Restaurant review

The NoMad, restaurant review: Romantic cuisine in a romantic setting – if only they turned on the lights

If there is a more magnificent dining room than the Atrium of the NoMad Hotel, I have yet to find it. The soaring glass ceiling immediately raises the gaze to the sky. Then, as you look down into the three-story atrium, you’re treated to a visual feast: cascading foliage framing pale green columns, which give way to marble doors and paneled mirrors. Velvet sofas in olive tones contrast with plush pink cushions and towels. Immerse yourself in it as frosted glass lanterns float above you, the ultra-soft lighting making you feel like you could fall asleep anytime.

It’s a little too dark – although not dark enough for you to suffer the indignity of lighting your phone torch (Smoking Goat, I’m looking at you). Because I’m a fan of all things romantic, I’ve chosen to call this gloom “mood lighting.” Apparently, the same goes for the dozens of other couples who are here, flirting in front of their tiny tealights. Love is in the air at this very romantic venue, which, after all, once housed the infamous womanizer Giacomo Casanova within its walls when he was the Bow Street Magistrates’ Court, as well as Oscar Wilde , who has also written extensively on love.

While we’re talking history, it’s worth noting that the NoMad Hotel in Covent Garden is an outpost of the original New York City hotel. It opened in 2012 in the Beaux Arts building north of Madison Square Park and has become a beloved part of the city’s tapestry. It closed permanently in 2021, before being taken over by the members-only Ned’s Club in London. The NoMad in London, the hotel’s first outside the United States, is still listed under the Sydell Group, which originally owned the New York property.

The Atrium’s menu, crafted by Chef Ashley Abodeely, is as romantic as the setting intended. Caviar and oysters are among the aphrodisiac snacks, while lobster and burrata are even higher on the entree list. Ingredients like candied egg yolk, black truffle, strawberries, foie gras and chanterelles are peppered throughout the rest of the rather handsome menu. My glasses have been tinted pink since I walked (at least, in my mind) through the Atrium, and the menu tickled pink with excitement at me.

Small fried artichokes with mint and pistachio to start

(Kate Ng)

However, the wait staff tempers this enthusiasm slightly. I had heard legendary things about the Atrium’s impeccable service, and given where it was, I expected more of the same. But even the NoMad, with all its American influence, can’t escape the staffing shortages currently plaguing the hospitality industry. Call it bad luck, maybe. Maybe because of our seat in a dark corner, it was harder to get anyone’s attention. I don’t mind a bit of a wait between courses – often I appreciate the break in an otherwise heavy meal – but 25 minutes of waiting for someone to pick up our dessert order is unfortunately a bit too long.

The food is always delicious, with some dishes being more successful than others. We opt for the pan-fried artichokes with mint and pistachio and the smoked trout rillettes with dill, mustard pickles and a fragile pile of crisps to snack on while waiting for our starters. The rillettes are a triumph, so flavorful it makes my mouth water thinking about it, and I remember popping the little egg garnishes satisfyingly between my teeth.

I order a starter of sea bream marinated in melon, accompanied by cucumber and horseradish, which is incredibly fresh and which wakes you up with a start even when the room tries to lull you into catatonia. I loved this dish for its lightness and shine. Meanwhile, the burrata is a balancing act, in more ways than one. It arrives with a surprisingly large fried anchovy loaded with roasted tomatoes balanced on the round, creamy ball of cheese. Like a magic trick. So !

Strawberry Confit Suckling Pig is a welcome departure from the usual pork and apple pairing

(Kate Ng)

We enjoy pan-fried pollock and suckling pig confit with relish. The latter sparks interest with its inclusion of strawberries, which I think was a smart departure from the usual pairing of pork and apple. But it’s the inclusion of the tonka bean that intrigues us the most as it’s a very banned ingredient in the United States, where the hotel is from. I mean, they obviously didn’t open a whole new hotel and restaurant just to use the tonka bean – but the thought that they took the chance to use a very illegal ingredient back home in their first outpost at the foreigner is a thing that tickles me.

A romantic place with a romantic past, the Atrium is worth the detour. It is certainly very beautiful, and the cocktails are fantastic. Some elements of the dishes are forgettable, most dishes apart from the pig confit with strawberries being unsurprising and predictable for a restaurant of this genre. The desserts look more interesting than they actually are, and oddly very salty, a rather unpleasant flavor also noted by Jay Rayner in his review. But the Atrium is undeniably one of the classiest and most beautiful places in London and any romantic evening would be perfect.

28 Bow St, London, WC2E 7AW | 020 3906 1600 | thenomadhotel.com/london/restaurant