Flinders Lane houses a veritable who’s who of popular dining locations. Because of this, it could be considered inevitable that when Sydney’s Nomad – a high-flying, one-hatted restaurant – moved South it was destined to end up here. But as natural as this might seem, Nomad’s journey to Melbourne has been anything but easy. Importing a restaurant to a new city is already a mammoth task, chuck in a global pandemic with state border closures and your task is looking next to impossible. Thankfully, owners Al and Rebecca Yazbeck, along with executive Nomad chef Jacqui Challinor, aren't ones to shy away from a challenge. On the ground floor of the Adelphi Hotel, in the space formerly occupied by the iconic Ezard, the doors of Nomad Melbourne are finally open.
Adapting favourites from the Sydney menu with twists to highlight Victorian producers the menu draws inspirations from the Middle East and the Mediterranean. A dark staircase entranceway leads down to a warm, energetic space with a slightly subterranean vibe, that buffers from the hubbub outside, while at the same time suggesting you are in one of the most happening pockets of the city. Soft lighting, combined with the polished wooden floors, cool blue tones and generously spaced tables creates a cosy, cave-like dining area which builds a sense of anticipation for what is to come and the knowledge that you are in for an inspired dining experience.
The smell of toasty spices emanates from the metaphorical and physical heart of the restaurant, the woodfired oven. Its creations are born here. Fish, meat, and bread all receive its smokey embrace, peppering a charred and fat-rendered profile throughout your dining experience.
The menu revolves around sharing plates and it's suggested you order a selection of smalls, and a couple of bigs to make the most of it. If you like to relinquish control, the $95 Feast is excellent value and will allow you to try some of the venue's cult favourites – starting with their house-made charcuterie selection. Duck mortadella, wagyu brisket pastrami, and ocean trout basturma have been lovingly and expertly cured to perfection. Pair them with the herby za’atar flatbread and impossibly smooth pumpkin hummus for a textural and flavour-filled bite. Sydney's favourite raw kingfish with avocado, finger lime and coriander crackers has thankfully made the pilgrimage to the Melbourne menu. The combination of creamy avocado, tender kingfish and sweet popping finger lime is always going to be excellent but this rendition is vibrancy distilled into a mouthful.
Fire-licked proteins make up the bulk of the larger items, each with a flavoursome and considered sauce. If vegetables are more your thing, don't fret. Challinor and Melbourne head chef Brendan Katich (formerly of Ezard) are passionate about showcasing Victorian producers, especially veggie ones. Mushrooms and corn receive the same flame-grilled care and attention as the meat dishes – and an iceberg, mint and shanklish (yoghurty cheese) salad transcend the humble side salad role to become a star in its own rights.
The service at Nomad is effortless. Staff are readily available, yet unless requested, intervention is minimal. Water glasses are invisibly re-filled and dropped napkins are superstitiously replaced. This makes Nomad the perfect date, or group dining experience, it allows you to focus on your companions yet want for nothing. No perfect date or group dining experience is complete without a comprehensive drink selection, and like everything else, Nomad has that covered.
The wine menu is designed to highlight Australian vintners along with an emphasis on sustainability. Wines by the glass are a gold and green affair, with selections from almost every Aussie state. The bottles available are similarly patriotic however they also have some international options available including premium pinot noirs, chardonnays and Champagnes. Cocktails are familiar with a twist, like the mellow pistachio rose sour or the delightfully tart rhubarb cobbler.
Uniquely, there is no 'best seat' in the house at Nomad. Group booths are spacious and comfortable, and bar seating is buzzy and personal. The whole experience feels curated to enhance guests' enjoyment. With the design, food, and service they've combined 'centre of everything' hospo professionalism, with 'eating at a friend place' approachability and intimacy. Enjoy your next celebration dinner or date night here and for goodness sake, don't forget to finish with the olive oil ice cream sandwich. Trust us.