What Nomad may lack in intimacy, with its cavernous spaces and industrial-chic-cum-Nordic fitout, it certainly makes up for in warmth: by way of food from the heart, friendly service, and enough garlicky aromas to take any first date to a next-level relationship.
At the helm of the expansive open kitchen is Jacqui Challinor, who stepped up from sous-chef a few years back when Nathen Sasi moved on to open Mercado. In the time that she has been running the show, the food here has gone from good to great. She fuses her Maltese heritage with the usual Nomad Middle-Eastern flavour to create exceptional dishes – like skewers of chorizo-esque calves' tongue with fresh zingy yoghurt and chilli, or the wood-roasted mushroom and bone marrow empanada, which has all the heartiness of a big squeeze from your nan.
The bold and extensive wine list has always been geared toward the minimal intervention side of things, but a clever balance of more New World numbers means there's something for your wacky friend just as much as there is for your parents if they fancy a crisp savvy b.
Though there's a lot to be said for the larger dishes – such as a take on Portuguese spatchcock chicken, which is more subtle in heat than its charcoal takeaway counterpart, and the marron with charcuterie XO butter – the snacks are where it's at.
Nomad has long been famous for its housemade charcuterie, and the selection is truly exceptional. Petuna ocean trout basturma rubbed with dill, Tathra Place duck mortadella, Rangers Valley Wagyu brisket pastrami (more like a capocollo than anything you'd expect from a New York deli), and finally the Barrowdale pancetta. The rotating roster is a true labour of love and the reward is all in the earthy, iron-rich flavour. Grab a platter with the lot and team it up with the rightly famous woodfired flatbread with Persian lime and wattleseed za’atar. It's a messy job, but someone's gotta do it.
You'll want to fight for the last of the smoked mussels, which are served cold and with a mammoth crescent of toum (that pounded garlic sauce that you'll be tasting for a good two days after consumption). This is not the time for politeness: be greedy, be happy. With the addition of the 'nduja coated heirloom carrots, it will be impossible to pick a favourite dish. Don't be scared off by the 'nduja, which has scorched many of us in the past. This take on the fragrant Calabrian meat paste is fried and rendered and has just the right amount of heat to make your tastebuds sit up and pay attention, but not enough to have you begging for a glass of milk and a napkin.
Dessert is where things get a little less bold, but still perfectly tasty. A very dense and generous warm chocolate cake might be tempting, however we feel the intensity of it tips over into gut-busting territory. We suggest going for the olive oil ice-cream sandwich, with brick pastry and halva for a refreshing but oh-so-satisfying finish.