There’s a joke among my friends that whenever we get together, the night always starts with chips and dip. They’re easy, they’re tasty, they’re the perfect at-home dish. They’re certainly not what I was expecting to find at the boujee NoMad hotel.
You’ve probably seen the stunning spot on Instagram, with visuals of its flora-filled conservatory restaurant doing the rounds when it opened back in 2021. For me, though, it’s the cocktail bars that are really worth a visit. It seems that the hospitality scene agrees, with Mexican-inspired venue Side Hustle recently named as one of the best bars in the world by industry body 50 Best Bars.
Skipping the infamous conservatory and entering through a discreet side door, we made our way to the buzzing bar where high ceilings and low lighting met to create a vibrant, yet lowkey atmospgere. The hotel has taken over the space which was once a 19th century court and police station, so the place shouts grandeur, but with a modern feel.
As Mac Miller blended into Steve Monite, we were greeted with a couple of tequila shots (from £14 each) – served with citrus sal de gusano and a choice of Mexican chasers in the form of sangrita or verdita. Smooth and spicy with slices of fruit to soften the blow, this is the kinda shot that I can get behind. First up on the cocktail front was the mellow Santana-inspired Oye Como Va (£15) – combining manzanilla sherry and Lillet with cantaloupe melon, dill, pineapple shrub. My husband’s Fresa y Cerveza (£16) leaned into beer, with Two Tribes Tokyo IPA lifted by Dolin blanc vermouth, strawberry vinegar, tarragon and lemon. Combinations that I’d never dream of mixing at home, but were elevated flawlessly.
One thing I like about Side Hustle is the design; I’m talking big bulb lighting; a glowing back bar; unsightly screens built into counters; the bar itself perched high enough so you can just about make out the bartenders meticulously cutting and branding ice, but aren’t distracted until they want you to see the stunning cocktails placed on the bartop. Then there’s the food, with dips coming in the form of avocado with English peas and salsa roja (£10), super creamy pistachio and mint (£12) and a mouth-wateringly tangy pipian (£10) that incorporated pumpkin seeds and red pepper for a reddish blend that was topped with roasted tomatoes and served with moreish nachos. How will my mates ever come back from this?
Snacks came in fast and hot, with small but mighty Scottish oysters (£22) finessed by clamato granita and a sliver of jalapeño. A big highlight - chunks of yellowtail ceviche (£16) were sprinkled with popped corn in a milky sauce, plus a side of plantain which we hoarded for the dips. Among the best tacos I’ve had in London, this collection was a real treat. Choices include cauliflower (£6), pork £7) and prawn (£7), with the latter encased in a light, airy batter, drizzled with a punchy sauce, and topped with pickled onion to cut through. Oof.
As a whisky fiend, my drinking date couldn’t resist the Detox Retox (£18). Offsetting creamy Chivas Regal Mizunara Scotch with the sweetness from Diplomático Reserva rum, pineapple and coconut, it was the perfect combination. It would be rude not to finish on a tequila tipple, so it was a Jo Meloni (£17) for me. Elyx vodka, Tapatio reposado tequila and Cocchi Americano came together with melon, sencha, coconut and shiso to hit the spot.
The DesignMyNight Digest
The drinks at Side Hustle might seem on the spenny side, but with most London hotels charging the same (if not more) these days, this NoMad watering hole can command the price point. A must for sexy date nights in the city, or a lowkey catch up with friends, this is one for those of you who are after top tier tipples and food that goes far beyond the average bar snack.
💰 The damage: around £150 for a meal, drinks and shots for two.
📍 The location: NoMad London, 28 Bow Street, WC2E 7AW.
👌 Perfect for: treating yourself.
⭐ Need to know: make sure you visit the hidden cocktail bar and live music joint, Common Decency, downstairs - it feels more old-school but equally as cool.