Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Nightjar, Roadtrip and The Russian bar, 21st December

My friend Alison was back in town, and if you have been reading this blog for a while you'll know that this means we were about to hit a few cocktail joints. The first two, Nightjar and Roadtrip, I'd heard of when I made a plea to Secret London to suggest some cocktail bars in Old Street when I was going out with colleagues. We didn't end up going to either but I liked the sound of them so they went on my list.

I then found myself almost going to Nightjar when Stephen and I were looking for somewhere to celebrate our anniversary (literally wandering into Shoreditch looking) and I remembered Nightjar. We sauntered over, it being around 7 pm and were told they had a full house. Reservations were clearly highly recommended. 

And so, I was sure to make them. I asked for a spot between 7 and 9 and was told they were very busy that night, would 6 to 8:30 suit instead? That was fine by us, we don't mind an early start drinking, even though Alison would have only got into the country 6 hours previously.


Close-up of the Cobbler
The Nightjar is another one of those speakeasy type places, and from the outside it really carries this off as you would never know there was a bar there if you didn't know already. There's just a door, with a small logo of the bar on it,in between two shops. You descend the stairs to find yourself in an intimate, yet spacious enough, dimly lit hideaway. There are lots of little tables lit by candlelight and we were seated near the piano. Unfortunately there was no live music while we were there, but they do often have live acts playing swing and the like. Instead we had background music which was on the 1940s side and perfectly suited our surroundings. There are about 4 double page spreads of cocktails, arranged by era (pre-Prohibition, Prohibition etc) and that is almost too much choice. They all sound fantastic. I started with a 24 Volt Cobbler, which turned out to be my favourite of the night featuring chocolate and maple syrup flavours and yet still managing not to be too sweet. They not only take the taste of their cocktails seriously, they also spend a fair amount of time on the presentation as well. I've never seen such gorgeous-looking drinks! They were like sculptures or flower arrangements. 
Volt cobbler and Islands in the Stream

Toreador and something else!
Airmail and Ladybird complete with slab of chocolate



















My least favourite cocktail was the Toreador, because even thought it was nice, it did just remind me of a Margarita. I was back on form with my last drink though - the Airmail featuring orange blossom honey water and champagne, and Alison's last cocktail was a rival to my first, with prune and belgian truffle liquer offset by Caribbean spices. 

There were lots of unusual ingredients that I am excited to go back to try. Like ginger and raisin sake! Or griddled korean pear. The prices are a little above what you'd pay in a normal bar, but for this quality, it's worth it. The only downside is that some of the cocktails came with metal straws. It looks nice, and keeps the liquid cold as it travels the short distance from glass to mouth, but the straws were a bit too long for a short person like me, and metal is fairly resistant to being bent down. It also tastes of metal. 

They have food too, and we had planned on having some, but couldn't decide on what so asked for some bread with oil to start. The waitress, however, took the menu away after that so we couldn't be bothered to ask for it again. It was tapas-based, with quite a lot of seafood.

We were then on to the next venue - the Hoxton Pony for an old school hip hop night, but we thought we'd pop in to Roadtrip on the way for one. We were feeling a bit full from the cocktails so we just had wine. Roadtrip is a kind of diner themed place. The decor inside is pretty funky but it did feel a bit too much like a theme bar to me. Just before we left we went downstairs where some jazz was going on. No one was serving down there and everyone seemed genuinely into the music, which wasn't our scene so we beat a hasty departure.

And came to the Pony, which was kinda dead! The downstairs was shut and there was no sign of the hip hop/music video fliming that the website mentioned. So that was disappointing but we got chatting to some people and so we ended up staying. The Hoxton Pony is a very sleek place, very stylish, but I felt it was a little soulless. Perhaps this is just because it wasn't busy. I wasn't sad when it closed for the evening.

Our companions wanted to continue the night, and we never say no to staying out, so we went with them to Trafik, a bar I have never really liked and being there this night didn't change my mind. That shut after an hour and there was talk of going somewhere else! It was 3 am by this time. I was doubtful that anywhere would be open.

But that was because, even though I knew of the Russian bar - a late night venue on Kingsland Road, I didn't know that it was a late night venue every night. So we went! As soon as they said it was open, I wanted to go - can't let an opportunity to cross something off my list pass me by. I was also pretty drunk by this point, which may have been the overriding factor.

And which also means my description of the place is probably a little lacking. It was smaller than I imagined it would be. And reminded me of Ye Olde Axe - there was a little bar on the side, with the same carved wooden posts. But this place played housey dance music as opposed to rockabilly. The dance floor was small but absolutely packed! God knows who these reprobates out clubbing until 5 o'clock were, but there were a lot of them! 

I'd go here again if I ever happen to be at a loss for what to do on a weekday night at 3 in the morning again (unlikely but not impossible), but at weekends Ye Olde Axe might just have it for being closer to where I tend to end up. 


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I work as an editor in educational publishing by day, and then spend most of my spare time discovering interesting things to do in London, and taking people there with my own Meetup.