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129 City Road, London EC1V 1JB
MUCH AS THE LITTLE NIGHTJAR FLUTTERS ITS WINGS, it hasn’t yet climbed all the way to the top. Resting at number three this year, London’s favourite speakeasy has finished in podium position for the past three years now. It’s probably sick of hearing the name Artesian but who knows, when the Langham haunt finally loosens its white-gloved grip on World’s 50 Best Bars supremacy, east London’s plucky glamour spot might well make a dart for the top.
But let us not dwell on the what ifs - Nightjar is not only one of the best bars in London but the entire world, says our academy of 334 experts. The themes here are Art Deco, swing, Prohibition drinks and 20s glamour, but Nightjar is not ruled by them.
This bar has its own character and has consequently thrived against a recent backdrop of speakeasy fatigue. While other bars jumped on the bandwagon, creating lazy pastiches, Rosie Stimpson and Edmund Weil made a bar that they wanted to drink in first and foremost. And they do.
Nightjar’s live swing music is some of the best in London, but if the band had a fiddle it would play second to the drinks. The owners’ masterstroke was hiring cocktail ninja Marian Beke.
He and his number two, Luca Cinalli have a history in flair - which we won’t hold against them - so occasional flourishes enthral those granted a view of the bar. But these are not acts of showmanship - Nightjar is packed full of thirsty punters so efficiency is at the heart of any bar play.
Some say it’s Nightjar’s garnishes that stand out the most, but flawless drinks with a more sober appearance (if not taste) are also available in this cellar of old-school glitz. Perhaps the lasting feeling of Nightjar, though, is the attention to service.
The seating-only policy makes you feel they were expecting you personally (they were, you normally have to book ahead) and staff know the menu like they take it to bed with them. The latest list launched just weeks before The World’s 50 Best Bars poll was conducted, so the industry’s judgement on that will come next year. Maybe it could finally provide the gust to propel this little nocturne to the summit.