8. Atrium Bar, Nomad London, Covent Garden
A sexy, confident arrival for a show-stopping hit of New York pizzazz
There aren¡¯t that many bars with their own cocktail books. The Savoy has one, of course, written in 1930 and awash with flips and rickeys and slings of all shades; so has the Caf¨¦ Royal, published a few years later and championing novel creations such as the Old Fashioned. But a favourite recent one is The NoMad Cocktail Book, a green-tinged tome written by the hotel group¡¯s bar guru Leo Robitschek. When it opened in 2012, the NoMad New York¡¯s Elephant Bar quickly became one of those era-defining places that everyone wanted to be seen at ¨C had Instagram been the force it is now, the bar¡¯s Dirty Martinis would have gone viral. So there¡¯s been a helluva lot of excitement over the arrival of NoMad London, right opposite the Royal Opera House.
It¡¯s a properly New York-style hotel in the heart of the city, with a sense of theatre, and the bars to match. The pubby, leather-clad Side Hustle has its own street entrance and works as a standalone space for tacos, beers and cocktails that lean heavily into Mexican spirits, just the place for an after-work pick-me-up ¨C or sharing the infamous two-foot-tall punch jars. And drinks are served amid the bookcases of The Library off the lobby. The Atrium bar, though, is tucked away below the spiral staircase, a curvaceous Deco-glam creation with pink tasselled bar stools, which looks out onto the restaurant and its three-storey atrium. Of course, many people will stop by here on their way to their tables, but this is a destination in its own right.
The Atrium¡¯s list has several favourite NoMad cocktails, tried and tested over the years ¨C the Walter Gibson twists the classic with Viognier and pear eau de vie, and pickled vegetables on the side; Hot Lips is a Margarita-style kiss of tequila and mezcal with jalape?o. But there are several classic names here too ¨C that Dirty Martini is a salty kick served from the bottle, with white balsamic and several vermouths in the mix; the Espresso Martini adds whey and aquavit to cold-brew caffeine ¨C and bespoke creations too. We had the tall Dolittle, a fruity summer concoction of vodka and sherry, and the Gentleman¡¯s Exchange, a bold, Manhattan-esque drink with rye, vermouth, Suze and amaro with a Rubik¡¯s Cube-sized hunk of ice, that transported us to Broadway. Look out for the beer cocktails, too, which bar director Pietro Collina ¨C who contributed many recipes to Robitschek¡¯s book ¨C has developed with King¡¯s Cross brewery Two Tribes. The bar works closely with the restaurant over ingredients ¨C partly to avoid food waste, partly for a little synchronicity. Collina says he wants this bar to rock some New York attitude: the sort of place you walk in by yourself, pull up a bar stool and make new friends by the end of the evening.
There¡¯s a short bar menu with crispy-skinned fried chicken and pea hummus and flatbreads among other bites, as well as the NoMad hotdog, a wondrous beast in a toasted brioche bun. If you like, you can order anything from the restaurant menu here ¨C diver-scallops bouillabaisse, perhaps, or wild-garlic rigatoni.
When New York NoMad¡¯s bar opened in 2012, London was still playing catch-up with its cocktail scene, but now the two cities are evenly matched. Here¡¯s an evocative snapshot of both worlds. Rick Jordan
Address: Atrium Bar, NoMad London, 28 Bow Street, London WC2E 7AW