A drink with Ernest Hemingway
Speakeasy is defined as a place where alcoholic beverages are illegally sold, specifically during the period of prohibition in the United States. The drinks at Nightjar are not illegal but they are definitely from another time period. In fact the entire venue of this underground gem, is a mixture of ‘Once upon a time in America’ and ‘Midnight in Paris’. The setting is somewhat dreamlike; live jazz music that makes people dance in their seats, bartenders making potions behind what seems like a bar and some guy in the corner looking like Ernest Hemingway. Is this a bar in Old Street or are we on set in Los Angeles? I entered and sat really close to the band as they played ‘Almost blue’ by Chet Baker.
The way the room was lit is ingenious. Most of the light fell on the bar and the band, making them focal points, whereas the seating space in-between was faintly lit creating a theatrical atmosphere. I could already see the details that made this place click.
My reference on the prohibition era scenery of this place is not merely a word play. The menu is divided in pre-prohibition, prohibition and post-war inspired cocktails and the list is extensive. A first look at the ingredients used for each drink puzzled me. Was I reading preserved eggs, mulberry vinegar and pink Kashmiri tea syrup on the ingredients list or was the dim lit room making me hallucinate?
The setting is somewhat dreamlike; live jazz music that makes people dance in their seats, bartenders making potions behind what seems like a bar and some guy in the corner looking like Ernest Hemingway.
I peeked at the near by tables to get a feel for the patrons and their drinks. I saw charming women and well groomed men. It was as if they had walked out of one of J. Gatsby’s gatherings in West Egg, where everyone was someone and anything could happen. I saw cocktails served in the most unusual containers packed with colour. I was so impressed I could not stop staring. Drinks came in bowls, in mugs and cups and goblets. Each drink was telling a story and looked nothing like the one next to it. They looked like Damien Hirst art pieces, eccentric and original. It felt as if having one of those drinks would induct you in some kind of cool cult, a secret society of chic and sophisticated men that are allowed to have drinks that look like art pieces.
I had a drink from each of the assorted categories. Trying to evaluate their taste and composition would be like trying to break down why jazz music is so mysteriously appealing. It just is. The art performed behind the bar in Nightjar is one to be enjoyed and not talked about. Words can’t do it justice and would probably spoil it.
Sometimes real life is one cocktail and a jazz song away from becoming the most romantic movie scene.
129 City Road
EC1V 1JB – London
phone: 020 7253 4101