Delicious gin, soft jazz, an array of nibbles and good company: it’s the perfect date night.
Around once every three months the New Theatre team up with Oxford-based gin distillers The Oxford Artisan Distillery (TOAD) to bring you gin-based drinks in a classy setting. The format is simple: a free drink with your ticket, low chairs arranged mostly in pairs, singer-and-piano light jazz at the front and optional nibbles brought to your table.
Let’s start with the gin: it was good. TOAD bring their range of locally produced gins and set up a tasting area, complete with insightful chat about what botanicals each has in it. They also provide training to the bar staff in how best to prepare the drinks depending on which of the eight gins you choose. Classic toad? That’s best with slimline (or even coke!). Going for Tanqueray? It’s aromatic tonic for you. There were also at least 8 tonics to choose from - but I did slightly lose count... Each drink chosen also gets the right array of vegetation for the glass - strawberries, lavender and of course lightly crushed juniper berries. Sure it’s a bit of a performance, but that’s what we’re here for, right? And I must say, it was a darn good G&T.
We’ve had the drink, let’s now talkfood. For a very reasonable £15 per coupl,e one is served a heavily laden platter of cold snacks brought to the table. Prepared by the Organic Deli, the quality and abundance both impressed. Of the ten things on offer on the platter the stand out was clearly the charcuterie. Salty, smoky, flavoursome and just delicious, I could eat these cold meats all night. Olives, semi-dried tomatoes and beany ball things where also lovely, though the choice of cut naan bread and hummus was rather odd, I thought. Not only was the quality high, there were also doubles or quads of everything - helping to avoid fights over the last olive!
Onto the jazz. I like jazz. It comes in all flavours, and this one was of the smoky, laid back variety. Solo performer Laurel Grace played slow classics on the piano, accompanied by her own silky and instantly familiar voice. The volume and tone were set just right; we could clearly hear everything, but the purpose was primarily as an accompaniment to our conversation. That said, some chose to sit round and watch, and one couple even had a bit of dance. It was all pitched just right.
Gin, nibbles and jazz all worked together to offer a classy and relaxed night out. The atmosphere was friendly, the clientele smart-casual, the room glittered as a basement bar ought to. I would have probably turned the light down just a touch for a more intimate feel, but that’s personal taste. If you’re looking to take your partner out for a special Friday night, Gin and Jazz at the New Theatre is just the ticket.
P.S: TOAD do visits to their stills, tasting tours and other such stuff. Have a look at their website if you’re into that kind of stuff.