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An evening at Nightjar, London

A few weeks ago I had the good fortune to visit Nightjar in Hoxton, which I’d heard a great deal about, and, spoiler alert, it was fantastic. Totally bizarre drinks, utterly bonkers presentation, but a great atmosphere and tons of fun.

Nightjar is a 2 minute walk from Old Street tube station, behind an unassuming door marked only by a picture of a nightjar bird. In contrast to our Cahoots experience, getting in with our reservation was a smooth experience, and we were waved down into a small, dark, elegant space with a lovely Art Deco-with-a-hint-of-Victoriana look. No standing is allowed at Nightjar, which makes for a very relaxed experience.

From what I knew about Nightjar, and from the slightly annoying online-only booking process, I was worried it would be pretentious, but nothing could be further from the truth once you get in. The waiters who brought our drinks were hilarious, very happy to explain everything at length, and gently pointed out with the arrival of each new (increasingly weird) drink what was edible in the presentation and what wasn’t – this was crucial.

Apologies for the dire photo quality (it was DARK), but hopefully you’ll get the general impression of what we had. I started out with an Astro Aku Aku, which listed Appleton VX and Kraken rums, velvet falernum, umeshu, apricot brandy, papaya purée, lime, and pimento bitters as its ingredients. I was hoping for something with an interesting presentation, and I was NOT disappointed, as it arrived in a giant bronze bird, sprouting various foliage from its back and with a raspberry stuck in its beak to prevent leaks. It was completely delicious as well, with a rich yet oddly refreshing taste of spiced cherries, not to mention absolutely enormous, the bronze bird having bucket-like proportions.

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Friends ordered some equally fascinating drinks, including what I think was a Beyond the Sea, which came with sea-flavoured foam, and a Tea in St. James, which came in a tea cup and tasted like a cookie.

We then moved on to some sharing cocktails, which were particularly dramatic in their arrival. The Yorkshire Punch arrived in another, even larger bronze bird – an owl this time, which was deposited on our table steaming furiously from the top and the bottom, and the Alchemist’s Brew, also steaming in a sizeable copper pot. The Yorkshire Punch featured Gin Mare, apple and rhubard, St. Germain, absinthe, berry liqueurs, lemon, Yorkshire tea, honey and ginger, and was poured into pretty teacups with the tea bags in. The Alchemist’s Brew, with Monkey Shoulder, a mix of rums, milk oolong chai, pineapple syrup, Ceylon Arrack, citrus, and quinoa water (?!). It was dispensed via the tap on the copper still-like business, and tasted like a delightful milk lollipop.

I finished with a Forager’s Shrub, which I was quite excited about. It arrived in another alchemical looking glass pot, also steaming violently, featuring The Botanist gin, Sauvignon Blanc, a ‘seasonal forager’s cordial,’ lemon, longan and jujube vinegars, and sugar. I thought that combination sounded amazing, but the table agreed that it tasted… unfortunate. I won’t share the exact words used by one companion, but suffice to say it was compared to something you wouldn’t ordinarily expect to taste in a cocktail bar.

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Despite the slightly…sour taste left by the Forager’s Shrub, we had a brilliant time at Nightjar overall – it’s obviously expensive (around £14 for a drink), but I think it’s worth it. The atmosphere was really lovely – very peaceful and laid back, which allows you to chat and focus on the drinks. We had a fairly early reservation (7ish) but I’d love to go back some time for the live music later in the evenings.

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