The Pinnacle Guide

NIGHTJAR SHOREDITCH

London, UK

Nightjar is a basement bar that manages to entirely suspend reality, giving guests an experience straight out of the roaring 20s, with live music and decadent cocktails.

Reservations recommended
Limited walk-ins available
Not an accessible venue

AREAS OF EXCELLENCE

AREAS OF EXCELLENCE

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IMPORTANT TO KNOW

Nightjar has live music from 1920s to 50s every night of the week from 9pm, and has done almost every night for 13 years. Once the music starts, a cover charge is automatically added to the bill and this fee goes directly to the musicians playing that day. Set times are 9pm, 10.15pm and on Friday and Saturday there is a late show at midnight. The cover charge is between £6-10 depending on the day of the week.

DETAILS OF NOTE

The menu at Nightjar is also represented in a pack of playing cards, each box newly and beautifully designed over the years by artist and architect, Henry Thorold and more recently Dav Eames. The Face Cards change yearly and have included Jazz and Blues Singers, famous bartenders old and new and some of the bar’s more regular musicians.

The Pinnacle Guide

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Nightjar is the sort of bar Gatsby would be at-home in. From its speakeasy-style entrance to its Art Deco-style fitout with wood panelled walls, vintage lighting and mirrored murals, to the live music that kicks off late into the evening, this is a venue designed for escapism.

Stepping through its unassuming entrance, flanked by a chicken shop and a cafe, guests descend the stairs to a door with a porthole, where muffled jazz can be heard seeping through. This truly sets the scene for the hidden, elicit nature that speakeasy bars once evoked. The owners have consistently added to Nightjar’s interior over the years, buying vintage furniture, pictures and mirrors to add texture and feeling to the experience. The bar and stage sit at opposite ends to one another so that at any one time, action can be seen from all seats. Priding itself on its warm hospitality, Nightjar is a table-service venue.

At the heart of Nightjar lies its theatrical yet meticulously crafted cocktail program, taking inspiration from historic eras and offering a journey through time from the Belle Epoque to modern classics. Each cocktail at this bar is a work of art, from the garnish to the unique vessels, the aim is always to enhance the entire experience of being here. With such creative and often elaborate ingredients and garnishes the bar has a daily daytime prep shift, which also oversees the bar’s infusion program, transforming many of the base spirits used. 

They are fastidious about minimising ingredient waste and almost all by-products of ingredient production are recycled into garnishes such as fruit leather or jellies. They even source specific glassware that is made from recycled food stuff – an espresso martini vessel made from spent coffee grounds for example – and attempt to decarbonise their supply chain by freezing their own block ice rather than buying in each day. 

With a menu change every April, and minor seasonal changes in Autumn plus feedback from the staff regularly leading to edits on any current menu, there is always development happening. Senior staff will oversee and help the team to finalise creations, but it is a very collaborative process. All staff – not just bartenders – are involved in menu development from an early stage, giving everyone on the team a feeling of ownership over every menu.

Nightjar is home to the largest absinthe collection in the UK and has a range of vintage spirits dating back to the 19th century, all playing into its theme while offering guests something different and unusual. But perhaps the bar’s true masterpiece is its live music program, a nightly celebration of vintage popular music from the 1920s to the 1950s. From soulful jazz to infectious blues, the stage comes alive with the sounds of talented musicians who transport guests to a bygone era, including late sets on weekends.

Nightjar operates a very thoughtful hiring policy, and whilst they give priority to the quality of the candidate above all other considerations, they believe that a great bar team should reflect the diversity of London’s melting pot community. They place a great importance on employee referral and have even employed numerous local residents. They have also registered as a licensed sponsor with the UK Home Office, which means they have hired excellent candidates from places as far afield as India, The Philippines and Nigeria. They have developed a very robust company ethos based upon courtesy and kindness, building structures of positive reinforcement and constructive feedback in order to get the best out of everybody working within the business.

"The vibe felt cosy and there's an element of secrecy to finding the bar, walking downstairs to a dimly lit space, making it ideal for a catch up with a friend or a date night."

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