The chefs, Nader Shayeb and Ram Kimelfeld, eschewed tradition, and instead of serving, say, tabouli and falafel, offered a more contemporary take on Levantine (eastern Mediterranean) food, such as a very fine camel sambusak – an empanada-style pocket.
They’ve both departed the restaurant – Shayeb has moved to The Backyard in Concord and Kimelfeld has opened Tayim in The Rocks.
Now it’s been announced that Ben Williamson, who led the kitchen at Middle Eastern fine-diner Gerard’s Bistro in Brisbane, will be taking over as executive chef. His head chef will be Mike Dierlinger, who will be moving across from the recently closed Bridge Room.
“I met Ibby [Moubadder, Nour’s owner] about three years ago when Nour first opened,” Williamson tells Broadsheet. “We did a collaboration, Nour X Gerard’s, and we became friends.”
Williamson is also in the middle of opening a new restaurant in Brisbane, 22 Agnes, but says “there’s a lot of hurdles” to cover between now and its launch. It means he had time to work on Nour; he and Dierlinger are overhauling the menu while the space gets a refresh.
“The [Nour] concept is not changing,” he says. “I was really attracted to the fire oven at Nour. We’ve also got a custom-built charcoal grill and will be doing woodfired meats. There’s the Lebanese element Nour has always been known for, but then there’s also other influences, like Persian.
“It’s food close to my heart, and has a lot of similarities to what I’ve cooked in the past. It was just logical to continue what Nour’s doing. I love Middle Eastern food because it’s delicious. It’s got big, punchy flavours. It can be fiery, but there’s a lightness to it and all those spices.”
Williamson is no stranger to Nour’s modern spin on Middle Eastern cuisine. He’s previously cooked in Bahrain for Gulf Air, and under his watch Gerard’s Bistro was known for its elevated take on the region’s food.
“I’ve crushed all those feelings that I couldn’t mess around with Middle Eastern food after five years of cooking at Gerard’s,” he says. “I never wanted to do a direct representation of that.”
The food he and Dierlinger will be cooking at the new Nour will focus on shared plates, such as kifta nayyeh (roasted chilli, walnuts, pickled cucumber, mint, saltbush and smoked lamb tail fat) and samke harra (snapper spiced with chilli, tahini and pine nuts). Breads, dips, pickles, preserves, couscous, yoghurt, labneh and ashta (Lebanese cream) will all be made in-house.
The duo is also introducing a Sunday brunch menu from June 2. It’ll include manoush with dry spicy sausage and egg or kishk (dried yoghurt sauce) and lemon; ful medames (beans, herbs and spices) with warm hummus; and awarma (lamb confit) with eggs.
Interior design firm DS17 (Lotus Barangaroo, Alpha) originally oversaw the restaurant’s designs and is in charge of the revamp. It’ll see new mirrors hung to show off what’s happening in the kitchen and the lighting will be reconfigured to create a more intimate feel.
This article first appeared on Broadsheet on May 14, 2019. Menu items may have changed since publication.