Life in the UK got a much welcome upgrade this week: not only are we allowed to officially hug again, and, joy-oh-joy, drink and dine indoors, we’re edging closer to finally, finally experiencing the wonder that is NoMad London, opening on 25th May.
What’s all the fuss about? Put it this way, if it were a person this welcome addition to Covent Garden would be the cool, handsome stranger that everybody wants to hang with. Alluring, quirky and cool, it’s equal parts grand and intimate, boujie and boho, classic and modern – think of it as the bricks and mortar equivalent to stepping into a pair of slippers, albeit extremely elegant designer-y ones. In other words, familiarity and comfort are key but never, ever at the cost of style.
Style is something Sydell Group, in this instance operating under its NoMad brand does extremely well. But here’s where their unique brand of magic really shines: they have the knack of teaming up with likeminded visionaries to pull off glamour in the most effortless, extremely inclusive way. We’re not saying that hospitality NoMad style isn’t spenny, it’s five-star for goodness sake, what it is though is what they call ‘a vision of an artfully-lived life’.
You can see and feel it emanating from every nook in their outposts in New York, Los Angeles and Las Vegas and having been treated to a tour of the latest addition to the fold ahead of opening, we’re happy to say none of that magic has been lost as NoMad makes its first voyage across the Atlantic.
As cocktail lovers we could just cut straight to the bars and drinks. However, as fabulous as they are, that would be doing the rest of the place an injustice. So, here’s the skinny…
In a city like London that does five-star hotels like absolute bosses, is there room for NoMad? Damn right there is. This is a big one – not just for London but for the team as well. “London is so important for F&B as a whole, it’s our sister city,” Leo Robitschek tells us as he guides us through the building. As Vice President of Food and Beverage at Sydell, he knows the NoMad brand inside out, having been an essential part of the opening team of the first property in New York nine years ago and launching NoMad Los Angeles and Las Vegas thereafter. “As a group we see London as being so inspiring. It was really important for us to be here,” he continues. Pietro Collina, Bar Director and Kristen Millar, Global Brand Director, who join us on the tour, concur. And like Leo, they’ve both been with NoMad since property one.
The search for a site in England’s capital began nine years ago. “We opened NoMad, New York in 2012 and started looking for a property in London a year later. I’ve never had my heart broken so many times,” Leo confirms, the memory of it all still evident in his voice. “I didn’t understand the world of deal making back then. I flew over multiple times, thinking that we’d found the one but they played with our heart strings. It was such a frustrating experience.”
But, like those wise people who piss you off at the time they utter the words and invariably end up being proved right always say, everything happens for a reason. Instead of the deals they lost out on, they ended up securing the Grade II-listed Bow Street Magistrates Court and Police Station.
Talk about serendipitous, here’s a building that was made for the care, attention and creativity that NoMad and Sydell Group pride themselves on. There’s history, there’s heritage, there’s drama. Then there’s the location, slap, bang in the middle of Covent Garden, directly opposite the Royal Opera House. Lastly, there’s the all-important bones of the place. Like Kate Moss without the styling, ace photographers and clever lighting, when they acquired the site five years ago, it definitely possessed an air of being something extremely special in its unadulterated form. But add the creative direction, vision and care that the team lavished on it and its been transformed into an absolute stunner.
That said, it’s more than the property. Each NoMad is purposely rooted in its location. “Community is a real big thing for us and we want to feel like we’re a London staple, part of London’s future history,” Leo says. And you just know that he really means it.
Like we said, this is the first European outpost for The NoMad Hotel brand and with that comes a few changes. New York-based Roman and Williams have been brought in on the interior design side of things, replacing Jacques Garcia who was responsible for all three US properties. “We wanted to have a different perspective here and we think they’ve done an exceptional job,” adds Kristen. “We came up with the concept based on the history of the building and the surrounding area,” she tells us. “From there, they’ve tapped into a Victorian colour palette, taking inspiration from those old English manor houses where people collect eclectic things – you’ll see some of it dotted around. It’s residential comfort taken to another level.”
