412A Brunswick St
Fitzroy, VIC 3065
For the longest time, Hammer and Tong has been one of my favourite brunch spots. But despite always intending to make that return visit someday, K presented me with some very sad news before I could make my way back – Hammer and Tong has quietly disappeared in the night. Predictably, I was a little devastated.
When I heard that the space had been taken over by Nomada however, the pain eased significantly. And what’s so special about Nomada? Not much, except for the fact that they serve tapas for brunch. Let that sink in for a bit. Tapas. For Brunch. And I can’t even bring myself to think about the $35 breakfast degustation – I may just hyperventilate. I will however risk my health to also mention that Nomada is a collaboration between Jesse McTavish (The Kettle Black) and Jesse Gerner (Anada, Bomba, and Green Park), along with Michael Burr, Greg McFarland, and Shane Barrett. Now I’m definitely too excited.
For those of you who’d been lucky enough to visit Hammer and Tong, the long, narrow space will be instantly familiar. But whereas Hammer and Tong was a bright daytime venue through and through, the owners of Nomada have gone and gussied this place right up. Decorated in a casual European style with warm colours, cosy seating, and touches of (faux) fur, the place definitely feels rather luxe, but manages to feel homely, rather than impersonal.
We were welcomed with glasses of vermouth, which I prefer infinitely to pretty much any other alcoholic drink. These bottles were discovered in, and imported directly from Spain by the owners, and unlike most vermouth you get in Australia, are made for drinking, not mixing. The Casa Mariol Vermut Blanco ($8) was my favourite, the white wine fortified with a rich combination of citrus, cloves, and cinnamon. The Casa Mariol Vermut Negre ($8) was a little more tart and full-bodied, but boasted the same fragrant bouquet of aromas.
As we nursed our drinks, we were treated to a couples plates of charcutierie, along with some sourdough and EVOO. The Jamon was absolutely glorious – pliant and buttery, with a rich, nutty flavour. Similarly good was the Pork and Fennel Sausage, each slice fatty but firm, with a strong (but not overwhelming) aroma of fennel.
I’m usually not one for Oysters, especially when served natural. These shellfish however went down surprisingly easily, the initial sweetness giving way to a mild but unmistakable metallic brine.
Now, what are Clacked Eggs on Burnt Hay you ask? I was lucky enough not only to try them, but also to watch them being assembled. Turns out, you clack eggs by shelling them, then layering them with braised pine mushroom, potato foam, and shaved truffle, and then lighting it all on fire for good measure. The creamy potato foam served to separate the differing earthy notes of the pine mushrooms and the truffle into two distinct layers, and the overall result was a unique piece of theatre that tasted delicious to boot.
We were then served a few heartier nibbles in succession. First was the Quail Breast with Saltbush. Despite being so very tiny, the quail was the perfect ratio of tender meat to crispy skin, and boasted a smokiness from the paprika, and an unexpected hit of umami from a sprinkling of dehydrated cabbage powder.
The Flinders Island Lamb was also perfectly cooked; the meat was tender and juicy, despite being a relatively lean cut. The lamb was given some zing with a daub of herbal green mojo, and I was very impressed with how clearly the briny flavour of the olive came through, despite being in powdered form.
Our last savoury dish for the night was the Snapper Cooked in Prawn Bisque. The flavour of this fish was unbelievable; the pearly, flaky snapper was entirely infused with the rich, briny flavour you’d associate with a plump grilled prawn. The fish sat in a shallow pool of nettle puree and buttermilk, which may sound absolutely bizarre, but the mild herbal creaminess actually made for a flawless bridging of land and sea.
And because we’re apparently all adults here, dessert consisted of little bites of blue cheese, quince paste, apricot, and shaved truffle on crouton crisps. I may be a child at heart and prefer my desserts tooth-rottingly sweet, but I can’t deny that each mouthful was a perfect balance of sweet, savoury, and creamy. At any rate, this certainly satisfied my sweet tooth.
Although this meal didn’t actually showcase many of dishes on the menu proper, it gave me a very good idea of what to expect. That’s to say, a menu of Spanish tapas with a distinct Aussie flavour, and unique dishes that are intricately crafted with the best produce around. Brunch tapas degustation, I’m coming back for you – mark my words.
Rating: 15/20 – bucket list.
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.
Sweet and Sour Fork dined as a guest of Nomada.