Magnificent, resplendent, palatial, ornate – no amount of adjectives really does justice to Nomad Group’s forthcoming restaurant Reine.

The team has taken over the aptly named Cathedral Room inside the former Melbourne Stock Exchange, a neo-gothic building at the corner of Queen and Collins streets, completed in 1891. The opulent heritage space features vaulted ceilings, gothic arches, solid granite columns, mosaic floors, limestone walls, marble dado and stained-glass windows.

Nomad co-owner Rebecca Yazbek first saw the space six years ago, at which point it had been derelict for 20 years. “It was literally like looking at a ruin from a different time,” she says. “It was incredible.”

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But she saw its potential to emulate landmark restaurants that have brought old-world opulence to modern-day dining. Yazbek, who has a background in design and architecture, was particularly inspired by Balthazar, a New York institution known for its French bistro food (and for that James Corden feud), which she visited in her early twenties.

“Eighteen years later, I remember how I felt in that room – at the end of the day that’s what I’m hoping to create,” she tells Broadsheet.

This being the former stock exchange, it’s only fitting that Reine will pay homage to New York City. Reine will have a strong cocktail program and what Nomad Group wine director Ged Bellis calls “the largest and most exclusive American wine list in the country”.

A 10-metre-long marble bar will divide the restaurant and serve as a seafood bar, where diners can enjoy shucked-to-order oysters. On the opposite side will be an equally grand cocktail bar where guests can sip on drinks from a list focused on Manhattans and Martinis.

A grand building deserves a menu of equal stature, and executive chef Jacqui Challinor and head chef Brendan Katich of Nomad Melbourne are prepared to offer just that. Their French menu will include dry-aged O’Connor rib eye with bordelaise and frites and Lakes Entrance calamari with cafe de Paris butter. And for dessert Challinor says Reine will serve sweets that “pay homage to the [French] classics along with a touch of tableside flair”. A Raffles Singapore-inspired cheese trolley will also make the rounds, showcasing local and international wheels cut tableside.

Outside, there will be a heated courtyard. But those in the know may be inclined to stroll past both spaces and head straight to La Rue – an adjacent walk-in-only speakeasy with just eight seats.

Reine will open at 380 Collins Street in August.

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