Beautiful local produce, the smoky kiss of a wood-fired oven and huge amounts of culinary skill combine at NOMAD Melbourne to create stunning food in a chic, inviting restaurant where the service is simply exemplary.
Location: Adelphi Hotel, 187 Flinders Ln, Melbourne, VIC 3000 Ph: (02) 9280 3395
It took a while for the much-lauded NOMAD Sydney to open a sibling establishment in Melbourne, but some things are worth the wait.
After a long incubation period, NOMAD Melbourne finally opened in 2021 in the old Ezard Restaurant site below the Adelphi Hotel. The subterranean venue has been totally refurbished and reeks of sophistication. The moody-chic ambience of the Harbour City original continues in the Victorian incarnation. Better still, both restaurants share a passion for quality local produce, cooked over flames.
Cooking with fire is definitely having its moment in the culinary limelight. From the smoky Filipino fare of Serai to the burnished Yakitori of Robata and the wood-fired Sourdough of Lilac Wine Bar, dining rooms across our cities are perfumed with the scent of burning charcoal and wood.
NOMAD is a welcome addition to the fold. Its open kitchen is headed up by Brendan Katich – a man who honed his skills at Ezard. And under his guidance, the brigade turn out dish after glorious dish of perfectly executed food.
I adore the drama of following a dimly-lit staircase down to a basement restaurant or bar.
At NOMAD Melbourne, you emerge from the permanent twilight of the stairwell into a classy dining room of muted greys and discreet lighting. At first glance, the 2 standouts are the large marble-topped bar to the left and the magnetically bright open-kitchen at the rear.
It’s a long space and there are actually more tables than there initially seem beyond that striking bar. Seating is a mix of chairs and brown leather padded benches and cosy half crescent banquettes.
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Aside from the expansive bar, there are 3 other clear points of interest. In the midst of the tables stands an opaque, cuboid waiters’ station. Above this hangs a rack of glasses which pick up the lighting scheme and give the space a focal point.
There’s another elongated box at the back of the room – the dramatic open kitchen. I say ‘open’, but actually the cooking area is far more cleverly conceived than that. Clad in darker tones, it has its own ceiling within the larger dining room and this gives the impression of a lid containing the workplace. In contrast to the subdued lighting illuminating the tables, the kitchen is lit with almost phosphorescent intensity. It makes a highly effective counterpoint.
Lastly, to the left of the glowing pass, there’s a cabinet hung with Charcuterie. As NOMAD Sydney is famous for its housemade cold cuts, it’s an encouraging sight in the Melbourne outpost.
Expectations are high as our follow our effervescent waiter to our places.
And I can assure you, the meal does not disappoint.
Whilst there is a full A La Carte menu, we decide to go with The Classic Set Menu ($105pp). There is also a Signature Set Menu ($150pp) for those who need more 9 course.
One of the best things about the trend for flame-licked fare is that really good bread is back in vogue. Pleasingly, our voyage of foodie discovery starts with Wood Fired Flatbread & NOMAD Za’atar ($16). Such a simple thing, so damn delicious.
The Bread is a pocket of blistered bubbles, shiny with oil and speckled with fresh Za’atar. The scent when we tear into it is sublime.
It arrives with the Burrata, Fennel Jam & Extra Virgin Olive Oil ($29). In all honesty, my mouth waters just thinking about this dish. A top-knotted ball of delicate, creamy goodness which oozes its Stracciatella entrails over a mound of sweet, almost citrusy Fennel Jam. Piled onto the steaming hunks of Bread, it’s about as good as things get.
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The intelligent interplay of savoury and sweet continues with the Wood Roasted Eggplant, Walnut Agro Dulce & Tahini Yoghurt ($24).
Pillowy scoops of lush (Yes, lush) Eggplant, spiked with a heady, bordering on Christmasy, fruity condiment. Texture and another flavour profile comes from Walnut pieces. Again, that fabulous Bread is the perfect vehicle.
As it is for our next course – the famed NOMAD Charcuterie ($42 for a selection). Let me run you through this plate of deli delights.
We open with the Petuna Ocean Trout Bastruma – Rowella, TAS which is topped with a herbaceous Gravalax-type coating. It’s lovely. Next is the Western Plains Coppa – Rokewood, VIC which hits that ideal meeting point of porky and cure. From there, we dip into the Blackmore Wagyu Bresola – Alexandra, VIC. It’s gamey and full-flavoured in all the right ways. Finally, there’s the Great Ocean Duck Mortadella – Port Campbell, VIC. One of my party is scared of this dish. She’s not a fan of either Duck, or Mortadella (“It’s a nasty, fatty thing”). Sadly, she loves the version at NOMAD Melbourne and I don’t get to swoop in on her portion.
