Surry Hills restaurant and cellar door Nomad kicks off its pop-up this Friday – a necessary move after an electrical fire in September forced owners Al and Rebecca Yazbek to shut the Commonwealth Street space. While they restore and upgrade the well-loved eatery, they’re keeping the Nomad dream alive in a temporary home for three months.
After Longrain shut, Adelaide restaurant Orana moved in for a short Sydney residency (it was actually Orana owner Jock Zonfrillo’s idea for Nomad to move into the venue in the first place). Orana created a space that looked nothing like the minimalist design of the previous restaurant, amping up the drama with dim lighting and a large-scale installation of dried flowers hanging from the ceiling. Nomad has changed it once again, painting the walls white and featuring light tones and soft hues, in keeping with the aesthetic of the original Nomad space.
None of the furniture was damaged in the fire, so they’ve brought it all across (and reconditioned the pieces), which also helps make the 140-seat space feel more familiar. An artwork by CJ Hendry that used to hang over the dining room will be there, along with other works (all for sale) by some of the team’s favourite Australian artists.
The new kitchen was partly obscured, but has been cut down to mimic the open kitchen of the original. “I think that’s such a big part of Nomad and the kitchen has always been the heart of the restaurant. We didn’t want to lose that too much,” head chef Jacqui Challinor tells Broadsheet.
The menu, like the space, still feels like Nomad. Dishes are still inspired by the Mediterranean, but because there isn’t a woodfired oven or a flame grill, Challinor and the team have had to create new recipes. This includes the bread, which she says is simple but a standout. “The [new] flatbread is amazing, it’s almost like a roti-style bread now. We’re cooking it on the plancha [flat-top metal grill] and it gets crispy on the outside and almost a little chewy on the inside. I kind of like it better.”
Regulars will recognise dishes such as the cannellini-bean hummus with cumin burnt butter, but there are also newbies such as a salted-kingfish croquette with charcuterie XO and finger lime (“the team’s favourite at the moment,” says Challinor), and potted mud crab with a piment d’espelette (hot pepper) butter.
You can expect a thoughtful wine list of mostly Australian varietals, with custom house wines by Orange winery Gilbert Family Wines and Victoria’s By Farr. There’s a fresh cocktail list, as well as spirits, beers, ciders and non-alcoholic options (such as the aptly named “Nogroni”).
“While the dining room may look a bit different and it’s not quite home, we’re still bringing across the same ethos and same hospitality,” says Challinor. “It still feels very much like Nomad, so we hope people walk away feeling as full and happy as they used to across the street.”
Nomad Up the Road opens Friday, November 1 at 85 Commonwealth Street, Surry Hills. It will be open for lunch and dinner from Monday to Saturday. The original Nomad is expected to reopen in early 2020.