When it comes to discovering the hidden speakeasy bars of London, they don't get any more concealed than Oriole, which is hidden underneath London’s iconic Smithfield Market and entered via a nondescript, old-fashioned entrance.
As you descend the depths of this exotic bar, vibrant jazz music gradually wafts louder into your aural senses until you enter a world of Art Deco – a 1940s glamorous nightclub. It also has strong colonial influences, as you can admire a museum of curious artefacts from all corners of the globe.
There are live performances seven nights of the week with an eclectic selection of music from Jazz, Swing, Calypso, Cuban Son and Brazilian. The venue holds up to 120 covers, so you can either choose a prime seat in front of the stage or more discreet corners further away for intimate conversations. The leather-clad booths and dim-candlelit tables make for an intimate setting to sample the innovate creations from the Oriole bar team.
Oriole has considerable experience amongst their mixologists, as this is the second venue from the owners of Nightjar, which had been voted amongst the top three bars in the world for four years running. The menu is divided into three sections: Old World, New World and The Orient. A cursory glance at their menu will draw continuous gasps of astonishment at the exotic ingredients used along with the sight of the mind-boggling receptacles used for presenting these exceptional works of art. Clarified octopus milk, Iranian lime infusion and durian foam, anyone?
Being huge fans of Woodford Reserve we sampled their offerings, which included their take on the Old Fashioned: the Pendennis – chokeberry infusion, Amaro Lucano Anniversario and Prekese syrup. It also came with an edible chocolate cup filled with peanuts. It is a simple cocktail that is strong and smooth and that really shows off the quality of the bourbon.
The other Woodford Reserve cocktail we tried was the Brazoria Boulevard, which was served with an exquisite ice cube carved in the shape of roses. It was stronger tasting as it also had Appleton Reserve Rum as well, yet it was more aromatic tasting with the use of Amaro Montenegro, which is made using over forty herbs. The cocktail is also medicinal, as it uses calamus infusion, which is often used as a calming medicine to treat digestive problems.
Although, it isn't all just about bourbon; we tried an exotic honey bread aquavit matched with cloudberry jam in the Kiruna cocktail and the creamy, smooth Cydonia Cup, which had, oddly, Chinese quince wine and pomegranate curd.
Sometimes, the ingredients might be too over-the-top for the casual drinker, but if you enjoy your luxury cocktails and have a sense of adventure, then Oriole is definitely the bar to visit.
You can read more about luxury cocktails in the upcoming print issue of Candid Magazine, out in June.