"A cocktail bar is only as strong as its cocktails, which makes Mark’s Bar pretty tough."Review Rating: Reviewed by T.A.O
Done right, a cocktail bar is the sweetest place in the world. You can lounge, soak up the vibes coming from the crowd (which is always a mix of the aspirational and the ‘already made-its’) and just generally feel pretty happy with yourself. Perhaps this is because you’re not in a pub, perhaps it’s because we all like to dream or maybe it’s because cocktail bars go to so much effort to make you feel like you’re drinking somewhere special. Somewhere refined. Somewhere Daft Punk might come when they’re in town…
Mark’s Bar is a bit like that. It’s sophisticated without being snobby, classic without being fusty. And it knows how to serve a drink. Housed in the basement of Hix on Brewer Street, the space works with a long bar that stretches across the room with front row seating all the way. An old-fashioned billiards table doubles up as a drinking space (covered by a board) and there are some intimate areas pushed into the corners. For our money, a place among the row of chairs along the bar makes a case for the best seat in the house. They offer you the chance to watch the bar staff toil, which means smoking peppercorns, flame throwing, shaking and mixing etc.
The only problem we have with the place is the floor. Scattered rugs cover an ugly white slab, where full carpeting would have done a better job at matching the venue’s style. But we’re not picky so we keep our heads up and refrain from eyeing the floor.
Obviously, a cocktail bar is only as strong as its cocktails, which makes Mark’s Bar pretty tough. The Hix Fix is worthy of receiving the owner’s name. It’s a Champagne cocktail that uses morello cherry with apple eau de vie and tops off with Nyetimber Classic Cuvee 2004. We also sample the Ship Shape and Bristol Fashioned. We watch as the barman mixes a drink with Doorly’s 5 year-old rum, bramley and gage quince liqueur, sugar syrup and Xocotatl bitters before flaming some peppercorns and adding the smoke. Even more impressive than watching it made is how it tastes. Mark’s Bar uses the best British spirits and liqueurs, a combination of ancient drinks recipes and Hix originals. The bar also serves ‘snax’ from quails eggs to oysters, fish fingers to steak tartare.
As we said, done right, a cocktail bar is the sweetest place in the world. With the time and the money, you could definitely stay a while at Mark’s Bar.
T.A.O reviewed Mark's Bar on Fri 20 Sep 2013