Nomad’s debut London opening in a former magistrates’ court and jail is a place where many would be happy to find themselves detained.
Only Londoners who fell foul of the law will be familiar with the imposing former magistrate’s court and police station in Covent Garden. Having been empty since 2006, the Grade-II listed Victorian building has now been given a new lease of life as the first Nomad hotel outside the US.
New York-based Sydell Group (also a partner in The Ned) teamed up with interior design studio Roman and Williams to reimagine the cavernous, once-gloomy complex of court rooms and holding cells (where the likes of Oscar Wilde and the Kray twins spent a few uneasy nights), while paying homage to its history. The end result is a 91-key affair that nods to Nomad’s New York roots without straying far from its London lodgings just off The Strand.
Greeting guests on arrival is a grand, dimly lit lounge filled with towering fiddle-leaf figs, banana palms and cheese plants. An enormous mahogany staircase leads up to the guest rooms. The suites are housed in the older part of the building and some overlook the Royal Opera House. Marble-mosaic bathrooms, angular, mouth-blown-glass chandeliers, plush armchairs with a custom damask by Lelièvre of Paris are some of the touches that combine art deco with art nouveau flourishes.
There’s also art everywhere, gracing every part of the hotel. These range from simple Schiele-esque sketches to undulating, Moore-inspired sculptures. The hotel also commissioned giant abstract expressionist paintings by Swiss artist Caroline Denervaud, (who, fun fact, dances while painting) to feature as part of its impressive 1,600-piece art collection.
The smaller rooms are just that: on the more compact end but they make up for this with plenty of natural light and little notes that mark the Nomad out. Open the minibar and find a bottle of the house-mixed negroni ready to kick-start the evening. But hold off on pouring another: the second glass is best enjoyed at one of the green banquettes in the downstairs bar and diner, Side Hustle. This used to be the police station, alluded to by several Martin Parr portraits depicting trusty British bobbies. Instead of harsh sentences, today it serves Los Angeles-style street-food and agave-focused cocktails, telling of chef Ashley Abodeely’s time spent on the US West Coast.
The pièce de résistance, and an incredible work of architecture, is the main restaurant. The old courtyard, where carriages would once pull up bearing prisoners, is now an Edwardian-style orangery with rows of creepers and climbing plants, and porcelain-tiled walls. Few hotels in London have a space so airy and cheerful – none combine it with a past as rich and macabre either. Taking over a former court, police station and jail takes some tact – the Nomad has done it justice.