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NoMad London review: A chic sanctuary full of hidden treasures with a fascinating Oscar Wilde connection

Come for the sensational modern art and blockbuster dining; stay for the fascinating history of the old Bow Street Magistrates' Court and Police Station building

By Jamie Tabberer

A bed and side table at NoMad London
A classic room at NoMad London (Image: Simon Upton/provided by NoMad London)

‘Would you rather live in an ugly building with a view of a gorgeous building or in a gorgeous building with a view of an ugly building?’ This is a question said to reveal plenty about your personality, at least according to HBO’s Girls. I was reminded of it at NoMad London, a sprawling hotel housed within the former Bow Street Magistrates’ Court and Police Station, a Grade II-listed building dating back to 1740 that’s gasp-inducing in its Victorian-meets-modern-era splendour.

The NoMad is filled with so much to discuss that its location next to the Royal Opera House seems almost insignificant. And yet, what I remember most about my stay is, while dining on perfectly fried fish tacos at on-site restaurant Side Hustle, being struck by the performing arts venue, and its grandiose and yet delicately beautiful atrium visible through the window.

NoMad London’s handsome exterior (Image: Cristian Barnett/Provided by NoMad London)

Later, while checking out one of the hotel’s top-tier suites, I was captivated by The Bridge of Aspiration: a structure I’d barely noticed in 17 years in London but am now longing to pirouette through.

The close proximity of NoMad and the ROH speaks to the absurdly high density of historic sights in Covent Garden. And what of the view of the NoMad’s own handsome, original stone facade? Suffice to say, these two beautiful buildings render that original question moot.

The NoMad Restaurant (Image: Provided by NoMad London)

That said, the NoMad’s most extraordinary sight is inside; the Nomad Restaurant, all dangling flora and eau de nil pillars encased beneath a lofty glazed ceiling, is transportive. You feel like you’re inside a painting.

Here, the flawlessly presented Afternoon Tea begs for the Instagram treatment (certainly, the flood of natural light is flattering enough for a selfie) but to indulge such impulses feels uncouth. The fresh, fluffy scones and elevated finger sandwiches call for more civilised behaviour than that… Seriously, this is the freshest salmon I’ve tasted in London. And the small details – like cucumber sliced into the finest spears – really set it apart. Besides, pictures don’t do the space justice. It’s quite simply one of the most sensational sights in London.

Similarly, the ballroom, hand-painted by British artist Claire Basler, which immerses the visitor in a garden scene evocative of Monet and puts 360 degree digital art exhibitions in the shade, is exceptional. It’s cool on a historical level too: this room is in fact the old Magistrates’ Courtroom where queer hero Oscar Wilde’s initial hearings took place following his 1895 arrest for ‘gross indecency’ due to homosexual relationships.

Whether Oscar would have approved of such a historic space getting a facelift – for my money, the interior designers get away with it; not least for the preservation of old decorative features – we’ll never know. But regardless, our father of flamboyance is naturally revered at NoMad, as implied by the amusingly direct name of the hotel’s private subterranean bar and event space, Common Decency. The importance of being earnest indeed!

Another view of the reception area at NoMad London (Image: Cristian Barnett/Provided by NoMad London)

There is an artistic flair to everything at NoMad, from the vast photography collection adorning the walls of Side Hustle to the breathtaking abstract artwork by Caroline Denervaud that greets guests on arrival in the reception area. The piece is genuinely emblazoned in my mind, its sense of movement and fluidity a gentle echo of the hustle and bustle outside that fades from memory the moment you enter this tranquil, moodily lit area.

Actually, the lobby – all chocolate-coloured wood, tastefully selected curios, plentiful plant life and luxurious furnishings – is my favourite area of the hotel. It’s the perfect introduction to the high glamour apparent throughout. I lost count of the different chandeliers, lampshades and light fixtures I saw while wandering around the many rooms and levels, or chilling in the plush library.

The smart reception area at NoMad London (Image: Cristian Barnett/Provided by NoMad London)

Smartly, with their surprisingly muted colour palette, the bedrooms offer a slight aesthetic reset. Although not the bathrooms, which are the height of decadence, complete with Argan Oil bath products by Côté Bastidm. The soft pink marble mosaic tiles have the iridescent appeal of pearls – this is a treasure trove fit for Aerial from The Little Mermaid, put it that way.

Truth be told, I spent hardly any time in my bedroom. Instead, I was off exploring the surprises that hide around every corner, including on a personal tour from Chris Perone, the general manager, whose boundless enthusiasm and encyclopaedic knowledge of the NoMad is typical of staff here. The arresting sight of a staircase that leads to nowhere prompts a conversation about painstaking historical preservation; a peak inside private spaces lead to tales of the many exclusive parties that have been held here since NoMad opened doors in May 2021. (Thankfully, the hotel doesn’t have a sterile, box-fresh feel. Rather, despite its opulence, it has a boutiquey, lived-in energy.)

A meal at Side Hustle doubles up as a trip to a framed photography exhibit (Image: Cristian Barnett/Provided by NoMad London)

In what is a first for this former travel editor, the hotel even has its own museum. I access Bow Street Police Museum through a secret entrance and get to study the cells of an array of famous former inmates: Vivienne Westwood, Emmeline Pankhurst​ and the Kray twins among them! A quick history lesson to break up my kale, banana, apple and oat smoothie breakfast and a beverage from my in-room Nespresso coffee machine? Why not!

Lastly, the service I receive at NoMad was next level. Our server at Nomad Restaurant, for example, displayed a beautifully descriptive understanding of the endless tea selection, and exuded such warmth to my guest and their child. She was so charismatic and chilled, I almost invited her to join us. The mixologists at Side Hustle, by contrast, are delightfully high drama. We sat at the bar of this fabulously rambunctious enclave and had to practically scream our order of mezcal-infused cocktails and smoked chorizo empanadas to be heard over the clatter of their shakers. This isn’t a complaint: it was fun.

The bathrooms at NoMad London feature a gorgeous mosaic design (Image: Simon Upton/Provided by NoMad London)

Friendliest of all was in-house wellness expert Katie England, who, whimsically, provides her services in one of the hotel’s converted suites. I tried her signature BYONIK® Bespoke facial, complete with Slimyonik Air application, the latter a non-invasive body contouring treatment using air pressure massage to enhance circulation and lymphatic drainage. It looks like something out of a sci-fi film, but a reassuring Katie simplifies the science far more effectively than I can. So too the facial, which is an epic affair – buccal massages, pulsed triggered lasers, hyaluronic acid, masks, oils, moisturisers – intended to be applied at an unhurried pace. When I tell Katie I have half an hour less to play with than planned, she tweaks the treatment and changes her pace without a flap.

It’s inconceivable how much I fitted into one 24-hour hotel stay, and still I leave feeling relaxed. During a seamless check out, I bump into an acquaintance, another Londoner, who’s checking in for a celebratory staycation with his partner. I’m excited for him. It’s the first time that the concept of holidaying in your home city has made sense to me.

For more information about the NoMad London, click here.