Big budget hotel projects are rarely delivered quickly, but NoMad London has been an especially long time coming. The team started work on the project soon after opening the inaugural NoMad hotel in New York in 2012. The lengthy gestation period is down to a change in location, an extremely complex and ambitious build and - most recently - the pandemic.
Covent Garden’s Bow Street Magistrates’ Court building - which tried many a famous name including Emmeline Pankhurst and the Kray twins - has been completely reworked internally. In fact Andrew Zobler - the owner of NoMad’s parent company Sydell Group - says the hotel is best thought of as an entirely new building within an existing one.
NoMad is one of a number of high profile, expensive US-owned hotels to open in the capital in recent years - including The Standard, which launched in King’s Cross in 2019 - but still manages to make an impact with its stunning interior design. Overall the space has a classic, refined and glamorous feel that successfully blends together multiple design influences. The project has been overseen by NoMad’s in-house design team and New York-based interior design studio Roman and Williams.
The 92 bedroom hotel is NoMad’s first outside the States, but Sydell has experience of operating in London having teamed up with Soho House to launch The Ned in 2017.
A tale of two restaurants
The F&B at NoMad London was originally supposed to be overseen by Daniel Humm’s Make It Nice group, but the high-profile US-based chef ended his partnership with the wider NoMad group at the beginning of last year. Both the restaurants are now being delivered by executive chef Ashley Abodeely, who has an impressive CV that includes Humm’s New York flagship Eleven Madison Park and a number of senior roles for NoMad, most notably chef de cuisine at one of the restaurants within the groups Los Angeles hotel.
Working in LA exposed the New England-born and Culinary Institute of America-trained chef to a wide range of Mexican cuisine, and it is this experience that will feed into Side Hustle, NoMad London’s ‘lively take on a British pub’. It’s a handsome looking space but feels a little themed. One can’t help thinking the team might have bitten off a little more than it can chew conceptually - it looks like the sort of place that should do a great burger but is instead offering a menu of upscale Mexican cuisine.
The bar at Side Hustle ©Simon Upton
A selection of tacos ©Cristian Barnett
The menu kicks off with snacks including guacamole with English peas, warm tortilla chips and salsa roja and crispy pork belly with tomatillo-avocado salsa before branching out into a creative selection of tostadas and tacos, including the latter with grilled octopus with crispy kale and paprika rouille and the former with Baja-style prawn, pickled cabbage and morita mayo. Standing in for mains are two plates ‘for the table’ - grilled fish and lamb barbacoa - both served with corn tortillas, house salsas, radishes and pickles.
NoMad London’s main restaurant is located in the hotel’s stunning three-story atrium and offers a menu that ‘blends approachability, comfort, and fun with moments of decadence and grand whimsy’. It’s an intriguing affair that appears to have been designed to offer something for everyone, with contemporary restaurant staples - crudo, roasted cauliflower, a caviar dish - all present and correct. Though arranged into snacks, small plates, large plates and sides the breadth of the selection is almost brasserie-like, which certainly chimes with the space. Influences are varied, with dishes including venison tartare with pickled shallots and fermented currants; tagliatelle with king crab, Meyer lemon and black pepper; turbot seared with green curry, aubergine and basil; and suckling pig confit with wild greens and smoked bacon jam.
Alongside a la carte, the menu also offers the set ‘NoMad chicken dinner’ that is available in all the group’s hotels. It comprises an egg-based first course followed by chicken stuffed with brioche and parmesan and finishing with a peach sundae. Unsurprisingly given the venue’s casual yet decidedly upmarket positioning prices are on the high side, with small plates nearly all north of £15 and large plates involving meat and fish averaging out at around £35. Side Hustle is a little more affordable, with single tacos and tostadas around £6 but in general this is not a venue for people on a budget, with rooms starting at £455.
An experienced team
Still to come is late-night cocktail lounge Common Decency, which is expected to open later this year. Vice president of food and beverage for the whole of Sydell Group Leo Robitschek is NoMad’s man on the ground in London. He is also an alumni of Eleven Madison Park - which topped the World's 50 Best Restaurants list in 2017 - and is credited with reinventing the cocktail program there, before going on to oversee all of NoMad’s bars as bar director of Make It Nice.
The rest of the team have equally impressive CVs, with bar director Pietro Collina and Chris Perone both having helped launch Humm’s London restaurant Davies and Brook as well as bringing experience from Eleven Madison Park and NoMad itself. Formerly of Kent’s The Fordwich Arms, wine director Guy Palmer-Brown is the only Brit to hold a senior role within NoMad London.
Opening the hotel during the pandemic has been a bizarre experience for the senior team. The hotel was pretty much good to go well before Christmas so there’s been an unusually long time to iron out the creases and get ready. Staff training was carried out in a completely finished restaurant rather than on a building site, as is so often the case, and the gap between completion of fit out and opening even allowed some aspects of the design to be reworked (apparently the colour of the paint was changed in some areas to better suit the light).
NoMad London opens next week, and looks to be have been worth the wait.
NoMad London executive chef Ashley Abodeely ©Cristian Barnett