Things have also been switched up on the art front. “We worked with be-poles to create the narrative for the art which is probably our biggest art programme yet,” Kristen tells us proudly. “It’s the first time we’ve explored abstract, it’s a nod to the Abstract Expressionist movement which represents a significant moment in New York’s influence on modern art.”
Art aside, Leo adds: “One of the things I’m really proud of is the duality of our properties. We talk about uptown spaces and downtown spaces that co-exist,” he begins. “For instance, the same music will be playing in the bar but in some spots it will be a little louder, in others, the lights will be a little dimmer. When we opened our first property the initial impression from our guests was, ‘Wow this is New York!’ but knowing New York, they thought: ‘Wait, this isn’t New York…’ We want to do that here too. While its very much inspired by London and NoMad, we want people to walk in and feel that it’s a place that has existed – in other words, it’s so London but not like London at all.”
In total, there are just shy of 50 cocktails on offer throughout the building. “Roughly 50% of the cocktails in Side Hustle are classics, the rest are new,” says Pietro. “Downstairs the list is more kitchen-centric as we make use of the ingredients from kitchen.” Here’s where you’ll find them…
While we visited ahead of opening, it was easy to get a sense of how Side Hustle will work with people in it – this is a space designed with conviviality in mind. Think British pub given a New York reboot – we’re talking aesthetic as well as energy – and you’ve got the right idea.
You enter via its own street level entrance which just so happens to be the former Bow Street Police Station. In homage to that, you’re greeted at the door by an arresting (pun intended) work by renowned British reportage photographer Martin Parr. “The image connects with the class system,” says Kristen. “It’s a candid interaction between police officers and the public.”
There’s more art where that came from, running the gamut of characters from Downtown LA to London Beefeaters. Various large format, framed mixtapes are thrown in for good measure. And that’s just the start of the interplay between the carefully curated art on the walls and the works of wonder from the kitchen and the glass.
But first the set-up: the room is divided into two distinct parts: one raised area with booths for around 43 people seated to the rear and the second, space upfront for doing what we’ve all missed during the past year or so, standing knee deep at the bar and enjoying the craic. While Pietro overseas the bar programmes throughout the entire operation, Davide Segat, formerly of the Edition hotels and Liana Oster joining from Dante in New York head up the international team on a day-to-day basis.
The drinks follow Executive Chef Ashley Abodeely’s new found passion, her side hustle for Mexican flavours seen through a Californian lens. The list opens with NoMad Classics such as Sippy Cup (Averna Amaro, 1757 Vermouth, lime, ginger and London Essence Club Soda); Walter Gibson (Boatyard Gin, Elyx Vodka, Viognier, pear eau de vie, beeswax and pickled vegetables), and Hot Lips (Altos Plata Tequila, Vida Mezcal, pineapple, lemon, vanilla and jalapeño). That last drink leads nicely into the next section: Side Hustle Classics, which like the rest of the menu is largely made up of agave-based spirits and/or Mexican ingredients. So, in addition to their versions of tequila-tastic staples like a Margarita (Altos Plata Tequila, lime, Combier liqueur and salt), and Paloma (Tapatío Blanca Tequila, Vida Mezcal, grapefruit, lime and London Essence Soda), there are new favourites to be discovered, like the super delicious Oaxacan Old Fashioned (Tapatío Reposado Tequila, Chichicapa Mezcal, agave, chocolate bitters and pandan leaf).
Next it’s Refrescante aka Refreshing drinks. We loved Banana Stand (Olorosso Sherry, Diplomático Reserva Exclusiva Rum, pineapple gomme, banana and chocolate bitters) and Amelia, a taste sensation and vision in fluffy purpley-pink (Macchu Pisco, purple corn, lime, Avua Amburana Cachaça and egg white). There are Spirit Forward (Spirito) drinks too, including the big-hitting Black Dahlia (Vida Mezcal, Muscatel Sherry, rye whiskey, Nardini Amaro and Grand Marnier), and Detox Retox (Chivas Regal Mizunara Blended Scotch, Diplomático Reserva Exclusiva Rum, Plantation Pineapple Rum and coconut water).
