46 & Mercy, below Hotbox, Commercial Street
This dater thanks God (and 46 & Mercy) for the small mercy of an un-themed bar. We can get through the first few minutes of a date without the need to drum up small talk about the ‘concept’, or wonder if our drink will be served in a teapot by fairies, thank you very much. If there is a theme here, it’s really delicious drinks. This basement space is concrete, urban, and hard-edged, with the occasional pop of graffiti street art and movie posters. It works though, and feels slick rather than skater-y. Take clients you want to sleep with, or arrange a double date around the small tables.
We’re in that limbo zone between the suits of the City and the undercuts of the East. For the suits there’s a bottle of champagne at well over £100. For the rest of us there are cocktails mixed by expert bartenders at around the standard £9 London mark. None of the four we tried were too sweet, which met with my date’s approval, but why-oh-why must all self-respecting cocktail bars go in for such wanky names? ‘Can I have one, err, Rye me to the moon, please?’ (A delicious blend of bourbon, sherry and bitters, by the way) Our advice? Trust the barmen’s recommendations. They are masters at work.
Upstairs is a barbeque restaurant (Hotbox) seemingly offering meat twenty ways, so if your date’s not veggie, eat first then repair downstairs for a sharpener, although perhaps avoid the drink laced with pig fat! Grab seats at the bar. You should be fine to pitch up early in the evening on a weeknight but for a bar seat after 9pm, it’s worth booking.
Few and far between. There are some slightly strange seating options – low banquettes that leave you staring at the ass cheeks of those on bar stools, for example. Could be a conversation starter?