The Merchants Tavern in Shoreditch 4/5

Passionate, friendly staff, a wide selection of vermouths and a respect for the classic martini make this place a top scorer.


I don’t get out to Shoreditch nearly often enough so I have to thank a lovely friend from back home for getting me out this time. It was a great err… afternoon.
Drinking martinis in the daytime is a dangerous pursuit but I persevere for the benefit of this blog. You’re all welcome.

We had a tasty lunch at the Turkish mezze-style restaurant Oklava just off Great Eastern Street. The raw halibut dish with samphire (a long standing favourite of mine) was delectable, as were the other dishes. Marinated cauliflower, grilled herb-encrusted chicken and a generous glass of Yeni Rakí to wash it down all made for some very tasty consumption. The staff were friendly and as odd as it might sound I also have to recommend their toilets which were stylish, clean and well-maintained (always a good sign of a restaurant’s overall quality I feel).

After lunch we nipped across the road to the Merchants Tavern for a continued catchup over some Camden Lager. Things escalated but it was all worth it!
The decor in the post-warehouse bar is refined, sophisticated and somewhat retro-London, blending hard Victorian industrial with plush continental. The crowd was youngish, trendy and mostly professional. How very Shoreditch.
Chatting to the bar staff it quickly became apparent that they were very passionate about mixology. What caught my attention was that they kept their martini glasses in the freezer. We started chatting about cocktail making and I have to admit, I am a bore. Whatever cocktail is in fashion or whatever new techniques are in vogue, if you mix me up a drink nothing will ever match a classic martini.

One of the bar staff was perfecting a sweet and sour cocktail that involved a hint of Mezcal (a personal favourite of mine). We tried it and it was lovely, particularly with the smoky aftertaste. Too sweet for me, but definitely very agreeable, similar in its tones to a margarita, but with a more lingering intensity, courtesy of the añejo Mezcal.
The staff were all very knowledgeable, creative, pleasant and passionate so I realised I had to try out their classic martini. They had several types of vermouth to choose from and a variety of gins. I was asked all the right questions (olive or lemon twist?) and I wasn’t disappointed with the finished product.

At £14 for a 100ml glass I would describe it as fair value for money for Central London, and especially given the pleasant setting and above all, excellent staff. I therefore award The Merchants Tavern a solid 4/5 for their martini, putting it right up there for London.
I would suggest two further things for martini greatness. I would recommend choosing one gin for primary use in a martini (such as the house gin) and keep a bottle or two of it in the freezer so the drink is extra cold. The fact that the bar does this with its glasses already puts it head and shoulders above most other venues.
I would also serve a small complimentary dish of nibbles of some form, like nuts, olives, edamame etc to accompany the drink. This might not fit in with the business model, but it’s what earns extra points for places like Bar Roka (spicy edamame), Skylon (Japanese rice crackers) and the definitive Duke’s Bar (nuts, crisps and olives). The kitchen bar menu of the Merchants Tavern is varied and sophisticated so if you want to order something to go with your martini I’m sure you won’t be disappointed with the options.

Good work guys!

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