1077 Cocktails and 211 Bars now listed
Leather chesterfields, smoky mirrors, ambient lighting, and its apothecary cocktail bar give Mark’s Bar a very New York vibe. With a traditional bar billiards table and a cocktail list of historical curiosities and celebrations, Mark’s is the place to sit back and enjoy a more eccentric approach to drinking. Not forgetting of course, a long list of cocktails with provenance designed by Nick Strangeway, which go hand in hand with Mark Hix’s British bar snax.
There is something inexplicably calming about descending into the depths of a subterranean drinking hole. Perhaps it is the lack of fresh air, the absence of daylight, or the soft rumble of tube trains passing below. Whatever it is, calming is most certainly what is needed if you have just escaped from the madness that is Piccadilly Circus with all limbs still attached. Fortunately the chaps behind Mark’s Bar at Hix thought they would put their underground den a hop, skip and a jump North of London’s least appealing landmark.
Arriving, one is presented with the option of retro bachelor pad mix ‘n match seating to the left, or a pew at the bar to the right. The latter is a delightful zinc-topped number that runs the length of this ‘not too big, not too small’ emporium, and offers the opportunity to impress your companion with the knowledge that it was retained from the venues previous incarnation as a sushi bar. The fact that the bartenders serve from a slightly lower-level floor also offers a mildly enjoyable rush of vertigo when rising having consumed one too many, and fleetingly believing that you have grown a few inches in the process. A condition of the licence is that those not dining in the upstairs restaurant will eat something from the bar snack menu; hardly a chore when slipper steak burgers and fish fingers with mushy peas are served up to such moreish success as they are here.
There is clearly a lot of work having gone on to produce a list of unique and creative cocktails, with many using one or other of the infusions that line the shelves. The ‘Stiff Upper Lip’ for example combined a tasty-sounding pea infused Beefeater gin with Kamm and Sons Ginseng spirit, Somerset cider vinegar, nettle cordial and mint. Very nearly a winner had it not been for the bitterness obliterating the pea. Poor pea. Elsewhere there are some real skills on show such as with the ‘Criterion Milk Punch‘, a rum and Cognac cumber that is clarified and bottled to make for a rapidly served, and silky smooth libation that would put a smile on anyone’s face. Elsewhere there is a tendency to over-complicate on the ingredients list, such as in the ‘Ship Shape Old Fashioned’ in which the inclusion of quince liqueur alongside the well-conceived pepper smoke was an unnecessary fuss. The result is an enjoyable list of drinks, but also one that too often promises more than it delivers. At £10-£12 a pop, I’d hope for more.