Food News

After last month’s blaze, Sydney’s Nomad makes a temporary move to the former Longrain site

It’s out of the fire and back to the frypans as the Surry Hills restaurant relocates around the corner – and they have chef Jock Zonfrillo to thank.
Nomad head chef Jacqui Challinor and co-owners Rebecca and Al Yazbek.

Challinor with Nomad co-owners Rebecca and Al Yazbek.

Photo: Petrina Tinslay

After a fire broke out in the restaurant in September, Sydney’s Nomad will set up shop around the corner in the site recently vacated by Longrain for Orana’s pop-up.

It’s a temporary move — and something of a silver lining — for the team at the Surry Hills restaurant. Head chef Jacqui Challinor was sharing a post-fire “commiseration whiskey” with Orana’s Jock Zonfrillo when he suggested the relocation.

When they receive the keys to their new home this week, Challinor says they’ll give the warehouse space a lick of paint and hang up some CJ Hendry artwork from the original Nomad. But the biggest challenge will be the absence of wood-fire cooking facilities at the Commonwealth Street venue.

“The fire is the heart of our kitchen at Foster Street. We’re still going to be bopping out tasty food, there’s not going to be any changes with that,” says Challinor. The team is seizing the opportunity to create a new menu of smaller share-style plates – some dishes may even wind up at Nomad’s original home when it reopens in 2020.

The fire, which started in the exhaust system of the ground-floor restaurant and burnt through the ceiling, caused significantly more damage to the premises than initially thought.

Fire crew respond to a blaze at Sydney's Nomad restaurant.

Fire crew respond to the blaze at Sydney’s Nomad restaurant in September.

(Photo: Yvonne C Lam)

“I expected to be back in the restaurant that afternoon, cleaning up all the water. It wasn’t until the night after when the firefighters let us in that we saw the extent of the damage. That’s when we realised that it was going to take us a while to get back on our feet,” says Challinor. “It’s been my home for six years – it’s my baby. Seeing it like that was just really heartbreaking.”

While the kitchen itself was not damaged by the fire, the flames burnt through the ceiling and plastic sound-proofing. The Nomad team tried to salvage their produce for food-rescue organisation OzHarvest, but the toxicity of the burnt plastic and smoke meant some 250 kilograms of charcuterie and half a tonne of cured and aged meat had to be disposed of.

“We’ve all been sitting on our hands waiting for something to do and I think as a person who’s used to running around and being busy all the time it’s been quite difficult,” says Challinor. “It’s definitely a shining beacon in what’s been a really average few weeks.”

*Nomad’s pop-up is slated to open on Friday 1 November at 85 Commonwealth St, Surry Hills, NSW,; (02) 9280 3395

Open from Monday to Saturday for lunch and dinner.*

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