Places To Drink In London: Merchant House, The City
Welcome to my first ever ‘Places To Drink In London’! Recently I’ve been spending a lot more time going to bars to catch up with friends after work, but places where we can sit and have a few good cocktails and peruse an impressive wine list, somewhere with good music and a vibe but so that it is not too loud you can’t talk to each other, and somewhere where the bar snacks are so on point you don’t need to worry about not having dinner. First up? Merchant House in the City, just by Mansion House station which I was invited to review with my friend Eddie the other week (on what just so randomly happened to be their hula night!)
The original plan was for Eddie to drink whiskey – this is what the bar specialises in. I’m not much of a whisky drinker so he was going to try a cocktail or two made with the good stuff (like this smoked number he really enjoyed) and I was going to ask the barman to mix me up with something gin based. However, on arriving flowers were draped around our neck for hula night, and I can never say no to a good tiki cocktail. Lots of the bar works from the Savoy cocktail book, and I kicked things off with ‘Three Dots and a Dash’ a slightly fruity, but not too sweet rum concoction garnished with Luxardo cherries.
They’re all about not masking the flavours in their drinks with too much sugar and really letting the base spirits sing – if you’re a member with each drink they’ll bring you a small measure of the straight spirit so you can see how the flavours and aromas have been enhanced in the drink. I’d really recommend you try this at some point, as it will help you treat good cocktails more like you’d treat good wine, or indeed straight whiskey.
The bar snacks we shared were stupendous, and I’d go back and order them all of them by way of a sharing dinner any time. The bread was fresh and served with a fantastically spicy and punchy olive oil. The bocquerones (they look like little anchovies) were full of clean, rich flavours, offset by a spritz of lemon and a scattering of fresh dill. The drunken octopus, however, is what you can’t not order – perfectly tender, delicate, and cooked so well that the core was still deliciously unctuous. Served with a wedge of fresh lime, I can’t remember the last time I had octopus this good.
We finished with a rum filled pineapple for me and a cinnamon spiced rum monkey head for him, and a plate of house chocolates to share. We only stayed an hour or so perched up at the corner of the bar, but we felt right at home, and I’d really recommend sliding into a spot at the bar after work one day with an old friend (or even a new date) before ordering up a storm.