I pride myself on knowing Hackney well, so it is beyond me how I managed to miss Night Jar which has been open over a year. Admittedly, it deliberately keeps itself a bit 'underground'. This little find is tucked away between two unassuming cafes on City Road and you would never know it was there unless someone told you.
Go for the good music, even better cocktails from pre-prohibition to modern signatures and intimate, speakeasy vibe. It's open every night but make sure you reserve on Wed to Sat nights. I thought the people at Night Jar were taking the prohibition theme a bit far when our arrival had to be announced downstairs by radio, but when you get down there it's soon clear this procedure is not just for show: space is strictly limited in this exclusive basement venue.
As bossa nova from the fine Brazilian band bounced off the walls I set about ordering my cocktail as the people around us knocked back their drinks as if Prohibition were suddenly about to hit London. Night Jar, I am told, is about celebrating those of another age who made drink one of life's pleasures, not one of its evils. I am afraid I can't tell you the name of my first cocktail: just that it was laced with vodka and prettily decorated with a tiny starfish and that it was so smooth that I nearly downed it in one.
Night Jar has an exciting programme of events which included a tempting Menage a Trois with live music and cognac cocktails, and the appealing Top Shelf – fine purveyors of filthy swing. My husband suggested 'hanky panky' for my second cocktail because it sounded nice. It was. And arrived with a delicate egg shell filled with grenadine floating in a pool of apricot coloured brandy.
The tapas menu is designed to accompany the drinks – not the other way around - with some tempting charcuterie and flamboyant flambed dishes. One one side of us were two first dates – I guess the Night Jar is somewhere to take someone you want to impress. On the other side of us was a couple from West London who had been having a long term affair (the seating is intimate), with the mistress announcing after one or two post prohibition cocktails: 'you have been married for 20 years. I have been single for 20 years.'The verdict: never a dull moment in Night Jar and always a superb cocktail.