Restaurant Reviews

Review: Nomad has had a change of scenery, but the flavours are as good as ever

They've moved up the road sans wood-fire oven, but that hasn't stopped the Sydney restaurant from serving good, honest food backed up with a commitment to sustainability.

By Karlie Verkerk
The dining room at Nomad Up the Road.
A brisk walk around the block can work wonders for creativity and morale. Or in Nomad's case, a stroll up the road. The tribe has migrated to a temporary home at the ex-Longrain site after an electrical fire broke out at their original Foster Street digs a few doors down, and it seems the fresh air and change of scenery is exactly what they needed.
The bright and unpretentious fit-out with its subtle warehouse vibe has moved with the team, as has the Mediterranean-skewed share-style menu. In today's dining climate you'd be hard-pressed to find a menu that wasn't designed to share. But if it's going to make sense anywhere, it's here. The flavours are assured and the serves honest. This is the sort of food you want to get stuck into.
The dining room at Nomad Up the Road.
Take for example the modest dish that is flatbread, a Nomad staple. Sprinkled with za'atar and accompanied by a generous portion of silky cannellini-bean hummus and cumin brown-butter, you really don't need to order much more. Although, I suggest you do.

Perhaps start with the fried olives. The meaty green orbs are stuffed with 'nduja, then coated in breadcrumbs and deep-fried until wonderfully golden. They're salty and spicy and everything you want in a one-bite snack. Or the kingfish crackling: a neat pile of fried, crisp skin dusted in a punchy spice mix of smoked paprika, fennel, cumin, coriander and black peppercorn. If this doesn't get your tastebuds firing, nothing will.
Sustainability is at the core of head chef Jacqui Challinor's cooking, and her approach is refreshingly un-preachy. On the plate, it translates to locally sourced produce – some is even grown or foraged by staff; be sure to compliment waiter Cameron on the oregano and elderflower.
Minimal food waste is another positive takeaway. You'll find the trunk of the kingfish from the aforementioned crackling used in a zingy ceviche, while the sweet head meat is fashioned into croquettes.
Kingfish ceviche.
Salted kingfish croquettes.
Step away from the table and you'll see more earth-friendly practices in action. In the kitchen, single-use plastics are banned, cooking oils are recycled into biofuel, lighting is LED, and careful waste separation has helped to reduce the restaurant's landfill contribution by 80 per cent. If other chefs aren't taking notes by now, they should. Now I run the risk of sounding preachy.
Linger in the kitchen a little longer and you might notice the absence of smoke. Unlike the original residence there is no woodfired oven or grill, which is a considerable shift for Challinor. You'd think her fire-kissed flavours would be missed, especially in the signature scorched flatbread, but not so. The latest iteration of flatbread is cooked on the plancha and the result proves highly successful. The outer crust of the focaccia dough is almost roti-like while the inside remains light. No fire required.
From left: Nomad head chef Jacqui Challinor and co-owners Rebecca and Al Yazbek.
Surprisingly, another dish that doesn't miss an open flame is the spatchcock, which is brined for three hours, marinated overnight in chermoula heavy with parsley, coriander and garlic, then sealed in a hot pan and roasted in the oven. The meat is tender and the marinade still vibrant – a lack of char goes unnoticed.
The wine menu is incredibly robust. There's a new addition to the Australian-dominant list with custom wine made exclusively for Nomad by the formidable Nick Farr of Wine by Farr. House wine has never met such high standards.
Alternatively, zero in on a glass of the Simla white field blend – a celestial mixture of chardonnay, riesling and sauvignon blanc – from the Derwent Valley, or a high-octane savagnin from Yetti & The Kokonut in the Barossa. They're both a good time with the pomegranate-jewelled pickled eggplant. If you have any leftover bread, this is your cue to mop up the sweet and slightly tart pulp.
Pickled eggplant, pomegranate and roasted olive seeds.
An orange-blossom sundae sits on the refreshing end of the dessert scale. It sees half a hollowed orange filled with goat's-milk yoghurt sorbet and orange caramel, then topped with a mound of bitter orange granita. The flavour is like a Negroni spider: citrusy and creamy all at once.
At the sweet but not saccharine end, buried in halva rubble and garnished with delicate elderflower, is an olive-oil ice-cream sandwich – a textural treat held together with bronzed wafers of pastry. An enduring favourite for good reason.
Its location may be different, but you'll be pleased to know that Nomad has never felt more at home; right here, right now.