I just about managed to get to Oriole, the ‘new’ bar from Nightjar before they open their third place Swift – so I am just about keeping up!
It was as wonderful as I expected from the Nightjar folks, with cocktails that taste great and have a playful, inventive side. The menu itself is a joy to read – great care has been taken with each entry to give you a little story rather than any explanation about what the drink actually is beyond its ingredients. For that, luckily, they have provided a glossary, as there are plenty of unfamiliar components, and we found our waitress was very happy to talk things through and give recommendations based on our flavour preferences.
There’s a ‘world’ theme, if that is not too all encompassing to be a theme – the menu is divided into Old World, New World etc, and each little story reflects the place the drink was inspired by. It is set out, as I was informed by my date, in the same way as the booklets for collecting cards in tea bags was – each space allocated for a card collected (here, a cocktail) with its bit of blurb beneath it. I would never have noticed myself but it made my date rather nostalgic.
Anyway. The drinks. I started off with this cute little fish, the Karachi Sour – it was light, slightly sweet and yes, fairly reminiscent of the ocean but in a nice way – there was sugar on the fish’s snout, mixed with what was basically seaweed, with sea greens as a garnish which I stirred into the drink.
My friend’s drink was the Umckaloabo (no idea how you pronounce it) which came with a dollop of ice cream you could eat on its own or stir into your drink for a boozy milkshake. He’d asked for something sweet and this did the trick.
Next up, a Pernambuco, again sticking with the sweet theme – this came with green tomato sorbet which was absolutely delicious and in a little pot with an essential oil which was alighted to release the very pleasant fragrance. Oh, and it was also tasty to drink. I had the Batavia which was so good it’s what my friend got for his final cocktail. It was full of things I’d never heard of – beerenberg, Arabica Argan oil, and it came with cheese so I knew it was a winner. Chocolate coated gouda no less. It was actually nice to eat but I can’t say it converted me to eating cheese with chocolate from now on.
My final drink came with lemongrass straws you could eat, or simply use to stir your drink, and was coated with a semi-fiery tomatoey paste to lick as you sipped. It was dark, smoky and yet slightly sweet.
Along with our cocktails we had a bite to eat. I can never resists padron peppers, here they were coated in miso and sesame seeds. We also had to try the goat’s cheese churros with truffle honey. Similar to stuffed courgette flowers in their flavour profiles, these were a step above. The goat’s cheese was perfectly light and subtle. I also had pig cheek which, for a small plate was surprisingly hefty. Very savoury. The chicken had a Mexican feel wth corn and an avocado salsa. That was superb. And the ceviche we had was pretty zingy and light. Food was just as good as drinks.
Wednesday – Saturday you get some live music with your libations. I was expecting background jazz but cannot say I wasn’t pleasantly surprised by the more up tempo Latin style band that we got instead. People were even dancing! (Not us)
Nightjar had a lot to live up to but I think Oriole has done it. I look forward to trying Swift next year.