I’ve stayed twice in the past year at the NoMad Hotel in New York City, once as a guest of the property and once incognito as a paying coatomer. Both times I was impressed.
There are a lot of hotels in a lot of different styles and price points in New York, but the NoMad is pretty one of a kind, which is hard to do in such a crowded market (You can read some other recent stories about interesting NYC hotel options here at Forbes, including a local Big Apple chain stressing highly curated neighborhood flair; Downtown’s finest luxury hotel; an independent East Side luxury enclave that is one of the city’s best hidden gems; and a distinctively unique Theater District top pick).
For starters, the NoMad has a great location on Broadway in the Flatiron District, close to so many things of interest to visitors, including Chelsea, the Meatpacking District, the new Hudson Yards, Madison Square Park, Bryant Park, Greenwich Village and much more – it’s in the middle of a big ring of great walking distance neighborhoods, from midtown to downtown, east and west, all easily accessed.
But the really amazing accomplishment the NoMad pulls off is straddling so many niches and meeting so many different expectations. It is luxurious without being a typical luxury hotel, it’s a boutique property but still plays big and has everything a hotel should, it’s definitely a design hotel, but while this often means form over function, it also has large, warm and very user-friendly rooms. It’s hip without feeling off-putting to un-hip guests, and if food is your thing, it is a gastronomic superstar. If bars are your thing, you have definitely come to the right place.
The NoMad is not a traditional luxury hotel and lacks the excessive features (and prices) of 5-Stars like the Peninsula, Four Seasons and Mandarin tier, with a minimalist lobby, no concierge desk and a very innocuous entrance that can be off-putting for first timers, with little fanfare to announce itself and not even a place to pull up at the sidewalk in front of the lobby. But despite the subdued and anonymous entry, staff is omnipresent, quietly attentive and consistently friendly. Once you get in, it has the feel of your own personal haunt, a home away from home vibe that clearly resonates with a lot of repeat guests.
The NoMad put a lot of effort into its guest rooms via famous French interior designer Jacques Garcia, and they are not only distinctive but also large by New York City hotel standards, yet at very fair prices. A lot of hotel rooms look like hotel rooms, but the NoMad rooms look like NoMad rooms, designed to emulate classic Parisian apartments, but also reminiscent of a bygone time in the Big Apple, with white clawfoot tubs unusually sitting in plain sight in the living area, not the bathroom. Separate luxurious walk-in showers are hidden around corners, with high quality bath amenities and water pressure that made me envious. The polished wood floors are warm but uncommon in hotels, as are rooms divided by ornate fabric curtains and folding wall panels covered in upholstery. Rooms are very different, but all share the same European residential design of a grander time, and are comfortable and classy, with mini-bars custom-made out of vintage travel trunks and filled with craft beers.
There’s a low-key, understated approach, but they still use the best, equipping rooms with Frette robes, Argan toiletries and custom-made sheets and linens. Just as the NoMad does not push its hipness on guests in the usual haughty way, it also underplays it green credentials, and is quietly LEED Gold certified. Yet while it has very nice rooms, a great location and enthusiastic, helpful staff, the two most special things setting the NoMad New York apart are its food and beverage scene and its unique entertainment, both the results of prominent magicians.
The first I mean figuratively, as in the culinary magician Daniel Humm, a globally acclaimed star whose nearby flagship Eleven Madison Park has been rated the single best restaurant in the world (albeit by the controversial and sometimes off base World’s 50 Best Restaurants list). Humm created a toned down but still quite high-end take on Eleven Madison Park cuisine here at the NoMad Restaurant, and since it opened seven years ago it has been widely acclaimed as one of the city’s top hotel eateries, known for its signature roast chicken for two, a foot-on Amish bird with beautifully butter brushed and browned skin underneath which is stuffed a combo of brioche, foie gras and truffles. It’s been on the menu since the hotel and restaurant opened in 2012, is the dish many gastronomes come for, and was named one of the nation’s 100 most iconic meals.
The restaurant sprawls across a few dining rooms, and some are surprisingly crowded and not that pleasant to eat in – especially at these prices – and similarly, hotel guests can feel crowded out of the multiple bar venues by after work outsiders who love the place to death. But the food is fantastic, as is the service, and the antique laden décor is gorgeous. There are a couple of different bars with a craft cocktail focus, and some more gracious hidden dining enclaves, including a library and take on an indoor atrium, and by any standards, for a hotel this size the food and beverage operation is stunning. On my most recent visit I had breakfast in the restaurant and left kicking myself that I had not done this earlier. It is one thing to make fancy entrees with fancy ingredients, it is quite anther accomplishment to elevate a simple plate of fried eggs, sausage, toast and potatoes – a diner-type meal served at thousands of other venues – into one of the best I’ve ever had, and I was stunned by just how perfect this plate looked and tasted.
The second magical element I mean more literally, in the form of headliner Dan White, star of The Magician at the NoMad. I wrote earlier here at Forbes about how live magic, once a mainstay of American entertainment in the Houdini era, is making a big comeback, and this is perhaps the best example. It’s also a remarkably hidden secret – except to the many in the know. Many New York acquaintances of mine tell me they have never heard of it, have no idea it is going on, yet practically every performance sells out and just about everyone who attends leaves exhilarated. I’ve been twice, and it is an awesome show. It is also a show unlike anything else put on by any other hotel, and even the sister NoMad properties in Los Angeles and Las Vegas do not have this magnificent novelty. You do not have to stay at the NoMad to see it, but they do have a ticket allocation for guests, and it’s certainly a tipping point when choosing where to stay in the city. I cannot recommend the show enough.
White’s three-year old act is to magic what the speakeasy is to bars, hidden away and more desirable as a result. It runs on weekends (Thursday through Saturday, two shows nightly) for a small and intimate audience of just 56, with lots of close-up tricks. It is set up in a small cabaret-style theater (Upstairs at the NoMad), with seats flanking little tables for two with craft cocktails and snacks available. Tickets are sold only in pairs, they go on sale at the show’s website at exactly 10 AM EST roughly a month before the performance dates, and according to the site, often sell out within 10 seconds. So, getting tickets to see The Magician at the MoMad may be the greatest sleight of hand of all, but from food to lodging, the hotel has a lot of great tricks up its sleeve.