The Best Way to Lose an Afternoon
Sit back and soak up the atmosphere at tucked away City gem Merchant House
Review by Amy Scott Photograph by Andy Barnham
You might need a drink en route to Merchant House as it’s nestled in a dark hidden corner of The City just off Cheapside & took a while to locate. We went on a Saturday evening and as most City workers get as far away as possible from the square mile at weekends, the streets were pretty deserted. Save for a few incredibly drunk international students we seemed to have the streets to ourselves. The hidden location along with a ‘bookings only’ policy helps to maintain an uncrowded, verging on exclusive atmosphere.
On entering the ground floor of Merchant House, scenes from Sherlock came to mind as the owners have, rather successfully, tried to create a luxurious 19th Century drawing room feel. It works. Maybe a bit too well as the lights are low – nearly pitch black in our corner – and the seating is ever so comfy. Our cocktail waitress Wellisane was a godsend, answering all our obscure questions about confusing or intriguingly named cocktails and offered her own recommendations.
The menu is beautifully curated with a prelude explaining that it intends “to evoke a sense of place for the key trade cities of the European Empires.” After what could have been hours poring over the menu I went for a Gold Rush, introduced with this story:
“The Victorian era heralded a Gold Rush on Australia’s southern coast in the 1850s. Migrants from all over the globe travelled by sea, disembarking at a newly founded colony on the edge of the Yarra Valley. The wealth created from the Gold demanded a civic authority and Melbourne was established as a hugely influential port as it became the richest city in the world”.
Each drink has its own story and simple, pretty line drawings, which is all great but possibly over-complicates picking a drink. Again, if you’re pressed for time then you should probably head for a drink elsewhere.
I was expecting a Singapore Sling-esque flavour (I’m not even sure why) from my Gold Rush but was surprised with a subtle golden drink, the earl grey marmalade shone through and totally won me over. Friends were amused by carefully paired receptacles including an elephant housing the Dark & Stormy. Bermuda Yacht Club bemused us in a ceramic leaping fish then the Hemingway daiquiri arrived in a martini glass. We were almost disappointed, however, the drink proved small but feisty.
Our second round of drinks was as varied as the first with a rum-based Painkiller and The Madness of King George hitting the spot perfectly. After glugging the rather aptly named Zombie & heading off into the night, we were left with a desire to return and try some more of their very carefully thought out blends. Mine’s going to be a Black as Hell which claims to be “strong as death, sweet as love”…wish me luck!
Enquiries: Merchant House, 13 Well Court, London EC4M 9DN / 0207 3320044 / http://merchanthouse.com/