Towards the end of last year, Celia, Tania, Lorraine and I wanted to got together to celebrate making it through another year, the joy of the Christmas season with the exchanging of home-made gifts, and the treat of getting together over a meal.
We decided to go to Nomad, a newly-opened restaurant in Surry Hills.
On the day we were meeting it was raining and it didn’t stop all day. I drove into Surry Hills to meet the girls and ignorantly was sure I would be able to find a park. Somewhere. Anywhere. I drove around and around for about 30 minutes while Celia and Lorraine patiently waited and sent texts asking me, ‘How are you going?’
I actually nearly gave up. I felt like I’d been challenged to an impossible mission where at some point I was expected to raise the white flag and admit defeat. Defeat being turning around with my three cellophane-wrapped Christmas cakes and a couple of jars of cherry chutney and driving back over the bridge sobbing all the way.
But then I saw it. A gap between two cars almost big enough for my people-mover and it was just on the other side of the road but across four lanes of traffic. With a median strip between me and that space. I was desperate. I turned my wheel into a solid hard lock, turned 180 degrees, crossed the median strip and squeezed into the space.
Stepping into the rain I got out to put a small fortune into the parking meter, picked up my bag and my umbrella and my three cakes and my bottles of cherry chutney and ran, in the rain, with no umbrella (I didn’t have a third arm to hold it above my head) all the way to the restaurant.
I was a little tense when I arrived and a tad damp. Perhaps even soggy and stressed.
But stepping into Nomad is like stepping into an oasis. A waiter quickly stepped towards me and helped me with my load and welcomed me enthusiastically into the restaurant. It’s a very large restaurant that’s been established inside a historic old warehouse. Much of the character of the warehouse has been retained with the bare brick walls, high ceilings and polished concrete floors. It’s groovy and funky in an understated way and was bustling with a young, hip and sophisticated crowd who were smartly dressed and looking like they worked energetically at creative jobs.
Nomad is co-owned by Al Yazbek and Rebecca Littlemore and is a cellar door where the best locally grown produce by farmers, grape growers and wine makers is showcased. The menu is seasonally driven and represents innovative Australian cuisine with a Mediterranean influence. As much as possible, the produce sourced is grown naturally, locally and with patience.
Head chef Nathan Sissi is inspired and driven to use techniques in his kitchen that include smoking, wood firing, cheese-making, bread-making, curing, pickling, fermenting and charcuterie. It’s all done in-house.
Seating is up at the bar or at tables or on banquettes. I was shown to a table and took a seat just as Tania arrived looking every bit as stressed and soggy as I did. She too had struggled to find a park. Celia and Lorraine were quite relaxed as they hadn’t had to drive but Tania and I needed to reach for the wine list.
Wine can be ordered by the glass or by the bottle. I ordered a glass of Mac Forbes RS19 2011 Riesling for $13.00. It went down well.
Feeling better we ordered a few snacks to share. We started with the wood-fired sourdough with black salt butter. I loved how both the bread and the butter were made in-house.
We then tried the house-made charcuterie. The wooden platter showcased a selection of their cured meats and included ox heart, pork shoulder, pork and fennel salami, chorizo and mortadella. I really loved this entire platter and could have easily eaten it all to myself. It’s hard to pick a favourite but I think it would have to be the pork and fennel salami.
Then the foie gras and chicken liver parfait arrived with some pickled radish on the side. The parfait was as smooth and silky as velvet and the crunch of the pickled radish was a lovely contrast to the creaminess of the parfait. It was rich and a real treat which seemed fitting for the occasion and season.
We ordered a serve of smoked pork empanadas that came with a bottle of harissa sauce. It’s hard to fault any of the food at Nomad but if I was being picky, I’d say the empanadas were a touch dry but that’s probably because there’s quite a bit of pastry in an empanada.
One of my most favourite dishes of the day was the beer braised short rib roll. For the price this is a very generous serve and everything from the bread, cheese and pickles are made in-house. It’s a very juicy burger and quite filling and at $13.00 represents the best value on the menu.
We also tried the pig’s ear schnitzel roll. You probably will remember that my dogs just love pig’s ears. For that reason I struggle with ‘mind over matter’ to think of pig’s ears as not being dog food. While the presentation was certainly different, I have to say I didn’t like this burger. The pig’s ear was very oily and under seasoned but the coleslaw was tangy and had good crunch.
Another firm favourite were the BBQ lamb ribs. The meat on the ribs just fell from the bones with the gentlest nudge. The meat was very tender and soft and we enjoyed it with a side of BBQ carrots that were very crunchy and a good contrast to the softness of the lamb. However, at $32.00 for the lamb and $15.00 for the carrots, this was not a cheap dish.
Having eaten so much already, we decided to share just one dessert. We had bunuelos that are popular in South America and are a fried ball of dough. These were served with a rosewater and cardamon custard. I felt the bunuelos were rather tasteless but with a pouring of the custard they took on great flavour and moisture.
As I sat and reflected on the meal that I’d enjoyed with great company in a groovy setting, I thought about what we’d eaten and whether it had been worth the parking fiasco and the prices. Definitely. While the items on the menu aren’t cheap neither are the methods the restaurant uses to bring those items to your table. It’s an incredibly labour-intensive method they’re bringing to Sydney’s dining scene and I think their philosophy of quality-sourced produce and making everything in-house and using as much that’s available locally as possible, should be encouraged.
It was time to head back over the bridge for school pick-up. After the glass of wine, the exciting and innovative cuisine and the good company, I was now quite relaxed. And as I left Nomad, there was even a break in the rain.
If you’d like more information on Nomad, you can read Lorraine’s review.
Verdict: Well worth a visit but definitely, arrive in a taxi.
Nomad: 16 Foster Street, Surry Hills NSW 2010
Ph: 02 9280 3395
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