The Nurturer

22 December, 2015

Hamish Smith talks to Edmund Weil, owner of Nightjar and Oriole, about what makes his bars a flying success


IN TWITCHING CIRCLES a megatick is the word for a very rare bird. Lingua franca to a bird-man like Edmund Weil, you might think but it turns out his is only a passing, nominative interest.

Nightjar and his new bar Oriole may be named after rare birds, their nocturnal habits appreciated far and wide but that, sadly, is where the ornithology ends. Weil opened Nightjar in London in 2010, perfecting that hard art of good jazz and even jazzier drinks early on. At first sight its sister bar — which opened last month — could be even better.

This time the theme is more adventurous — quite literally. “Nightjar is about history, intimacy and nostalgia but with Oriole we turned to our passion for adventure, travel and collecting,” says Weil. One foot in Oriole and you know it’s a creation of Weil and his wife Rosie Stimpson. It is retrospective – this time a 40s old-school nightclub – heaving with vintage glamour, thrumming with music that is only outdone by the theatrical drinks.

The pair go way back. Back to Dublin in the early 2000s, where as students they would muse in music venues about one day owning one. The ambition wasn’t realised for a passage, as Weil zigzagged through corporate PR and then teaching.

The kids called him Superman on account of his Clark Kent glasses, more than for his super teaching, but this not a man without transformative powers. He soon left the classroom for another: the training course of Shaker & Company — with a view to becoming a bartender. Before long he was bar-keeping at Shoreditch House.

How different Nightjar might have been had he climbed behind the bar — and not in a good way. “I love cocktails but I wasn’t a good bartender,” says Weil. “When I met Marian Beke I knew I couldn’t get close to his level. I would have been harming my own business.” The rest is history — particularly as Beke left to open a bar in the very near vicinity.

“The timing and location could have been better,” says Weil, before rounding off any unintended jaggedness to the sentence. “When I step back and put myself in his shoes — what would I have done? Over the five years we’ve been very good for each other.

“He made drinks that no one else was making – he gave us a halo.” Beke’s former number two at Nightjar, Luca Cinalli, has taken up the reigns at Oriole. While Martina Breznanova who was third in command at the Old Street venue has taken the lead role.

Weil is a believer in promoting from within — grooming stars, not buying them in. “The ethos has always been if you are loyal and work hard you will be rewarded. In five years we never hired a bartender at Nightjar.” Weil is no stranger to hard work himself. He may be out of the bar twitcher’s eyeshot but rare birds don’t look after themselves.

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