Former star Austin chef dazzles West Texas with destination restaurant

One of Austin’s most promising chefs embarks on an adventure in West Texas. Chef Finn Walter’s highly anticipated fine-dining restaurant, Nicolett, opens at 511 Broadway St. in downtown Lubbock in early November.

Walter, who was pastry chef and chef de partie at The Restaurant at Meadowood in Napa Valley when it received three Michelin stars, is best known locally for his work at Olivia and Mettle.

However, the chef returned to his hometown of Lubbock for his first solo eatery, bringing with him two other names familiar to Austin foodies: Chef David Whalen, formerly owned by Jeffrey, and pastry chef Michalia Dubose. He has worked in bakeries and restaurants across Austin, including Pitchfork Pretty. Dubose also trained with Walter when he was a pastry chef at Mettle.

The Nicolett blends regional West Texas cuisine with techniques Walter learned while working in Austin, Paris, Napa Valley and Santa Fe. The goal is to create a high-end restaurant for Lubbockites – and a dining experience for the rest of Texas.

“A big part of creating this restaurant was identifying elements that have always been important to West Texas,” Walter said in a press release. “This region has a long and rich history of artists and songwriters approaching their work as artisans. We want to honor this tradition in our approach to food, drink and service. “(Editor’s Note: Walter is married to CultureMap’s Vice President of Editorial, Arden Ward.)

To create a menu that is “approachable and fun”, Nicolett takes inspiration from local ingredients. The main course includes a beef brisket served with black truffle, nuka cucumber and aligot potatoes. twice baked sunchokes with bearnaise and hoja santa; and quail baked in brioche, presented at the table and served with barley risotto, juniper and game jus.

Of course, given Walter’s career in the Napa Valley, the wine list hasn’t been overlooked. Kim McPherson, a winemaker from Lubbock and a semi-finalist of James Beard, was won over to produce the restaurant’s individually labeled house wines. For the rest of the wine, beer and cocktail menu, The Nicolett places great emphasis on Texan producers as well as France and California.

The location itself compliments the restaurant’s unique kitchen approach. Located in a former residence in bustling downtown Lubbock, the restaurant combines classic West Texas elements – brick, cedar, leather – softened with stained glass, jasmine vines, succulents, and flowering aloes.

The cozy main dining room, once the central living area, is separated by a custom-made limestone fireplace – an original feature of the residence – and balanced by original cedar boards on the ceiling and exposed brick walls. The Nicolett has an expansive outdoor courtyard and greenhouse that has been converted into a private dining room. Finally, the property will also include a function room for rent.

It’s in the courtyard where the Nicolett will be welcoming visitors for alfresco dining (with heaters) early next month. Food is currently by reservation only and the restaurant is opening seats to email subscribers first. Before Thanksgiving Day, the restaurant will add a limited number of indoor dining options and make its function space available for reservations.

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