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Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Oriole, Smithfield




Oriole brings to mind a Beverley Hills supper club circa 1957. Set in a converted pub, deep under Smithfield meat market, here's the sort of rakish lounge wherein womanising louse Sinatra - as Pal Joey - would eye up his next piece of prime rump, all the while declaring unswerving commitment to his current filly mignonne. Raffish decor gets racy drinks to match…if you can discern the small print on Oriole’s fiddly, floridly descriptive, picture album menu: cue a Flashlight frenzy as phones are whipped out in unison at a table of my (ahem) peers. Inspired by the 7 Continents, served in quaint cups, strange bowls, potty pots, sea shells and glass toadstools, Oriole's out-there recipes rope in rogue ingredients. Iced Gouda, purple corn, shimeji crowns, damiana foam, green coffee dust and cork smoke? Good luck ordering that lot at Ocado, if you're keen to recreate 'em at home! Never less than intriguing, not all the bar's recherché rinses universally appeal to my picky posse. For every two hits - Cortez The Killer, a reposado tequila, balsamic vermouth and agave tonka syrup Manhattan, or tart gin job, Roman Holiday, (apricot and blood orange liqueurs, limoncello, tarragon, resin aperitif, plus ‘bamboo forest aroma’) - there’s Prairie Horn, a not-so-horny confusion of bourbon, Buffalo popcorn tea, prekese (a Ghanaian sweet medicinal syrup) and mustard foam. Served in a mental metal column (colon?) rimmed in hundreds and thousands, it’s a drinks blogger’s Instagram wet dream but, like another fix served in a cup daubed with sticky emulsion, it’s also a bastard to drink without resorting to a sooo not Sinatra straw! Asian-slanted bar food scores across-the-board high marks; top tuna tartare, sea bass and seared beef all good. Minor gripes aside - a LOUD blues combo more suited to a Camden boozer circa The Pogues, where an Earth Kitt-y cat would better suit the desired vibe - this follow-up to Edmund Weil and Rosie Stimpson’s award-winning Old Street speakeasy, Nightjar, by-and large lives up to pre-launch expectations. But rein in the trying-too-hard Lady Gaga garnishes, guys! As Coco Chanel said, "When accessorising, always take off the last thing you put on!" As the effortlessly stylish Sinatra demonstrated to perfection, "Nice and easy does it every time."
East Poultry Avenue EC1A 9LH www.oriolebar.com