchen is into very fresh Manitoba produce, as well as curing, pickling and fermenting. The food is also designed to play well with the microbrewery’s Belgian-style ales — some with high alcohol-by-volume numbers, so heads up — and the menu gives suggested pairings. (Our drinks columnist, Ben MacPhee-Sigurdson, is impressed with Nonsuch’s Belgian Blonde, Brut IPA and fruit-infused brews like their Cherry Chambiere.)
With food and drink made for lingering, it’s important Nonsuch has a great space. The renovated historical structure looks cool but feels warm, with a mix of seating and a quiet little nook at the back. Tolix stools, Bauhaus chairs and granny-style sofas, high and low tables, are all pulled together with dramatic black walls, carpet-covered concrete floors and a fabulous ceiling. The lighting is suspended from dozens of gold-painted photographer’s umbrellas, a smart design solution that hides the duct work while providing mellow, flattering light.
While the decor is made for glamorous selfies, there’s something refreshing about the homeliness of the Nonsuch burger, which doesn’t look like much on the plate and has almost nothing in common with the over-stuffed, gravity-defying, photogenic creations that make everyone’s Instagram account during Le Burger Week. This modest little burger concentrates on the meat, which is good and juicy and served up with (but not overwhelmed by) dill pickle aioli, melty caramelized onions and aged cheddar. It’s all tucked into a possibly semi-ironic, but unexpectedly effective, Wonder bun. Slightly toasted, the bun still exhibits Wonder Bread’s capacity for being almost infinitely soft and compressible.
Also good is the house-made sausage, lean but not dry, with a nice grainy texture, and served with good sauerkraut, shaved pickled fennel and house-made mustard. Like the burger, it’s not overly fancy with add-ins, instead concentrating on the meat, augmented with a little of Nonsuch’s Baltic Porter brew.
A silky steak tartare comes with egg yolk, dill and hits of pickle for contrast, and is served with salt and vinegar chips.
Clearly, meat is important at Nonsuch, but care is taken with fish and seafood, which the resto sources from Fogo Island. (Offerings will vary night to night.) We got a big chunk of cod one evening, meaty but moist and battered and deep-fried daringly dark and cracklingly crisp. A shrimp cocktail features exemplary cocktail sauce, packed with fresh grated horseradish, and comes not with the usual jumbo-sized fellas but lots of little pink salad shrimp — fresh, firm and small and served on top of a heap of crushed ice ($18 for a half-pound).
A "Nice Salad" is indeed nice, a mix of greens and tomatoes and beets one night, with green goddess dressing — a herby, anchovy-spiked classic that’s due for a comeback, at least when made this well. Another night, the "Nice Salad 2.0" is simple and good, made of delicate greens just in from Bergmann farms, along with radishes and a few flower petals. It’s all tossed, with a very light hand, with honey vinaigrette that’s balanced by pickled mustard seeds.
Some dishes were slightly over-salted, and we felt a little let down by the cheese and charcuterie plates ($18 and $22). This was not because of the ingredients themselves, which were consistently interesting. The in-house cured and dried meats included a mild and melting duck prosciutto, a hot coppa and an intriguingly spiced lonza, while the cheese selection included a crumbly aged cheddar and a pungent creamy blue. The accompanying crostini are made from Sleepy Owl bread, and they break into little shards but taste terrific, and there was also really good pickled asparagus, full of snap, both in taste and texture. The problem was that both plates looked and felt a little scanty.
Servers are knowledgeable and enthusiastic about their beer and food, and their approach is casual but considerate. Our server always offered to replace cutlery between courses, for example, though we kept to a "Keep your fork, King" Prairie attitude.
Overall, Nonsuch has matched its artisanal beers with some standup examples of local and seasonal eating. And speaking of local and seasonal eating: along with that good-looking interior, there is a long table on a quiet outside patio, so seize those Manitoba summer nights.
Studying at the University of Winnipeg and later Toronto’s York University, Alison Gillmor planned to become an art historian. She ended up catching the journalism bug when she started as visual arts reviewer at the Winnipeg Free Press in 1992.