For 266 years, Bow Street Magistrates Court heard some of the UK's most notorious cases but now, from its Grade II listed bones, comes a much more inviting visit: NoMad London. It's the group's first foray outside the US and the hotel pays thoughtful tribute to its storied past with suites fashioned from magistrates offices, artworks nodding to the incarcerated and the courtroom itself spruced up for use as an elegant events space. Celebrated design studio Roman and Williams have tempered extroverted elements – the restaurant atrium is a true scene-stealer; the bars are built for buzz – with the feel of a real Covent Garden residence. The verdict, as we're certain a jury of our peers would unanimously conclude, is: a triumph.
Get this when you book through us:
Two signature NoMad cocktails in your room on arrival
Double rooms from £427.50, including tax at 20 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional service charge of 5% per room per night on check-out.
Breakfast is not included but you can feast on all you fancy in the restaurant. For stays until 30 September 2021, five per cent tax is included in the rates. After October 2021, it's 20 per cent.
Common areas are wheelchair accessible and there are a number of specially adapted rooms easily accessed via the lift.
At the hotel
Library (for guests only post-4pm), free WiFi throughout. In rooms: air conditioning, blackout curtain, king-size bed, fully stocked minibar, Argan bath products by Côté Bastide, complimentary newspaper delivery on request. In suites: standalone bath tubs.
Our favourite rooms
There are decorous details aplenty, whichever generously appointed room you're given the key to: vintage bakelite phones, marble-topped desks, mosaic-and-marble bathrooms, arresting artworks… But to sit and soak in a copper-bottomed bath tub while staring at the arched glass roof of the Royal Opera House is a particularly decadent draw of the aptly named Royal Opera Suite.
Thankfully you no longer need a lawyer in tow when you walk through the doors. Instead we'd recommend a Rossini reader/Puccini primer/Tchaikovsky cheat sheet if you're after a bit of backstory before your night at the opera.
If you think the striking abstract artworks seen throughout the hotel have a certain expressive quality, you'd be right. They're the work of artist Caroline Denervaud, a former dancer who now applies her movements to paper using her body as a brush.
Here, all tables are top tables – just look up to be reminded of the grandeur. For a more intimate, less neck-craning space, tuck yourself into the Chinoiserie-rich private dining space where the mood is decidedly more clubby.
No need for powdered wigs anymore but gowns can only be encouraged (in less sombre styles than your average magistrate would sport, mind).
Given the showstopper of a space they've created with meagre ingredients – the triple-height restaurant atrium garlanded with trailing greenery was previously a crumbling courtyard used by police vehicles – it stands to reason that, in the kitchen, culinary crowd-pleasers will be created daily from the best of London's market-fresh produce. Executive chef Ashley Abodeely, an alumni of NoMads NY and LA, is overseeing proceedings – her menu features stand-out sharers (a seafood platter, a roast chicken for the table), some knowingly English nods (venison tartare, pea hummus, suckling pig) and plenty of metropolitan flair.
The main bar occupies the area where defendants would get booked – it's a lot more fun now. Side Hustle (for that is its name) has gene-spliced a spirited British pub and a sleek New York bar to create an invitingly playful parlour for decadent drinking and casual Mexi-Cali sharing plates (try the English pea guacamole, and don't scrimp on the tacos). NoMad cocktail kingpin Leo Robitschek has shaken and stirred several shelves' worth of mezcal, tequila and agave to craft a moreish drinks menu – take a seat at the marble-topped bar to see them poured up close. Should you want to settle in somewhere a little more snug, wood-panelled, leather-lined and brass-topped booths occupy the back half of the room – from here you can eye up several walls of Martin Parr photographs, too. A second bar sits – in curvaceous glory – at the foot of the atrium making it just the spot for aperitivo hour, and drinks can be taken in the library throughout the day.
Breakfast is served from 8am until 11. Through the week last orders are called at 11:30pm but on Fridays and Saturdays the bars serve til 12:30am, and 10:30pm on Sundays.
The NoMad is opposite the Royal Opera House in the heart of Covent Garden, the very centre of London.
London City and Heathrow airports are both about a 45-minute drive and Gatwick is easily reachable by rail.
Covent Garden is the nearest tube, just a two-minute stroll around the block, but Leicester Square, Temple, Charing Cross and Embankment are all easily accessible. If you're arriving from the Continent into Saint Pancras, it's a short 15-minute taxi ride away. Those heading up from the south of England into Waterloo can enjoy a scenic stroll over the bridge – it's about 15 minutes on foot.
London is a city best sampled by strolling – and you're perfectly placed for tubes, trains and taxis – but, if you are arriving by car, there's valet parking available subject to availability, contact the hotel with your arrival date to arrange.