If you are a fan of local produce and take a trip to Mornington, try Wildgrain. You can read about this and more of our best restaurants in Mornington, right here.
Moving on, we have Raw Kingfish, Avocado, Finger Lime & Coriander Cracker ($36). In a town where many a kitchen excels in curing this wonderful fish with Lime & Chilli – Hello Chin Chin – NOMAD pulls back on the big flavours. Delicate, subtle and oh so pretty, this bowl is a real change of gear after the big hitting flavours of our previous dishes.
We return to punchy ingredients with our next plateful – Zucchini Fritto, Truffle Honey & Pecorino ($26). It’s another dish of masterful balance. The batter on the Zucchini Flowers is ephemerally light and melts in the mouth. Meanwhile, the snow of grated Pecorino coating them is lavishly generous. When eaten together, the Pecorino perfectly seasons the mild Zucchini.
Another great restaurant which builds its menu on local produce is Victoria, By Farmer’s Daughters. Read more here.
At this point, I have to mention the truly fabulous wait staff who looked after us.
We had 3 different people delivering our food. All of them were great, but the one who dealt with us most was a real star. Bubbly and engaging, nothing was too much trouble and he rightly read us as a group of friends out for a gossipy dinner and a few drinks.
In contrast, to our left sat an older couple who wanted less interaction than us and simply to receive their food and be allowed to eat and converse in peace.
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If ever a waiter read his customers correctly, it was our main man. He chatted animatedly with us as he brought us our dinner, and was charming and discreet with the other table. It’s a real skill to be able to judge diners and adapt to their needs so well. We are lucky to have such consummate professionals in our hospitality industry.
Which brings us neatly to our slightly off-piste main course.
All boasting incredible service and prizing local produce, see our review of Hazel Restaurant
Our fabulous waiter kindly offers to mix things up a bit for us. This means us having the BBQ Spatchcock, Harissa, Toum & Guindilla ($55) – as planned. However, rather than having two portions of this one dish, he also brings us the Wood Roasted Lamb Neck, Zucchini Ganoush & Gremolata ($58).
What a great double-header.
The blackened Spatchcock is juicy and fiery with both the smack of Harissa and the hum of the Toum. Meanwhile, the fall-apart tender Lamb Neck works beautifully with the vivid, herby Gremolata.
Again, our waiter spoils us with the Sides. The Ramarro Farm Leaves, Soft Herbs & Sherry Vinaigrette ($15) make it to our table, as promised. But we also end up with the Triple Cooked Potatoes & Green Chilli Zhoug Butter ($16). Oh my days! These are proper, fat batons of crispy Potato which go particularly well with the fiery Spatchcock.
And we even got a mystery extra dish of Pickled Cucumbers. How’s that for service?
The treats continue into the Dessert course.
The Olive Oil Ice Cream Sandwich, Halva, Pistachio & Honey ($26) is satin-smooth and dissolves on the tongue into nectared-bliss. We receive an additional Panna Cotta ($25) which is similarly memorable. Luscious and wobbly, it’s crowned with a tumble of Pomegranate arils which give pop and sharpness.
After a brief discussion with the Sommelier, my companions decide on a Pinot Noir and are very content with their choice.
Although the Wine List contains Around The World sections for each varietal, the beating heart of the menu is Australian wineries. What’s more, NOMAD Melbourne states at the front of the list that they champion organic producers and value sustainability.
We also like that the Wine List opens with a page dedicated to Wine By The Glass. When restaurants adopt this approach, it makes choosing your drop so much easier.
And if you’re not a fan of the grape, along with Craft Beers, Ciders and Non-Alcoholic beverages, the Cocktails are interesting. As with the Wine List, there’s a strong local influence. In Particular, the Davo Plum Highball ($24) ticks a number of boxes. Created with Melbourne’s own Starward Two-Fold Whisky, Autonomy Davo Plum Bitter, Pineapple Mead & Soda, it’s long, refreshing and simultaneously warming.
For hugely imaginative cocktails, made according to sustainable principles, see our piece on Bouvardia, Melbourne
Whilst it may have seemed an age between hearing of the culinary magic of NOMAD Sydney, learning we would get our own outpost, and it finally opening good things really do come to those who wait.
NOMAD Melbourne is very, very good.
From the elegant space to the clever, local-produce lead menu which cleverly juggles flavours and textures. And from the very modern Drinks List to genuinely superb service.
All of our party are desperate to return to NOMAD Melbourne. And you really can’t give higher praise than that.
Update – Reine & La Rue Now Open
As promised, the Nomad crew are now running a French restaurant and bar in the old Melbourne Stock Exchange building. And it’s everything we hoped it would be.
Firstly, the space is a glorious, cathedral-like hall. And secondly, it’s another opportunity to savour the food and service of the Nomad family.
We are looking forward to dining there soon.