Scoff London

Being next to a Chicken Cottage but that doesn't stop Nightjar being one the best bars on the planet

Nightjar is a hidden, underground speakeasy just off the Old Street roundabout with only a small doorway giving a clue to its existence. Luckily, because it’s widely recognised as one of the World’s best bars it was easy to find out more about it, however for the same reason, getting in was tricky!

Nightjar has music on most nights and runs on table service. There are two booking slots – Pre-music from 18:00 – 18.45 giving you a table for two hours and Music slots from 20:00 – 21:00, which are open-ended. Once you’re in, you’re in (music starts at 21:30) but it’s popular… very popular, so if you want to see the band so you’ll need to book well in advance.

The Lapazoos, a cool three piece playing a mix of jazz, blues and swing were the band on tonight and we had good seats directly opposite the stage at the back of the room. Nightjar offer a Spanish influenced bar food menu but we were here for the cocktails and music. The cocktail menu is the most extensive I’ve seen anywhere and contains every ingredient you can think of as well as many you’ve never heard. It’s good value and is split in to four sections:

  • Pre-prohibition: 1600-1918
    Ancient recipes as well as early classics from the likes of iconic bartenders Jerry Thomas and Harry Johnson. Expect an eclectic mix of fruity flavours, creamy textures and some stronger, drier drinks.
  • Prohibition: 1918-1932
    Serious cocktails from a desperate time. Mostly short, strong, and aromatic. Not for the faint hearted!
  • Post-war: 1940-2000
    Encompassing our twists on some latter-day classics form the tiki age of the 30s and 40s up to the cocktail renaissance of the new millennium. We are confident that our versions will surprise you.
  • Nightjar signatures
    All are original creations from the Nightjar team, containing infusions, liqueurs or bitters created in-house.

We had a chat to our lovely server, who despite only working at Nightar for a few months had a very good knowledge of the menu and settled on a Barrel Aged Zombie (£12) – Bacardi 8 Year Rum, Santa Teresa Claro, Wray & Nephew Overproof, Kraken Dark Rum, La Clandestine Absinthe, Aprocot Brandy, Maraschino, Mamajuana, Pineapple, Lime, Tamarind Soda and a Pit Cairn Punch (£10) – Cardhu 12 Single Malt, Tanqueray Gin, Durian & Jackfruit, Noilly Ambre, Honey, Berry Jam, Tamarind Soda.

The Barrel Aged Zombie is great value given the amount of booze in it and comes with a thick slice of cake on top, soaked in Wray & Nephew Overproof Rum. Now, the only time I’ve had Wray & Nephew is in Spoons, for a laugh because it’s 63% so I wasn’t expecting to see it on the menu here. The cake was unbelievably strong on it’s own but worked well with the rest of the ingredients in the drink (which really does come in a barrel) and by the time you get half way down the harsh alcohol edge pretty much disappears.

The Pit Cairn Punch came in a very cool blue tin mug and was topped a couple of sprigs of rosemary and a smouldering pine cone, partly for effect and partly to infuse a hint of smoke in to the drink. It was too dark to take any decent photos but as you can see from the images below, presentation is both important and impressive here.

For our second round of drinks we had a Waldorf Gloom Lifter (£10) – Auchentoshan 3-Wood Scotch Whisky, Vsop Armagnac, Nightjar Grenadine, Beeswax, Lemon, Constitution Bitters and the Name of the Samurai (£10) – Nikka Whisky From The Barrel, Fresh Squeezed Lime, Akashi Tai Sake, Ume PLum & Galangal Infusion, Mirin & Rice Syrup, Burnt Lavender. The Name of the Samurai came in a Japanese stone tea cup on a small wooden box full of smoking lavender – it looked as good as it tasted.

Nightjar, EC1

Arrack Julab (photo by Dan Malpass)

Nightjar, EC1

Bloody Mary (photo by Dan Malpass)

Nightjar, EC1

Commodore (photo by Dan Malpass)

Nightjar, EC1

Mare Nostrum (photo by Dan Malpass)

Nightjar, EC1

Photo by Paul Storrie

Nightjar, EC1

Photo by Max Oppenheim

Nightjar, EC1

Photo by Max Oppenheim

Nightjar, EC1

Photo by Paul Storrie

Nightjar, EC1

Photo by Rebecca LIttle

Summing Up

The Nightjar bar staff are alchemists, the drinks have a sense of theatre, the service was top drawer, the atmosphere is laid back, the venue is gorgeous and you feel like you’re somewhere special. The only issue I have is that it’s very hard to get a table on a Friday or Saturday night, but that’s purely down to Nightjar not wanting to overcrowd the space and because it really is that good.

It’s a great place for a special occasion, but given that the pricing is very reasonable you can afford to go here as often as your wallet will allow. There won’t be a table available though…

The Order (2ppl)

Cover Charge x 2 £5.00 each
Barrel Aged Zombie £12.00
Pit Cairn Punch £10.00
Waldorf Gloom Lifter £10.00
Name of the Samurai £10.00
Total £52.00
Per person £26.00

About the author


75 reviews

Founder of Scoff London, co-founder of Eat My World and in to all things foodie, Gary has eaten 13 meals in one day, a tarantula, a scorpion, the world's hottest chilli and most expensive soup.

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