If there’s a more gorgeous dining room out there than that of the Atrium in the NoMad Hotel, I’m yet to find it. The soaring glass ceiling immediately lifts the eye up towards the heavens. Then, as you lower your gaze down the three-storey atrium, you’re treated to a visual feast: cascading foliage framing pale green columns, which give way to marble doorways and panelled mirrors. Olive-toned velvet couches are contrasted with squashy pink throw pillows and napkins. Sink into them while frosted glass lanterns float above you, the ultra-soft lighting making you feel like you could fall asleep at any moment.
It is slightly too dark – although not quite dark enough that you must suffer the indignity of turning your phone’s torch on (Smoking Goat, I’m looking at you). Because I am a fan of romanticising everything, I choose to describe this gloominess as “mood lighting”. Apparently, so do the dozens of other couples that are here, flirting over their tiny tea lights. Love is in the air in this very romantic venue, which, after all, once held infamous womaniser Giacomo Casanova within its walls when it used to be the Bow Street Magistrate’s Court, as well as Oscar Wilde, who also wrote extensively about love.
While we’re on the topic of history, it’s worth noting that the NoMad Hotel in Covent Garden is an outpost of the original New York City hotel. It first opened in 2012 in the Beaux Arts building, north of Madison Square Park, and became a beloved part of the city’s tapestry. It closed permanently in 2021, before it was taken over by London’s member’s-only Ned’s Club. The NoMad in London, the hotel’s first outside of the US, is still listed under the Sydell Group, which originally owned the NYC establishment.
The menu at the Atrium, developed by chef Ashley Abodeely, is as romantic as you might expect for the setting. Caviar and oysters feature among aphrodisiac-fuelled snacks, while lobster and burrata sexy up the starters list even further. Ingredients like confit egg yolk, black truffle, strawberries, foie gras, and chanterelles are peppered throughout the rest of the rather handsome menu. My glasses have been tinted rose ever since I sauntered (at least, in my mind) into the Atrium, and the menu left me tickled pink with enthusiasm.
Slightly tempering that enthusiasm, however, is the wait staff. I’d heard legendary things about the Atrium’s impeccable service and, considering where it was, expected more of the same. But not even the NoMad, with all its American influence, can escape the staff shortage currently plaguing the hospitality industry. Call it bad luck, perhaps. Maybe due to our dark corner seat, it was harder to get anyone’s attention. I don’t mind waiting a short while between dishes – often I welcome the pause in an otherwise heavy meal – but a 25-minute wait for someone to come and get our dessert order is, unfortunately, a bit too long.
The food is still wonderful, with some dishes hitting the spot more than others. We opt for baby artichokes fried with mint and pistachio and the smoked trout rillettes with dill, pickled mustard and a fragile stack of potato crisps to snack on while waiting for our starters. The rillettes is a triumph, so savoury it makes my mouth water to think about them, and I remember popping the little garnishings of roe satisfyingly between my teeth.
I order a starter of sea bream cured with melon, alongside cucumber and horseradish, which is incredibly fresh and wakes you with a start even when the room tries to lull you into catatonia. I loved this dish for its lightness and brilliance in flavour. Meanwhile, the burrata is a balancing act, in more ways than one. It arrives with a surprisingly large fried anchovy loaded with roasted tomato balancing on top of the round creamy cheese ball. Like a magic trick. Voila!
We tuck into the pan-roasted pollock and suckling pig confit with relish. The latter piques interest with its inclusion of strawberries, which I thought was a clever departure from the usual pairing of pork with apple. But it’s the inclusion of tonka bean that we find most intriguing because it’s an ingredient that is very much banned in the US, where the hotel hails from. I mean, they obviously did not open a whole new hotel and restaurant just to use tonka bean – but the thought that they grabbed the chance to use a very illegal ingredient at home in their first outpost overseas is one that tickles me.
A romantic venue with a romantic past, the Atrium is worth a visit. It’s certainly very beautiful, and the cocktails are fantastic. Some elements of the dishes are forgettable, with most of the mains apart from the confit pig with strawberries being unsurprising and predictable for a restaurant of this genre. The desserts appear more interesting than they really are, and strangely very salty, a rather unpleasurable flavour also picked up by Jay Rayner in his review. But the Atrium is undeniably one of the most classy, beautiful places in London and any date night here would go swimmingly.
28 Bow St, London, WC2E 7AW | 020 3906 1600 | thenomadhotel.com/london/restaurant