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Professor Plum, in the Library

Reading at the NoMad Hotel’s Library Bar
  • The-NoMad-Hotel

    The Library at the NoMad Hotel

  • The-NoMad-Hotel

    Searching the stacks

  • The-NoMad-Hotel

    An unpeopled moment at the Library

  • The-NoMad-Hotel

    Reading chairs; bar snacks

  • The-NoMad-Hotel

    The Start Me Up cocktail; the Sunday afternoon crowd

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    Early evening at the Library

CHEAT SHEET
WHERE

On the Atlantic coast, where the Hudson and East rivers meet the sea.

WHY GO

This is one of just a handful of cities with a genuine shot at the title of Capital of the World. If it isn’t happening in New York, it isn’t happening.

HOW

It’s practically impossible to avoid — all roads, rails and flight paths in the eastern U.S. seem to lead to New York.

TABLET TIP

Try to see the city’s much-vaunted attitude as a positive rather than a negative. Rarely will a New Yorker leave you wondering what he really thinks.

New York, January, 2013

This was supposed to go differently. Settling in with a good book at the Library, the popular bar-behind-the-bar-behind-the-restaurant at New York’s NoMad Hotel, was meant to be an exercise in absurdity, the kind of absurdity that results when one pretends to take at face value the high-concept theme of the hidden-away cocktail lounge at one of the city’s most thoroughly stylized hotels. Who goes to a bar — a frankly fancy hotel bar, no less, one that plays host to a nightly pageant of the beautiful and beautifully dressed — in order to make some headway on the latest Murakami tome?

The thing is, NoMad’s Library Bar turns out to be a delightful place to read — if you go at the right time. On a recent winter Sunday afternoon, there were about as many patrons as you’d likely find in a back room at your local public library branch, a handful or two. The next day, as lunchtime began and the adjacent restaurant steadily filled with diners — it’s one of the city’s most written-about new restaurants, where you can order an already-famous chicken with foie gras and black truffles tucked under the skin — the Library hosted a party of one: a guy occupying a sofa in a nook meant for four, sipping a cocktail and reading his copy of 1Q84.

To be clear, it really is a proper library, not a bar with a half-assed library theme but a dark and lofty room with thousands of books on built-in shelves, spanning three walls from floor to two-story ceiling. Dark wood floorboards are covered in slightly threadbare carpets, the sofas and chairs upholstered with velvet, lamplight cast onto the reading tables, voices sufficiently hushed that you can hear the rumpling of a newspaper when someone turns a page.

But it’s a library with table-service — that is, it’s still a bar, and a damn good one. The cocktails ($15) are invented by alums of Eleven Madison Park and Death & Co., contenders for New York’s top restaurant and cocktail bar, respectively. Start with the Start Me Up (whiskey, rum, lemon, spiced ginger syrup and Strega, served over an enormous ice cube) and you’ll have a hard time ordering anything but another one; it’s perfect. Bar snacks come from the same Daniel Humm kitchen as the restaurant, though the menu is limited to the quick-to-make items like warm sweet potato–studded flatbread (satisfying and unostentatious) and confection-colored crudité with chive cream (better looking than eating). Best is a ham sandwich with oozy gruyere on a soft baguette-shaped beer pretzel. If that pretzel contains the tiniest bit of irony, it doesn’t make it any less satisfying.

Mike Parker

The NoMad Hotel, by the acclaimed Parisian designer Jacques Garcia, is a finalist in our Tablet 10: Best of 2012 contest. For an old-world, uptown hotel with some literary bonafides of its own, check out the Carlyle, an art-deco classic where Ludwig Bemelmans, author of the Madeline books, exchanged his whimsical bar-wall murals for a year-and-a-half-long stay.

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CHEAT SHEET
WHERE

On the Atlantic coast, where the Hudson and East rivers meet the sea.

WHY GO

This is one of just a handful of cities with a genuine shot at the title of Capital of the World. If it isn’t happening in New York, it isn’t happening.

HOW

It’s practically impossible to avoid — all roads, rails and flight paths in the eastern U.S. seem to lead to New York.

TABLET TIP

Try to see the city’s much-vaunted attitude as a positive rather than a negative. Rarely will a New Yorker leave you wondering what he really thinks.

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