In Three Words: Gorgeous, Fizzing, Opulent
The Lowdown: See those people heading into a nondescript black door on City Road? They don’t look like they’re going to an underground rave, or a meeting of a secret society – each are well-dressed with an air of excited anticipation about them. Move closer and you’ll see a simple silhouette of a bird marking the entrance – and thus you know you’ve found Nightjar.
Conceived by married team Rosie Stimpson and Edmund Weil, Nightjar was born from a love of the live music in New York and the heady buzz that comes from a Speakeasy. Although basement bars now seem to be popping up (or rather down) all over the place, this famous spot holds its own, and has the accolades to prove it’s at the top of its game. Only last year it was named third best bar on the planet at the World’s Best Bars awards, and it comes in second only to the theatrical Artesian as the place to drink in London.
Your Plus One: The friend who is obsessed with period dramas, Boardwalk Empire, or is a New York-ophile – they will be instantly smitten. Also any fans of live music will in their element as the bands take to the stage to put drinkers in the carousing mood.
The Decor: Old school glamour reigns supreme – the bar is a much-sought after spot to sit and watch the wonderfully clad bar staff whip up their magic, with its luxurious stools and glimmering glassware reminiscent of old Hollywood. Art deco touches swoop everywhere, mirrored and polished surfaces reflect glowing lamplight, there are nooks and crannies for the curio and decanter, and even the menus are stunning – peacock blue covers decorated with golden intricate line drawings of the famous bird.
Ambience: Nightjar encapsulates Prohibition opulence perfectly – all the fizz and fun of the jazz age, with more than hint of the Roaring Thirties abounding. The live music and inmate setting make it seems as if you’ve stumbled across a wonderful secret in Greenwich Village, while the table service and Grade A cocktails might bring out your inner movie-star, and you’ll wish you’d worn your fur or spats. When the band is playing and the cocktails are flowing then there’s a roguish charm in the air, channelling that speakeasy delirium to a T.
Cocktail Highlights: We were lucky enough to swing by on one of the special Woodford Reserve nights, where select cocktails are only £7 and there really is a showcase of the best of Bourbon. Our favourite was the Toronto – silky smooth Woodford combined with the toasted, nutty richness of coffee and pecan maple syrup, with a puff of orange blossom candy floss to accompany it. The Nightjar zombies are a thing of legend (only two per customer per visit, and it’s unlikely you’d ever need more than that!), while gin lovers have to try the Nightjar Signature ‘Beyond The Sea’ – containing, among other things, Gin Mare, oyster leaf infusion, yuzu bitters and plankton air.
Something to Soak Up the Booze: We loved the popcorn placed on each of the tables as a perfect nibbling accompaniment, but for those that want something more substantial then tapas is available. Ham Croquettes were crispy on the outside, sumptuously gooey in the centre, while cod tempura with wasabi mayonnaise had us singing the praises of the chef as well as the mixologists.
Burning a Hole? Cocktails are generally either £10 or £12 – pretty standard for a bar of this calibre (especially given the gorgeous location). Look out for the special Woodford nights when you can imbibe quality bourbon treats for only £7 each.
Come to Nightjar and you might find yourself wanting to never leave – descending those steps make the real world feel like a million miles away. The menu itself is a thing of beauty, both inside and out – libations are divided into era, that include Pre-Prohibition, Post-War and Signatures, and for such an extensive list the variety is astounding. The fact there’s also a cocktail glossary (including Irish Moss, Yumberries and Bee Pollen Syrup) prove that Nightjar are managing the fabulous feat of creating quality cocktails with unique twists.
Edmund and x have created a real gem – the atmosphere created is one of buzzing revelry, and it’s impossible to sit in Nightjar and not tap your feet, or feel a smile spreading over your features. Make sure to book, then wait in eager anticipation for an experience that will whisk you away to a different, altogether more exuberant, time and place.
129 City Road
Photo Credit: Paul Storrie