129 City Road
Britta Jaschinski / Time Out
Time Out rating:
Time Out says
Thu Jul 14 2011
On City Road, about 25 metres from the roundabout beneath which the Old Street tube labyrinth winds, you’ll discover a door. It’s positioned between a café that begins with a ‘c’ and a cafeteria which is, for whatever reason, spelled with a ‘k’.
Behind this central door and down the stairs is Nightjar, a cocktail bar and music venue which stays open late and leads with live jazz and debonair drinking. With its inconspicuous entrance, a distant, doubting doorman and underground subterranean setting, it’s a stylised stab at a Shoreditch speakeasy but, like all efforts to refabricate illicit bars from the era of Prohibition, it’s more faux than phwoarr.
First and foremost, the cocktails here are excellent and original. In a genuine speakeasy, drinks were dirt cheap, laced with illegal moonshine made by ne’er-do-wells and likely to make you go blind. That, thankfully, doesn’t happen here.
A gifted bunch of bartenders have compiled a well-crafted list featuring liquid legacies from cocktail’s golden era and pre-Prohibition drinks incorporating homemade infusions and liqueurs and bitters. They take time to make the drinks but, once brought to your table by (maybe overly) meticulous staff and accompanied by an array of canapés, they both look and taste the business.
The BBC, made with calvados and Becherovka cordial, is served with ‘absinthe smoke’, while misty ‘dry ice’ vapours add allure to the Fog Cutter, an alcoholic orgy of rum, sherry, gin and Cognac. Even more experimental is the Aged Pina Colada. The bartenders have created the tiki classic and laid it down in Limousin oak barrels, where it’s languidly matured for a few months.
Compared with its scruffy Shoreditch neighbours, it’s a dapper, dusky place to drink. Seeing as it’s a speakeasy, it’s a bit mock-Manhattan; a trio of open-plan areas go big on brass, black leather booths and dark wood beneath the standard tin-panelled ceiling – it’s all ideal for late night canoodling. The big mirrored murals are a nice touch but, on closer inspection, some of the finishes and fittings look a little flimsy.
On Friday nights, DJs play retro tunes and a raised platform provides the stage for regular live music including cabaret, swing, jazz, blues and ragtime. Live performances are planned for Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, when a small cover charge is added to the bill.
Nightjar 129 City Road
020 7253 4101
- Opening hours:
Open 6pm-1am Mon-Wed, Sun; 6pm-3am Thur-Sat
Tube: Old Street tube/rail
- 129 City Road
- 020 7253 4101
- 129 City Road
Food and drink
Eating and drinking facilities. Restaurant and bar facilities. Reservations required. Accessible facilities. Entertainment facilities. Entertainment
Drinks. Cocktails. Late night