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The Nightjar Jazz Bar

Home > London > Bars | Food and Wine | Jazz
by Tammy Facey (subscribe)
Read. Write. Run.
Published May 13th 2014
That New Orleans sound
Nightjar is the underground, 1920's-style jazz bar, just a few steps away from Old street station.

I was planning on a chilled Monday night in, but my friend invited me to a jazz night at Nightbar, and I love impromptu nights, so off we went.

Blink and you'll miss it; the entrance to Nightjar is merely a door, which you'd miss if you weren't looking. A man in a suit notes down your name, checks the list and invites you in. As we descended the stairs to the basement we heard him radio to the staff downstairs with "incoming, number 25 is here". It was so cool.

Nightjar, jazz, bar
Lemon cocktail

Although this was a very off-the-cuff evening, my friend had booked a table, which is imperative for a good night. Because of the sheer popularity and exclusivity of the venue, you have to book in advance. Nightjar is somewhat of a cult place, and the tables only last for two hours. Thankfully, when we arrived at 8pm, we got to keep our table well past 10pm, possibly due to the amount my friends were drinking.

Speaking of which, the cocktails are iconic. My friends ordered drinks which were like stronger mojitos. I had a sip and it went straight to my head. It had a slight aniseed tang which made me instantly dislike it, but my friends were happy, and they became very jolly after about half an hour.

I don't drink, but the tap water is infused with watermelon, ginger, cucumber and lemongrass, so it's not too bad. Admittedly, I was quite put off because they don't sell any bottled still water, but sparkling or soda water. The orange juice is freshly pressed, however, and they have cranberry and orange juice.

nightjar, jazz, bar
Intense mojito

Now, the music begins at 9pm and lasts until 11pm, an hour before Nightjar closes. I had no expectations because I haven't been to a jazz night before, but once the band started playing, I was absolutely taken.

The band comprised of two men playing the saxophone, one on a double bass and another playing guitar and singing. It was mind blowing. They were so confident, relaxed, and it met the chilled atmosphere of the bar, perfectly. The sound was intoxicating and provided a rhythm to the night.

Both my friend and I closed our eyes and in my sober state I could feel the music in my soul, just as my friend could in her inebriated state. Alcohol or no alcohol, Nightjar was fantastic. I also got to play the band's guitar during the interval.

Nightjar, jazz, bar
Making my guitar debut

The only downside was the price of the cocktails. If you're on a budget, share a bottle of wine as my four friends did - they topped up their wine glasses twice and each had a cocktail. Per person expect to pay 20, which I don't think is too bad for a venue of this calibre and the exclusive nature of the bar.

If money isn't too much of an issue, try at least two cocktails, some of which are presented in copper tea pots, fresh coconuts and glass jars. It is certainly my kind of place, and maybe yours, if you're into a relaxed, dark (and somewhat sexy), kind of place. Nightjar certainly beat my average school night.
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Why? A secret slice of jazz
When: Book a table at 8pm
Phone: 020 7253 4101
Where: Just outside Old Street station
Cost: Free entry
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