Mark’s Bar, Soho
It is almost impossible to date in Soho without getting drunk. You try to leave it at one bar but inevitably end up on an overexcited tour of the myriad hotspots – a little bite here, a tipple there, encouraged by the drunks who have been this way since 3pm and tourists who are decidedly going large. Well Mark’s Bar, perhaps because it’s not all that obvious to passers-by, is a rare treat of a Soho drinking den. Head to the smart Hix restaurant and ask a hostess if it is permissible to descend into the basement – a den of Chesterfields, mirrors and boozy tinctures.
On a Friday night you will be greeted by an amiable crowd – lots of couples, a few pairs of post work guys and a smattering of girls on the town on their best behaviour. There’s a no standing policy so the room retains a buzz without falling to the depths of heaving Soho joints like Archers (no offence guys). Aside from the no reservations policy, this is a danger free date option – great drinks, good vibes, flattering lighting and just the right amount of hip credentials without being faddy.
You are encouraged, nay ordered, to have some food with your cocktails. That’s fair enough as the bar ‘snax’ are tasty, rich and unpretentious – chips with curry sauce, posh pork crackling. A very good date formula is whiskey based cocktails plus steak tartare – so punchy. Alternatively, soften it up with champagne cocktails and very fine oysters.
For first dates, aim to prop up the shiny silver bar. This works perfectly for initial distractions. The bartender – a chatty catty who mixes playful banter with an in depth drinks interview – is the type of mixologist who encourages you to order off menu. Even if you like what’s on there, you feel uncouth for not helping him brainstorm something else to tickle your fancy. It helps that you can avoid initial face-to-face interrogations with your date by inviting the bartender into the discussion, then dumping him like a clingy friend once the drinks arrive. Prop up the bar for 3 rounds and if there’s no spark, call it a night. For dates further down the line, it’s all about the cosy sofas in the back.
I wish you could book in advance.
4. Reliable and reasonably classy. Mark’s Bar, you’re steady as a rock.