Looking for places to drink in East London? Read our review of Nightjar, a slick, intimate speakeasy bar in Shoreditch
Nightjar in a nutshell: A sleek, subterranean cocktail den with a fine line in thoughtfully crafted, potent cocktails.
Where is it? A two-minute walk from Old Street underground station.
What’s the vibe? Busy City Road in Shoreditch seems an unlikely setting for a stylish speakeasy-style bar but that’s exactly where you’ll find Nightjar. On the outside, a tall wooden door sandwiched between two cafés is the only evidence of its existence, but go inside and discover a plush space replete with candlelit tables, leather banquette seating and flatteringly dim lighting. It’s table service only, and staff are assured and knowledgeable.
What’s the drinks menu like? The bar’s characteristically detailed drinks menu riffs on old cocktail recipes (ranging from the pre-prohibition to post-war periods) but adds its own twist. Its latest iteration, launched this summer, uses the Arts & Crafts decorative movement as inspiration, with ornate, embellished glassware and intricate garnishes.
Which cocktails to order? Start with the Poet’s Dream, a martini-like concoction of Tarquin’s gin, hemp leaf vermouth, yarrow and grain of selim (a type of African pepper). Clear, crystalline and bone dry, it’s an ideal aperitif. Click here for more martini recipes.
The Honeymoon came in a round, black ox-bone bowl modelled on a quaich, a traditional vessel used by Celtic brides and grooms to share a sip of whisky during the marriage ceremony. A short, fresh yet punchy blend of Glenfiddich 12-year-old whisky, Nightjar’s ‘forbidden fruit liqueur’ (a mix of citrussy pomelo, sherry and dry vermouth), artichoke honey wine, lemon and geranium leaf, it was a complex drink, dry and delicately smoky, with subtle honey and aniseed notes. Read our whisky guide here.
Is there any food? There’s a pithy roster of bar snacks and sharing plates, from ham croquettes and bourbon BBQ chicken wings to smoky veggie burgers and soft-shell crab in a brioche bun.
Anything else? There’s live jazz and blues performances most evenings.
Where to go nearby for dinner: Hop over the roundabout to Niall Davidson’s Irish open-fire restaurant Nuala (read our full review here). Or a 10-minute walk takes you to Leroy for pared-back sharing plates and great wine.
Insider tip: Drink nerds should investigate the bar’s vintage spirits menu, which is full of rare, aged spirits dating from the late 19th to early 20th centuries. If you’d like to continue the speakeasy vibe, head to sister bar Oriole in Farringdon (read our review here).
Price: From £12 for a cocktail.