Mark’s Bar has been hailed as one of the finest bars in London. People rave about its post-punk decor, its understated cocktails, its well-to-do clientele… but is it most style than substance?
The decor is interesting. Mark’s bar is what happens when shabby chic meets neon in a basement bar that appears to think it’s in New York. When it realises its mistake I expert it’ll be bitterly disappointed and a little embarrassed. Walls are adorned with brightly coloured artwork featuring (gasp) rude words, whilst dim lighting and loud (but not too loud) music creates a club like vibe. There’s many a cosy corner with leather armchairs, sofas, and, bizarrely, deckchairs. There’s a pool table too. So, as I said, interesting.
Despite being nominated for a range of ‘best bar’ and ‘most excellent drinking hole’ type awards Mark’s Bar doesn’t actually hold a license to just serve you alcohol. If you’re drinking here you must eat bar snacks, unless you’re dining upstairs at Hix afterwards. Which is weird being that it is a bar and all. I mean, its name does include the word ‘bar’. This is misleading. I suggest it changes swiftly to ‘Mark’s café’ or perhaps ‘Mark’s Snack Shack’. Both good names.
As I was dining at Hix afterwards I didn’t have to partake in the enforced bar snacking, opting to try one of their cocktails instead. The bar looked impressive, featuring the treasure trove of unusual brightly coloured concoctions you’d expect from a good cocktail bar. We quickly found it didn’t feature the more obvious cocktail bar staples, though, when my brother attempted to order a Mojito. No mint. They had no mint. At 7pm. In a cocktail bar. What is the world coming to? My father then attempted to order a Hendrick’s gin and tonic. Guess what? No Hendrick’s. Mr Mark clearly hadn’t been shopping that week.
Following lengthy deliberations (the cocktail list is more of a book) I opted for the Hix Fix, which the cocktail list describes as “Mark’s now famous combination of Morello Cherries in Somerset Eau de Vie generously crowned with sparkling wine”. I was astounded to hear the ingredients were available. However, expecting greatness, I must say I was a little disappointed with what arrived. It tasted mostly of wine and fizz, with a hint of a cherry. It wasn’t bad but then… it wasn’t that good either.
My brother was taking too long to decide so the decision was made for him. The barman said he’d be having a ‘Nuclear Daiquiri’, which we were assured he wouldn’t pay for if he didn’t like it. And nuclear it was. I tried it. It nearly took my taste buds out. It tasted of alcohol mixed with spirits and a hint of petroleum all masked by an overpowering flavour of lime. My brother thought it ‘tasted like New York’. I wondered which bits of New York he’d been tasting.
The Verdict: The prices are obscene, even more obscene when paired with the rather uninspiring cocktails. The atmosphere makes it worth a visit, but the drinks are really nothing to write home about. And mandatory bar snacking? Odd.
66-70 Brewer Street