Have you ever tried interstate travel in the past couple of years? Between border closures, closures, and other pandemic hurdles to overcome, just planning a vacation is a bit of a nightmare these days. Now imagine that instead of a long weekend, you were trying to open a restaurant in another state. And not just any restaurant, but a long-awaited sequel to one of Sydney’s best restaurants, in one of the country’s best-known neighborhoods.
This is what Jacqui Challinor, executive chef of Nomad Sydney (and since yesterday, Nomad Melbourne), has been confronted with. And she’s a little tired.
“Opening a restaurant on Facetime is not an easy thing to do,” says Challinor. “It was quite difficult … to open a restaurant [after lockdown] and then literally get in a car and then get out to open for a second – I’m tired, pretty beaten up. “
So how does it compare to the original? The most important difference is the space. Where Nomad Sydney, in its converted warehouse, is clear and bright; Nomad Melbourne – due to its basement dining room that once housed Ezard – is narrower and darker, with caramel-leather cubicles, banquettes, soft lighting from sconces, and neutral walls. It looks like Nomad and Melbourne. As in Sydney, the kitchen takes pride of place in the room: wherever you sit you’ll get a good view of the team – led by head chef Brendan Katich, who worked here while he was Ezard – while they work.
“The joy of that is being able to do something new, in a new environment, and the products down here are insane,” said Challinor.
“Don’t get me wrong, you can get your hands on some great things in Sydney, but the proximity and abundance of producers here – and how easy it is to get to – is mind-blowing. It’s a pretty special place. . “
One of the stars of the new menu is Moriac’s Raven’s Creek pork in Victoria’s surf coast region. It appears on the plate in the form of a dry-aged cutlet which is cooked on the hearth and then dressed in a salsa with raisins and capers. In another dish, baked ricotta with Ortiz anchovies and grilled peppers, the cheese is homemade with Jersey milk from the Messina dairy farm in Numurkah, about a three-hour drive north of Melbourne.
The drinks, from beverage manager Ged Bellis, showcase Australian producers and winemakers, with a particular focus on Victorian producers. There are over 30 wines by the glass, with a slight penchant for whites. The few international reps on the list are mostly from France, with cameos from South Africa, New Zealand and the United States.
There is a wide range of non-alcoholic drinks, including cocktails such as Nogroni, Heaps Normal non-alcoholic beer, and No’s alt-vino. Each signature cocktail hero has a different spirit (The Tequila Drink, The Rum Drink), but the bar can whip up all the classics as well.
Melbourne is a very different place than it was when Nomad was announced in 2019. And Flinders Lane, although still the hub of the city’s food culture, is located in a CBD that’s in the middle of ‘an identity crisis induced by a pandemic. No one knows what downtown will look like in a few months. But Challinor couldn’t be happier to finally be here.
“Melbourne has been through hell and back, but when freedom is there people embrace it, it will come back, I’m so convinced it will be,” she said. “And when it comes to iconic foodie destinations in Australia, Flinders Lane is at the top, so I’m especially proud and honored to have a little place here to call ours.”
“We can’t wait to see the city come back to life.”
187 Flinders Lane, Melbourne, Vic
Mon-Tue 5 p.m.-late