The wonderful Alice Lascelles, author of 'Ten Cocktails: The Art of Convivial Drinking' recently pulled up a pew at the Oriole Bar for the Financial Times.
'For cocktails that dazzle the eye and palate, head to the bowels of London’s Smithfield Market'
If you’re in search of a place to go to for a good chinwag, then don’t head to Oriole, the new Smithfield bar from the team behind Old Street speakeasy Nightjar. You’ll be too busy ooo-ing and ahh-ing and uploading pictures to Instagram to hold any sort of conversation, for every one of the 39 cocktails at this subterranean hideaway is a little work of art.
Taking “the fruits of exile, empire and exploration” as its inspiration, the illustrated menu teems with exotic — and often wilfully obscure — ingredients: Ghanaian prekese, saponaria, kala fruit and Peruvian lucuma, shimeji mushrooms, Jamaican tangelo and voatsiperifery (fortunately there’s a glossary at the back). There are seagrass syrups and lychee wines, bamboo smokes and durian foams all served in a succession of intricately garnished shells, coupes, sake cups and goblets stencilled with powders, topped with flames and encased in ice. It’s either supremely pretentious or utterly delightful — mixology taken to a culinary extreme.
The best seats in the house, though, are at the bar, where one can watch Luca Cinalli and his team work with all the dexterity of Michelin chefs. If you want to get your money’s worth — and you probably do, at £12-14 a cocktail — this is definitely the place to be.
Quite why the Oriole team chose to site this flamboyant bar in the grotty bowels of Smithfield meat market isn’t apparent at first. But by the time you exit into the strip-lit, lorry-lined tunnel outside, it becomes clear: contrast is all part of the theatre.'