Nomad: from New York to London
Liana Oster, head of bars at the UK’s Nomad explains how the London outpost has taken the original’s sense of professionalism and given it a twist.
Nomad was always very much a New York hotel, with New York bars, New York creativity and New York hospitality.
Located on a scrappy stretch of Broadway, Nomad New York was a defining location of the hospitality scene, not just in New York City but globally.
With Michelin stars and single-figure rankings on ‘best bar’ lists, Nomad’s owners began rolling out the formula to outposts in Los Angeles and Las Vegas, before, suddenly, in April 2021, the flagship closed.
First ‘for renovations’, and then for good.
The hole it left wasn’t left gaping for long. At least, not for anyone located in London.
In May 2021, Nomad London opened its doors, and The Big Smoke delivered its own flavour of The Big Apple.
“The Nomad is about the tension between New York and London, the classic and avant-garde, hospitality, and fun,” Oster says.
“We have brought a bit of New York energy to Covent Garden, but it has also morphed into our own energy.”
Located in the heart of the West End, the 91-room hotel is found on the Grade II-listed site of the former Bow Street Magistrates’ Court and Police station, where the likes of designer Vivienne Westwood once spent a night in the cells for breaching the peace.
Now it’s where tourists and Londoners alike spend nights in the luxuriously decorated rooms, fitted with Carrara marble mosaic bathrooms and fully stocked minibars.
How times have changed.
New York state of mind
For all intents and purposes, Nomad London’s bars are very of the city, but a bit like that strange era in the mid-00s when Madonna started talking with a British accent, the ‘New York-ness’ of the place still shines through.
Australian Oster moved to London in May 2021 to be a part of the hotel’s hotly anticipated opening, which had been delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
As the former bar manager of the award-winning Dante in New York, she was no stranger to the Manhattan outpost, and it was her familiarity with the brand that drew her to London. “Having been lucky enough to spend a lot of time in Nomad New York, I was in awe of production. The magnitude of what they did there never escaped me. All of my experiences there were flawless, and no detail was overlooked, no matter how small.”
It is attention to detail that appears to be what Nomad does best.
Nomad London is a 1920s-meets-2020s spectacle.
Every corner has its own personality, and not an inch of the space has been overlooked. Even the hand sanitiser dispensers are chic.
Oster’s recent appointment to the role of bar director sees her in charge of the hotel’s four bars: Common Decency, The Library, The Atrium Bar, and Side Hustle, all of which were beautifully designed by New York-based design studio Roman and Williams to reflect the nexus of old meeting the new.
Classic British pub
Side Hustle offers nods to a classic British pub, complete with racing green leather banquettes juxtaposed by a smattering of Mexican touches, made sense by the bar’s focus on agave-based spirits; while the Atrium Bar, located to the side of the naturally lit three-storey conservatory, is accented with a polished marble bar top and patinated mirrored walls.
All of the bars have their own character, but are all driven by seasonality.
Each drinks list offers a harmonious mix of classic and modern techniques, all of which have been planned and crafted with the kitchen team to offer a focus on sustainability, a hangover from Nomad’s big-city roots.
“While London and Europe currently lead the charge on the more experimental aspects of cocktail creation, New York has a more collaborative restaurant bar scene between the kitchen and the bar,” says Oster.
“Research and development for our menus is a lengthy and collaborative process. We involve the team so everyone has a voice and is able to be creative.”
By using unexpected and experimental seasonal ingredients designed to complement the bar’s food offering, the old and the new have merged together.
The result is an interplay of the two cities’ bar cultures found on the current spring menus at Side Hustle and the Atrium Bar.
Oster says: “London and New York are the cocktail birthplaces, if you will. Each city has its own distinct style regarding cocktails and service. We are very much a Nomad bar, and celebrate our roots, but we’re also a bar that grew up in London, and we get to celebrate our own different style. Our spring menu is like a breath of fresh air.
“We really wanted to bring fresh flavours with our signature Nomad style. Side Hustle’s seasonal Margaritas are really interesting, and I love seeing people try them.”
Interesting is right.
Punctuated with a slap of warming jalapeño infused into the Altos Blanco Tequila base, the Strawberry & Tomato Margarita serve offers a treat for every part of the tongue – and that’s before you keep going back to lick the smoky black lava salt from the rim.
Away from these seasonally changing menus is the list of Nomad classics.
“All our menus have our Nomad classics available for our guests,” Oster tells us. “It is the way for us to showcase drinks that have become beloved in our other locations.”
And it is here, on the classics list, where you’ll find the Walter Gibson, a rich, viscous Martini that landed on Nomad New York’s menu in 2016 – a legacy in frozen coupe form.
The London iteration features a few tweaks, such as the use of Boatyard gin in place of the Edinburgh Seaside Gin that featured in the original.
It is made with Absolut Elyx vodka, Boatyard and Old Raj Blue Label gins, two types of vermouth, sweet Viognier, Poire Williams, and pineapple gomme, mixed and poured straight from the freezer from a beeswax-lined bottle, served with a side dish of pickled mini vegetables.
The serve is a perfectly poised balancing act of sweetness and acidity, softened by a silky mouthfeel.
It feels clear that Nomad New York walked so Nomad London could run, so what is Oster’s vision for the bars?
“Part of Nomad’s culture is evolution and endless reinvention. We hope to always continue to grow, evolve and learn, and will take lessons from all our properties and use them in the growth of the brand,” she says.
“We have something special here in London. I hope the world gets to experience it, but as long as it continues to stay special for us that’s all that matters.”