The NoMad, as if you didn’t already know, is London’s hottest new hotel. Taking up residence in the old Bow Street magistrates court in Covent Garden, it sits opposite another stunning bit of London architecture: the Royal Opera House. The NoMad has been a long time coming; originally slated to open back in Autumn 2020, Covid caused delay after delay but finally it’s here in all its glory.
The main restaurant, the aptly named Atrium, has had a broadly positive response, so I was excited to taste the offering at the cool younger sibling, Side Hustle.
It takes its name, I presume, from a classic ‘side hustle’ – a money making scheme one undertakes on the side of a more respectable career. Think reselling sneakers at a 300% mark up or setting yourself up on Onlyfans; it’s a secondary source of income one usually doesn’t tell the taxman about until quitting the 9-5 and doing the more fun thing full time as a freelancer.
At first glance it seems the word ‘hustle’ might be appropriate as the vast majority of cocktails are priced at £16. For a ‘casual’ dining option, even in a 5-star hotel, this is just a little punchy.
Cocktails, however, are something of a centrepiece at Side Hustle. Headed up by star bar director Leo Robitschek of Eleven Madison Park, Make it Nice and NoMad New York fame, he’s this side of the pond to lead a handpicked team of bartenders. Together they’ve created an imaginative list which spans multiple Mexican mezcals, tequilas and agave with style. Under the advice of our waiter on the day (the service was genuinely excellent by the way) I chose a Pandan Negroni. Now, Negronis are a little sacred to me – they’re one of my favourite drinks of all time, so to muck around with additions like tequila, coconut water and pandan, well let’s just say I was dubious at the prospect. Fortunately I needn’t have worried as the resulting concoction was delicious, with a delicate coffee flavour on the finish, and a supreme balance of dry and bitter flavours. It really was a triumph. Their Margarita, on the other hand, was a little less impressive. Slightly lacking in the flavour department and, when it’s £16 a pop, that is a tough pill (and bill) to swallow.
there is a lot to like at Side Hustle and some real gems on the menu
Food-wise, Side Hustle has a distinct Mexican voice (despite its upscale, pub-inspired setting) and we started with the pork with tomatillo and avocado salsa. Its £15 for 4 x (let’s be honest, small) slices of belly and at that price, it has to be damn good. Fortunately for Side Hustle, it’s perfect. Fatty, juicy and with the crispiest of crispy skins perching on top, these little bites were devoured in an instant.
The requisite order of guacamole was tasty enough but didn’t set the world alight, and the chicharrones, whilst Christmas cracker in size, were a touch on the plain side.
Plain isn’t a word I would use to describe the prawn aguachile however. Glorious, joyous and unendingly moreish would be more fitting here. This dish really was the star of the show. The light, piquant flavour will be familiar to fans of classic Peruvian ceviche, but here the lime, pickled cucumber and radish all combined with excellent effect. The uniquely tender prawns bobbing gently in this liquor had a singular texture, incomparable to anything – when coupled with the deep crunch of the tortilla-like chips served on the side, this gave a profoundly pleasing texture.
I moved onto the pork taco where I revelled in the perfectly executed fat/meat ratio and loved that the portion sizes here, in both the tacos and the tostadas, were bigger than I anticipated.
The 3 tostadas on the menu were, in equal measure yet in their own way, delicious. The octopus iteration was served with potato for a pleasing double-decker-carb experience that would make Atkins quiver in fear. There was a creaminess, not just in the well-prepped and well-cooked cephalopod, but by a light, flavoursome Paprika rouille, that most decadent of seafood sauces, usually found in bouillabaisse but well apportioned here. The vegetarian tostadas option in the middle also packed a creamy punch, with a spiced aioli accompanying a thick slab of tomato and the beef short rib with avocado rounded out this tasty tostada trio.
I wish I could have sampled the churros and ice-cream sandwich, however theatre tickets awaited me and I’ve since been reliably informed that both are absolutely delicious.
So there is a lot to like at Side Hustle and some real gems on the menu. Yes, I wish the Margaritas were the kind that provide a heady vapour where drinking two or more leave you breathlessly intoxicated, but perhaps this casual sibling to the more dressed-up Atrium is in fact more grown up than first meets the eye.
28 Bow Street
by Mike Daw