Bars and pubs in Clerkenwell
This is the second time I’ve found myself twitching on the RSPB’s website. But it had to be done because the team behind celebrated City cocktail spot Nightjar (as in the squat, nocturnal songbird) have gone and opened another avian-named bar, this one in Smithfield. This particular species is an enigmatic creature with exotic green and yellow plumage, so we’re in no doubt: Oriole is Nightjar’s showy little sister. Oriole bears some of the same ‘speakeasy’ hallmarks. It’s already impossible to get a table at short notice and we were held at the door until radioed in, when a golden curtain was pulled back to reveal a darkened staircase. It is a lovely curtain, though. And there is a certain theatricality to entering this beauty of a basement bar. Flashes of on-theme jade and gold in leather and fur furnishings punctuate the room, while a stunning print of a tropical, palm-tree-covered landscape adorns one of the walls. Naturally, a drink here comes at quite a cost. There’s a cover charge for jazz – dearer than it is at Nightjar and harder to avoid, since the music here kicks off at 8.30pm (though it is free on Monday and Tuesday). We also found fault with the bar food: a tempting menu shows promise, but black truffle croquettes (£5) had a sad, gloopy texture and sea bass ceviche (£6.50) lacked depth of flavour. But, of course, you come here for the drinks – and they are so on the money, with cocktails as creative as any you’ll find in London. They’re set out across three
The old red cow herself, if she wasn’t apocryphal, probably didn’t have a pleasant visit to this pub’s manor – Long Lane was an ancient cattle route to Smithfield meat market. You can see the cupolas, domes and reliefs of London’s temple of butchery through the front windows of this refurbed Victorian site, which no longer uses its antique ‘Ye Olde’ prefix and has turned its focus to serving very good beer.
Pristine mosaic tiling and etched glass scream ‘sensitive refurbishment’ from the moment you arrive at this stalwart. Inside, the dark wood bar is lined with pewter tankards (don’t expect to be given one if you want to drink outside); to the back is the Fox’s Den, a series of intimate booths used for both drinking and dining.
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Searching for the best bars and pubs in London? You're in the right place. The capital's drinking scene is one of the best in the world, with boundary-breaking cocktail bars taking mixed drinks to the next level, while traditional pubs bring you back down to earth in the best possible way. Here's our list of the 100 best bars and pubs in London.