Impromptu and spontaneous; somehow the best evenings of enlightenment come from the unplanned.  It is with these circumstances that saw me enter an unassuming doorway, down the dimly lit stairs and into the realms of speakeasy-esque Nightjar, the much talked about cocktail and music spot in Old Street.

It has already built a reputation of exclusivity, based on its strict bookings-only policy (not a place you can necessarily walk straight into) so only an hour before arrival on a breezy Wednesday evening, I booked a spot.  I had been craving to taste one of their fusions of alcohol on my lips, and in its wonderful prohibition era style décor, I was transported back to a time of frivolity and hedonistic pleasure.

Dark wood, candlelight and an attention to nostalgia (note the 1920’s beauties on the walls) provided a delight to the eye whilst perusing their diverse menu, taking you through the ages of alcoholic concoctions.

Their menu spans 4 distinctive areas; Pre-Prohibition, Prohibition, Postwar and Nightjar Signature.  My first appetizer was to be the Philly Fish House Punch from the pre-prohibition assortment, a deadly mix of Appleton Estate VX Rum, Hennessy fine de cognac, maraschino, Mercier champagne, freshly squeezed lemon and lime and Sencha green tea.

I would probably have to warn you now readers, I do consider myself a bit of a cocktail snob.  So often we are invited to indulge in an establishment’s cocktail menu, usually with the offer of more alcohol for your money, yet so often the beverage falls much below the standard one would expect when combining so many flavours and interesting elements.  Quality was what I was expecting and oh boy, did they deliver!  Even topped off with some mini fish cookies, I excitedly supped on the punch.  And it certainly smacked my tastebuds!  Not just visually stunning, it was one of the best cocktails I have had.  I decided that I would have to make my acquaintance with all the other selections, and so the journey continued!

Cocktail 2 (Prohibition)White Lady No. 2 (Giffard Menthe Pastille, Grand Marnier, Hennessy Fine de Cognac, Fresh Squeezed Lemon and Mercier Champagne) – Classy, with a flavour that creeps up and tugs at your tongue to remind you it’s there.  The lemon adds a sourness that compliments the pastille.

Cocktail 3 (Postwar)Roman Punch (Brugal Anejo Rum, Courvoisier Exclusif, Argan Nut infusion, nightjar wine mix, Nightjar mulled syrup, fresh squeezed lemon) – another punch drink, this time a little heavier with the wine mix and nut infusion.  Taste made me reminisce more of an iced tea, quite delicious but less of an impression that the 1st punch.

Cocktail 4 (Nightjar Signature) Jalisco Daisy (Herradura Reposado Tequila, Nightjar marzipan orgeat, pink grapefruit juice, fresh squeezed lime, hibiscus soda) – the marzipan added an interesting creamy sensation to the mix, without any cream being involved.  Like an amaretto cookie had swirled in and danced with the grapefruit juice, to be quietly cut in by the tequila.  Unusual and delicious.

All these potions had to have some solid sustenance so my friend (who had been calmly supping on just the 1 cocktail.  A sensibility that was washed away with my 1st choice) and I ordered a few choice items from the tapas style menu; Ricotta and Herb Filo rolls with honey and sesame, Steamed Salmon Balls with rice and hoisin sauce, mixed charcuterie with cornichons and some nuts.

All delicious and beautifully presented, but on this occasion the drinks took centre stage and after working my way through the ages, I returned to Pre-prohibition times for the Philly Fish once more whilst listening into the blues piano melodies of Eric Ranzoni.  Music is very much core here too, with swing, jazz and other instrumental band offerings regularly sharing their talents which I will undoubtedly look to shimmy to in the near future!

I felt the night was now drawing to a close, as the swirls of spirits and masterful ingredients were waltzing with my head so I ventured back to ground level, where the doorman passed temporary responsibility to me so he could have a 5 minute break from his laborious eight hour long shift.  What fun to hold the list of names and imagine their experiences, whilst continuing to taste the ambrosia-like offerings underneath my feet!

Nightjar I salute you!  So dearest readers, if you want to escape from the neon lit, rushed drink choices found in your usual local drinking holes, break away I tell you!

And proceed with caution down the stairs to have your tryst with a vintage twist.