Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Out and about: The Nightjar

Before Christmas I made a couple of trips to The Nightjar, a hidden speakeasy near Old Street, for some girly cocktails and I thought I’d tell you about it here as one of my Out and About reviews.
When I say “hidden” I mean it. On my first visit I walked past it twice, around the block and back again looking for it. The flashing blue dot on my trusty iPhone told me I was right there, but yet there was no sign of it, and, in fact, no sign at all, to announce its location. Only on asking a man in a nearby newsagents did I find it when he gave me instructions to look at the “second door on the left”.
And there I found the sign, a small brass plaque on the innocuous wooden door.
Down a dark, poorly-lit flight of stairs (watch your step, I almost stacked it, twice!) you find a cute little bar with banquette seating, small round tables and stools and a piano in the corner.
There is a no standing policy and they advise booking to ensure a table (by email, not phone), and if there are no tables available you are turned away or given a time limit (i.e. until the table bookers arrive) in which to make use of an empty table.

However, even if you book a table, it doesn’t guarantee you much space, and definitely no privacy, so it’s best just to embrace the cosiness and chat to your neighbours. This is not the place for salacious gossip or intimate chats. On my first visit I learned that the couple next to us were not a couple – she intended to keep it that way, and he didn’t. Without wanting to go too off piste, it was like something out of a film. She thought that they were mates and the thought that they were to be lovers one day. A little bit of mid-week, pre-Christmas drinking had convinced her that their both being in the Old Street area could lead to a bit of Friends-with-Benefits action after a few more G&Ts. He was clearly already planning his romantic proposal and the name of their first child. He liked bourbon-based cocktails and she liked gin, but not doubles. Single measures only.
We bonded with him (when she was in the loo) over the tragic nature of his infatuation and with her (whilst he was outside smoking) over her new iPad cover.

On the next visit we learned that the couple next to us were on a first date, and that she was very, very likely to put out. They didn’t stick around long enough for us to chat to them. Obvs!
So, anyway, back to the venue. It’s decorated with a nod to the past, with mirrors, very low lighting and lots of dark wood.
The drinks menu is quite extensive, and a bit expensive in some cases (but I wouldn’t say over-priced), and full of some fantastic cocktails with beautiful names that arive looking like works of liquid art! Think metal and wooden straws, mini rum kegs and lots of curly raffia and fruity embellishments. It’s split in to Pre-Prohibition, Prohibition, Post war and Nightjar signature cocktails that are full of innovative, homemade and unusual ingredients relating specifically to that era. I worked my way through a few before settling on a favourite. Be warned, they are strong!

To combat the alcohol strength the, rather attentive, staff provide endless top ups to the free tumblers of water from beautiful water jugs filled with lemon grass, lime, cucumber and mint.
In terms of sustenance, in addition to the free popcorn (salted – bleurgh) we sampled the canapé boards the first time, and the bread and cold meat boards the second time. There was nothing haute cuisine here, but the food was tasty and plentiful and filled a hole.

On Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays they have live music, again with a vintage feel, and so charge a small fee for entry. Except on Wednesdays, when they let you listen for free. Bonus!
As always, I have to mention the loos. Here they were teeny-tiny and quite, erm, cosy (much like the bar itself) if more than one person pays a visit but they were clean, the hand towels were replenished (and thankfully not scattered all over the floor) and the matching soap and hand cream were good quality.
Seeing as this is only a ten second walk from Old Street (for getting there) and a ten minute walk to Liverpool Street (for home time) I think I’ll be returning quite a lot over the coming months, and I suggest you all try it as well.
Happy drinking!
See more Out and About reviews here:

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