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According to Andrew Zobler, Founder and CEO of the Sydell Group, the NoMad’s second location was supposed to be in London, not L.A. The problem was finding a suitable home for the hotel. “We looked and looked in London and we found a couple of things, but we weren’t able to get them and the things we were able to get we didn’t think were right, so it took a really long time,” Zobler told Departures.
Though the creator of hip hotel brands including the LINE and Freehand (which he has since sold) is a New Yorker through and through, he has a soft spot for the Big Smoke. “It’s a city that has all of the excitement of New York and I think it’s a place where we can do something that will be as interesting as what we did in New York and hopefully if all goes well, even more interesting,” he said.
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The May 25th debut of the genteel-yet-bohemian NoMad is sure to shake up London’s hospitality scene, which has its grand dames (the Savoy, the Connaught, and the Goring), its Soho Houses and its Hoxtons, but nothing quite like the NoMad, which marries European sophistication with a New York attitude. Set in Covent Garden’s historic Bow Street Magistrate’s Court and Police Station, where Oscar Wilde was imprisoned, the ambitious project has been in the works for over four years. Though past NoMads have been designed by Jacques Garcia, this time around Zobler tapped longtime collaborators Roman and Williams to bring the hotel to life. It marks the New York design firm’s first international hotel project and comes at a perfect time for the duo, who recently immersed themselves in 16th – 19th English century decorative arts while redesigning the British galleries at the Met.
“The building certainly had some history that we needed to contradict and contrast because I think that authority needed to be set free a little bit and be opened up,” Robin Standefer, who runs Roman and Williams with her partner Stephen Alesch, said. “So there’s a softness and a romantic spirit in the approach we took and I mean that in the sense that there’s something quite restrained about the design, and quite elegant and domestic, and those are words you might not use to describe a police building.”
Standefer describes their design approach as “new romanticism,” which she defines as embracing a romantic, bohemian spirit without being precious. Guests will notice this approach throughout the hotel, but nowhere more so than the namesake restaurant in the atrium. “It’s a pretty intense and imposing place from a cultural perspective and here we put this very beautiful large greenhouse atrium where people can eat and see the sky and where plants are growing,” Standefer said, explaining how they covered the former police yard with a glass roof and brought in rich textures and botanical elements inspired by English gardens.
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NoMad hotels are known for their buzzy restaurants and bars, so you can expect the NoMad London to serve up excellent food and beverages with a few surprises. In addition to the NoMad Restaurant—the more traditional offering in the atrium—there’s Side Hustle and Common Decency. The former is an English pub with a twist, while the latter is an underground lounge in the old coal stores—NoMad’s first venture into nightlife.
“What we like about Side Hustle is that you come in and it’s dressed up as a high-class English pub, and the whole idea that it has Mexican food is a complete surprise,” Zobler said, explaining that he wanted to offer Londoners a place where they can get good Mexican food, which Executive Chef Ashley Abodeely—who spent time living in Los Angeles—is passionate about. The cocktail program is run by Pietro Collina and overseen by award-winning bartender and NoMad stalwart Leo Robitschek.
The discoveries continue throughout the public spaces and in the 91 rooms and suites, which Roman and Williams outfitted with a combination of bespoke furniture, post-war New York and avant-garde European art curated by be-poles, and antiques collected at markets in England, Hungary, Belgium, and beyond. “We shopped the world for this project, which I think is quite English,” Standefer remarked, adding that she especially loves the suites, which challenged her and Alesch to create rooms full of attitude and drama that would still feel calm.
“Every time we open a hotel it’s like doing a play or a movie—you’re always nervous. When you stop being nervous I don’t think you’re any good anymore, so of course I’m nervous about it,” Zobler admitted. “I never assume anything is going to work, but we put our best effort into it and it feels very personal, so I’m very excited about it.”