Worth getting out of bed for
You're unlikely to be this close to operatic excellence anywhere else – the Royal Opera House is across the street – so taking in an evening of passionate parables makes for a good cultural jump-start after our year of enforced hibernation. The Royal Balletare based there, too, if dance is your preferred medium. Keeping things neighbourly, the hotel has given over a portion of the building to the Bow Street Police Museum, a brand-new potted history of the street's unique contribution to crime-fighting in the capital. Then there's Covent Garden itself, no longer the fruit and vegetable market its layout suggests (that got moved three miles down river), but a tourist-thronged hub of shopping, eating, drinking and street performers (of varying quality). The Transport Museum sits in one corner, an engaging ode to what's kept Londoners on the move over the years, and the Theatre Royal Drury Lane – the oldest theatre site in town – is a block over. Just as reachable on foot are the storied streets of Soho – for bars, boutiques and brilliant restaurants – and the enticing aromas of Chinatown – for dumplings, dim sum, duck and more. For further cultural pursuits, the Hayward Gallery and all its South Bank relatives are just over the river, the captivating John Soane's Museum is a few streets away and galleries Nationaland National Portrait are in Trafalgar Square to the south.
There's been a restaurant renaissance in Covent Garden over recent years so your must-visit menu might prompt the need for a return trip. Nearby Henrietta Street alone plays host to seafood supremos The Oystermen, the refined Brit fare of Cora Pearl, the Gallic stylings of Frenchieand the dim sum theatrics of Din Tai Fung– it's newly pedestrianised, too, so all can be enjoyed alfresco should the British weather comply. If you've a penchant for the classics, London institutions J Sheekey(fine-dining fish restaurant), The Ivy(A-list approved comfort food)and Rules(the city's oldest dining establishment) are all short strolls away. Nearby, Roka on Aldwych does contemporary Japanese cooking with invention, The Barbary(tucked away in Neal's Yard) sees north Africa meet the Mediterranean in its clay-oven cooked dishes, and Soho's walk-up-only Sri Lankan staple, Hoppers, is always worth the wait.
If you fancy venturing beyond hotel walls in search of liquid refreshment, you won't be disappointed. The Lamb & Flag remains the closest thing to a hidden gem in Covent Garden; a good old-fashioned pub (dating back to at least 1772) tucked down a narrow alley where drinkers collect on warmer evenings. Petersham Nurseries, just off the main Covent Garden piazza, also serves as something of a hideaway; its full-bloomed Italianate courtyards (inside and out) are just the place for a peaceful prosecco. Bar Termini, on Old Compton Street, pours perfect negronis, bellinis, espressos and anything else you'd expect from an Italian aperitivo bar of note. If you prefer a French accent to your libations, Cafe Boheme, also on Old Compton Street, offers prime pavement-side people-watching with its St-Germain spritzes et al. If you wander towards the river and happen upon a queue, it'll probably be for Gordon's, London's oldest wine bar; a decidedly Dickensian series of dimly lit vaults – with plenty of alfresco overspill – serving, well, wine.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this new London landmark,unpacked and proudly showed off their newly acquired knowledge of opera, policing and art collecting, a full account of their stylish city break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside NoMad London…
Given the building's two-and-a-half-century history as the highest magistrates court in the land (Oscar Wilde, the Pankhurst sisters, the Kray twins and General Pinochet just a few that stood in its dock), let us be the first to make the joke that we'd be happily sentenced to serve hard time in its new incarnation. But seriously folks, buildings like this don't come along every day, and there's every danger that when they do, history gets quickly trumped for square footage. Not so at NoMad London which strikes a sensitive and smart balance between the past and the present – which should ensure a long and illustrious future.
Not that it's garlanded with gavels or anything; no, it's much more sophisticated than that. With help from design studio Roman and Williams, new life has been conjured from old features: a tired police courtyard is now a towering atrium, a once oppressive booking station is now a buzzing bar, the courtroom itself left as a multipurpose events space (made over with just enough melodrama to befit its past). The rear corner of the building has even been gifted to a new police museum charting the criminal history of the street.
The neighbours have been considered, too. In this case, the Royal Opera House, whose set painters were drafted to add artistic flourishes to various nooks and whose stage was given over for inspiration to dancer-turned-artist Caroline Denervaud as she painted more than 100 large-scale expressive works for the hotel. (Side note: the art curation, by studio be-poles, is a triumph in its own right). The result is a space that is as welcoming as it is wowing – guests will delight in high-touch details from bedside to bathroom to breakfast table to bar stool – and feels, alchemically, like the return to Covent Garden of a well-travelled friend rather than the arrival of some flashy interloper. All that, plus you get the opportunity to say 'I rest my case' as you check-in…