18 August 2013

Mark's Bar, Hix


Mark Hix has been a bit of a busy chap. After spending 18 years as a Chef Director, he opened up his first restaurant - the Hix Oyster & Chop House in Smithfield - in 2008. Since then he's opened up five other restaurants, both in and out of the city, and been met with a lot of acclaim.

Each of his locations has a different style and theme - I'm still wanting to try his Shoreditch venture, Tramshed, that has a massive Damien Hirst piece suspended above the diners - and they describe Mark's Bar, beneath Hix, as 'one of the coolest bars in London'. Descending into atmospheric darkness, you're greeted with smoky mirrors and a low zinc 'apothecary cocktail bar'. Huge potion-like bottles and decanters are dotted around and the mismatched glassware lends a decadent speakeasy feel to the place. Predictably, there's a no reservation policy so you take what you're given - we were lucky enough to pull up stools in prime position and effectively had our very own cocktail mixologist.

Flipping through the prayer sheet menu, names such as 'Atholl Brose' and 'Gin Punch a la Terrington' jump out at you, with each cocktail being given its own little story and its own imaginative presentation (my first came in a decidedly unfeminine tankard). As it was a Friday night, we were a little more indulgent and sampled quite a few of the drinks on offer but returned time and time again to the Red Snapper - essentially a Bloody Mary made with gin that hit the sweet spot.

The atmosphere was laid back, with some great music (Jimi Hendrix's All Along The Watchtower, for example) and the bar staff friendly, quick and knowledgeable. Our guy let us try a shot of milk vodka each and answered our curious questions as he smoked peppercorns for some elaborate creation. Mark's Bar has been described as 'the place you've been waiting for' and it's a great little spot in the heart of Soho, away from the hustle and bustle and without the clinical feel that some cocktail places have.

A reservation? It was a little tricky to find a cocktail to fall in love with but I think I'm just clutching at cocktail straws...
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