The Agave Service is a highly recommended way to acquaint yourself with the many varietals and terroir of agave spirits. Enjoy your new favourite tequila or mezcal along with your choice of cooling sangrita, sliced fruit and sal de Gusano, all served in a specially designed platter. Pre-empting that this will be a place for after work crowds and informal celebrations, groups can choose from three large format rituals for four-six people and simply serve themselves. Not drinking alcohol? No problem, there are four delicious No Mas Alcohol drinks on the menu like the Corn Agua Fresca (corn and yellow squash) and Horchata (almonds, rice, cinnamon and orange zest).
If Side Hustle has the jovial, informality of a pub here’s where the mood gets dialled up to sexy. For all intents and purposes Atrium is a restaurant bar, it’s positioned to the side of the NoMad restaurant after all. But it isn’t something that’s been tagged on to keep diners happy before they sit down for their meal, this is a destination in its own right.
You’d never guess to look at it but this actual spot is where the coal for the building used to be stored. Fast forward to it’s five-star makeover and it’s been transformed into a real diamond.
During the day the breathtaking three-storey Atrium restaurant is flooded with natural light, in the evening it gets a Hollywood glamour glow, making it feel super-swishy. In a good way. The bar is just the right side of decadence to be flirty and seductive while retaining an underlying measure of naughtiness and fun. Hello date nights! We’re also betting that once we all get back into the swing of things, this will be quite the hot spot for meeting up with friends as well as feeling relaxed enough to stop by for a drink on your own. Ladies, take note.
And there’s more good news, you can also enjoy dining at the counter here – not just bar snacks or small plates but a full-blown meal from Executive Chef Ashley Abodeeley’s eclectic menu, which in the Atrium, shines a light on seasonal British ingredients.
What’s on the menu drinks wise? Enough to keep you sated, that’s for sure. Again, it opens with NoMad Classics, then moves on to Atrium Classics which range from the likes of Sherry Painkiller (Amontillado Sherry, Diplomático Reserva Exclusiva Rum, pineapple, coconut and lime), their fabulous Dirty Martini (Elyx Vodka, Lustau Blanco Vermouth, white balsamic and a Giarraffa olive), to an Espresso Martini on draft (Elyx Vodka, Mr Black Cold Brew, Linie Aquavit and whey for added texture).
The mid-section features a dozen Atrium Cocktails. We tried two, the destined-to-be crowd-pleasing Red Curtain, an easy-drinking Sour (Veritas Rum, Line Aquavit, lemon, beet, strawberry, cucumber and egg white), and the deliciously smooth and contemplative Amerikaner (Eagle Rare 10 Year Old Bourbon, Diplomático Reserva Exclusiva Rum, Cynar Amaro, PX Sherry and black sesame). Again, there are four non-alcoholic drinks on this particular list. One is a carbonated Soft Core Soda (green apple, ver jus, chamomile and agave) and another is playfully called Cease and Desist (orange, double cream, orange flower water and London Essence Club Soda).
Like all NoMad properties, there’s a Library. And while it’s not a bar per se, as well as dipping into the thoughtfully selected books on display in the various bays, from art to British gardens, architecture to punk, guests can sip on cocktails from the NoMad Classics menu.
You’ll have to wait until November for the NoMad Hotel’s first subterranean craft cocktail bar/late night lounge to open its doors. Until then, there’s so much good stuff to be getting on with – you won’t even miss it.
See you at the bar/s!
Need to know:
• The first Bow Street was established in 1740
• In its day, the building has seen the likes of Casanova, General Pinochet, Dr Crippen, Oscar Wilde, the Kray Twins and more recently, Vivienne Westwood though its doors.
• NoMad London has the biggest food and beverage programme and smallest number of guest rooms (91) in the group
• There are 1,600 pieces of art in the building, including exquisite pieces of body-brush artwork from ballet dancer turned artist Caroline Denervaud
• Add even more culture to your visit by checking out the Police Museum housed in the hotel “We had to have a museum on site as part of its Grade II-listed status ,” Pietro tells us. “It celebrates the history of the Bow Street Runners and the building itself.”
• Hand on heart, these are the sexiest event spaces in London: think Nick Cave wedding meets Gucci campaign.