Oriole: Pack Your Passport
My first experience of Nightjar will stay with me forever. I was relatively new to London living. You know, that phase where you wouldn't bad an eyelid travelling from West Hampstead to the likes of Old Street for a drink. Times haven't changed, much, it's just now I do a lot of work out East, so guzzling in the vicinity is somewhat second nature. Anyway, that first time at Nightjar... I sat there sipping Gin Mare cocktails out of shells and nibbling on seaweed I wasn't sure I should be nibbling on, but I did it anyway. Oh behave!
So, the same crew has been beavering (and travelling, by the looks of it) away, creating their new project; Oriole. Smack-bang in the middle of Smithfield market, it has Nightjar's textbook name-at-the-door scenario but once you're downstairs, it's all very friendly. Cleverly, the list is split into three sections; Old World (OW), New World (NW) and Orient (O), making the selection more manageable. It goes without seeing that I want everything, so we cruise, very liberally, all over the world and have an absolute riot.
Uncultured as it may sound, Roman Holiday (OW) reminds me of Berroca. 'You, but on a really good day', and all that. I was fixated on the gin and bamboo forest aroma vibe, but it's just not working out. On the other hand, Alcazar nails it; with Fino sherry, aloe and creme anglaise, it is a smooth operator. Now for my two favourites, Cortez The Killer (NW) and Blood & Bone (OW). The former is an expression of three very lovely things; Don Julio Reposado, balsamic vermouth and agave tonka syrup. You need this in your life. The latter is a homage to the meaty heritage of Smithfield Market. It's all about almond vinegar, roasted pepper, hearty stock and seaweed. Oh, and Gin Mare, of course. Basically, it's a Red Snapper, with spades of Spanish sass. And it's served from an elephant jug into a giant pasta shell. Obviously.
With Wray & Nephew and Caña Brava Rum, the Karachi Sour (O) is ebbing its way to my heart. As per my debut Nightjar experience way back then, I am pro drinking out of shell vessels. Brazilians know how to live. Word on the street is that at carnival, they still samba like there's no tomorrow. With Capucana Cachaca, mango wine, bark and green tomato sorbet, Pernambuco (NW) brings all of the energy to the party. I don't make it very far through the New World before stumbling on Ollantaytambo in Peru; a libation sure to lead to raucousness. Other than signature pisco, there's purple corn, lemon and ginger. It'll sort you right out. Mezcal-laced Zapotec's (NW) smokiness is balanced out by ancho chilli, lime and mandarin. Hello, 5-a-day!
Finca Filadelfia (NW) is like an espresso martini, but for grown-ups. A mug of indulgent zacapa and rich Guatemalan coffee is topped off with green coffee dust. Of course it is. Chittagong Cooler (O) also packs a heady punch with Havana Club 7yo and charcoal tea. Innocently, it's served in a bottle corked with a boozey dark chocolate cherry. Just for good measure, I order Golden Eye (NW) as an ode to my cocktail sister Sophie Bratt, and it comes up trumps. Well, it's hard to go too wrong with Appleton VX, Fernet, mate and orgeat. We order another... quiet one.
Oh Oriole, what can I say, other than you sound like a character out of The Never Ending Story? You are slick and sexy as heck. I'm coming back soon to finish off the rest of the menu...
Five Very Kerri things about Oriole
- Live music
- Inspired drinks list
- Beautiful brands, wonderfully showcased
- Bloody good bar snacks
- Non-judgemental staff (try dealing with me after six cocktails on a Thursday)