“I think of myself as more of a producer than a director,” says Andrew Zobler, CEO of the Sydell Group, while standing in the NoMad Hotel that his team is opening this month. “I want to create a business based on collaboration. It’s not about me, it’s about the people around me and bringing great talents together.”
The 168-room hotel is a few blocks north of Manhattan’s Madison Square Park – in the heart of the newly branded NoMad district. Zobler is pragmatic about the draw held by a fashionable location. “I try to be restrained about my opinions and let people do what they do. It helps attract really good people to come and work with us.”
While the NoMad may be the first property with his name on it (before founding the Sydell Group, he was a partner at André Balazs Properties and headed up acquisitions for the Starwood Group), Zobler’s emphasis on collaboration runs across the 12-storey property.
For the NoMad’s design, the Sydell Group teamed up with Jacques Garcia to bring the Parisian feel of the building’s restored, Haussmann-like façade into the interiors. As Zobler and Jake Lamstein (Sydell’s VP of East Coast Development) take Monocle around the hotel, they pick out details like an armchair that they had originally spotted in a photo from Garcia’s first apartment, floors they sourced from a 1903 factory in Atlanta (it was the closest they could find to the NoMad building’s 1905 date) and a 200-year-old spiral staircase shipped from the south of France.
“We encouraged Garcia to go back to his roots and do something more youthful and relaxed. We want people to come here and have a quality experience but not feel that things are too precious for them to touch,” says Zobler. “Romance is an important word for us that’s missing in a lot of New York hotels.”
The Parisian experience is continued at street level. The huge, window-lined ground floor retail space on the corner of Broadway and 28th Street will be home to the first Kitsuné shop outside Paris, adding another retail destination to the neighbourhood, now home to Opening Ceremony and Project No 8 – housed a block away at the Ace. But, as Zobler is quick to point out, even the NoMad’s shop is about people working together. “Alongside Kitsuné, we’ll have a store from Canadian brand WANT Les Essentiels de la Vie as well as a little newsstand and sundry shop for guests. All intertwined in the same open space.”
Perhaps the most significant partnership at the NoMad is between the hotel and its restaurant. Shunning the modern American model of a hotel housing a separately branded restaurant, the NoMad is embracing the food experience as a core of the hotel’s identity. At the root of this is the collaboration between Zobler and Daniel Humm and Will Guidara – the chef and general manager behind Eleven Madison Park, one of New York’s most lauded restaurants and just a stone’s throw from the hotel. “It’s a really exciting venture,” says Guidara. “If this had been a normal hotel, I don’t think we would have been inclined to do it. You’re not walking through the lobby to get to our restaurant, you’re walking into the NoMad, which is one unified experience.”
Most of the dining spaces are on the hotel’s ground floor (during summer, the roof will also be opened up). The main dining room, intimate bar area and light-filled atrium breakfast room all flow into each other. At the centre of the space is a small kitchen, highlighting the fact that food is core to guests’ experiences at the NoMad.
“When guests come down in the morning, they’ll smell bread baking. And when they return in the afternoon, there might be a chicken roasting. We’ve seen restaurants in hotel that feel too sterile; you feel like you’re eating in a hotel lobby,” Guidara says. “There’s no tension between the hotel and the restaurant at the NoMad. Instead there’s the ability to provide something really spectacular because everybody’s part of the same team.”
Daniel Humm & Will Guidara
Chef Daniel Humm and restaurateur Will Guidara have spent the last five years turning Eleven Madison Park into one of New York’s best restaurants. While dining there takes over three hours for a tasting menu, guests at the NoMad will be able to order à la carte or from a shorter, five-course tasting menu. In the bar, too, food has been conveniently designed to be bitesize. “The food is going to be our food but with fewer steps,” says Humm. “Because we might have a guest staying for a week at the hotel, there will be more time to make the experience special. We can be more creative in areas such as breakfast, room service and a late night menu. But the food will have the same inspiration as at Eleven Madison Park – we’re not working with a different palate.”