At The Bar with Her Bar Head Chef Nada Thomas

Melbourne’s Her Bar has a new Head Chef – Nada Thomas, who brings a new Euro-focus to the Lonsdale Street venue in the CBD. They’ve swapped the exclusively French offering for a playful European soundtrack instead; think flavours from Spain and Italy that will set the new tonal mood.

The Write Drop speaks to Nada Thomas about her culinary time in Melbourne, where she loves to head for a drink and a Sicilian winery that left a wonderful impression on her.

MY CITY

Barcelona. It’s the only other place (apart from Melbourne) that feels like home. I love the culture, food and the people.

FAVOURITE FOOD MEMORY

Cooking with my dad back at home in Izmir, Turkey from one of his favourite cookbooks. Wednesdays were always international night – fun and interesting.

FAVOURITE BAR MEMORY

La Vinya del Senior in Barcelona. It’s a small wine bar with an enormous and amazing wine list. I could sit there for hours flicking through the list and watching people go by. It has plenty of outdoor seating and being across the road from the Santa Maria Church, it doesn’t get much better for people watching. Closer to home, sitting outside on the steps at Caretaker’s Cottage has to be a close second.

DRINK THAT DESCRIBES YOU

Meyer Lemon Gimlet. A perfect combination of zest and sweetness. Good friends have an incredible Meyer lemon tree in their backyard. It was my cocktail of choice during lockdown. And still is!

BEST HANGOVER CURE

A halloumi pie and Ayran from A1 Bakery. Ayran is a traditional Turkish drink – made from a sour/salty yogurt base. It’s perfectly thirst quenching and brings me back to life before I walk around the corner for an ice-cold apple cider at Marquis of Lorne.

BEST INTERSTATE BAR

Rosella’s on the Gold Coast. It’s fun, playful and I’m not sure there’s anything better up there – both for food and drinks.

FAVOURITE WINE

I have soft spot for German Riesling. My favourite producer at the moment is Max Ferdinand Richter.

FAVOURITE WINERY

Recently, I was lucky enough to spend some time in Sicily where I had a private tasting at Pietradolce in Etna and walked through some of their contrada vineyards. It was a magical afternoon with amazing wines, beautiful views and even better company. It’s a special place for me now – I can’t wait to go back. In Melbourne, I like Denton and Miceli.

BEST NEWCOMER

It has to be Mezcal, but I’m not quite onboard yet. I just don’t understand it yet and am still trying to wrap my head around why people are so obsessed with it. I love vermouth but it has been around forever. It’s definitely not a newcomer but it’s a field that’s growing and ever-expanding.

NEXT DESTINATION

Portugal – next winter, with a little stopover in Galicia. I’ve never been but have always wanted to go.

How does hospitality continue to inspire you?

New places, new ideas, new produce and new people. The industry is constantly evolving and always growing. Plus it’s hard not to be inspired by all of the dedicated people I meet – suppliers, colleagues, industry peers or customers.

What has Melbourne’s food scene done for your palette and understanding of what diners want when they eat out?

Melbourne has one of the most amazing culinary scenes in the world, with a lot of talented and very passionate people. We’re so lucky to have so many incredible venues across the city that mean you can eat at all levels at any time – from tiny hole-in-the-wall takeaway spots to large-scale multi-level venues, city fine diners to outer west boltholes. You can eat and drink the globe in such trusted hands. The first time I tasted Asian food was in Melbourne when my culinary class mates took me to Pho Bo Mekong on Swanston Street.

Tell is about moving to Melbourne, working at Cecconi’s and The Press Club and how this led to the next best hospitality gig?

I was born in Izmir, Turkey. Growing up, food was a big part of my life, and cooking for my family and friends has always given me so much pleasure.  The next step was working out how I could make a living out of my passion. I had heard that Melbourne was a great culinary city and a good place to learn to be a chef, so I enrolled in William Angliss and hopped on a plane. A few years later, I started working at Magic City in Camberwell, then Scusami in Southgate, where I became infatuated with desserts. I joined The Press Club as Senior Pastry Chef in 2006 and then moved to Cecconi’s as Head Pastry Chef, where I stayed for nearly 10 years.  I was lucky enough to meet and work with some great chefs and amazing talents at both venues but Cecconi’s will always be my home away from home. It’s where I learnt the most about being a chef, but also where I really got to understand the industry, and learn about what hospitality means for a city like Melbourne.

A Meal Must at Her

At the moment, based on this week’s menu – I’d say the paccheri pasta with summer squash, stracciatella, broad beans and pistachios. It’s simple and delicious and a celebration of all things Spring. It’s suitable for almost anyone – it’s vegetarian but can be made vegan and gluten free.

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