Merchant House (CLOSED)
Time Out says
The whisky sister to Bow Lane’s gin and rum emporium.
Please note, Merchant House is now closed. Time Out Editors, January 2020.
On any given weeknight, the area around St Bride’s Church is chock-full of drinkers. You’d think there would be enough watering holes for everyone, but it’s a regular rugby scrum to get a drink in your hand. Strange then that the best of them all, hidden down a mostly disused alley, Bride Court, is a relative oasis of calm. Brightly lit and festooned with pot plants, we’re told it’s ‘cocktails first and whisky second’ at Merchant House. This is despite 500 bottles of Scotch and Irish being stocked behind the bar.
Following orders, I asked for a cocktail and couldn’t have felt more like a hero thanks to a ‘whoop’ from enthusiastic staff, a high five from a departing customer and a ‘thank you, I love making these,’ from the girl behind the bar. All just for ordering a sazerac. She made it well, too. Add to that her request to use Rittenhouse 100 as the rye at no extra cost to the £12.50 on the menu. Order an old fashioned and they pour a beer for you while you wait – they like to make them properly, which is ‘slow’, so it’s only fair a beer is included for the cost of £14.50.
There’s no price list for whisky – they know it all by heart – so ask before you buy, but it all seems pretty consistent. And on Whisky Wednesday, a bottle sits on the bar and the first shot – poured while you peruse – is on the house. At times it got busy, but we mostly sat at the bar chatting in our own space. And knowing what it’s like just around the corner, why wouldn’t you?
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Merchant House on Fleet Street focuses on whisky while their sister establishment Merchant House on Bow Lane focuses on rum and gin. Newly renovated, the place has a sophisticated atmosphere without it being too pretentious with its colonial style interior and tall timber shelves filled with over 500 bottles of whisky. Yep. Five hundred. Our bartender Kieran Rocks had great chat and a wealth of knowledge - always happy to share stories (ask about the taxidermied fox) and answer any of our random questions (yes, there is a peatyness or smokiness scale, it’s measured in phenols and is measured in parts per million (ppm) and Kieran even let us try one from the distillery that makes the peatiest whisky in the world, Bruichladdich). The drinks we had were very boozy, but delicious, and each one explained to us without it being an extensive chemistry lecture. It’s definitely a place where you savour the flavours over great chat about everything and nothing. Cheers.
Tip: sit at the bar for a more interactive experience and they also offer a small range of snacks and nibbles; and check out their website for upcoming master classes.
Good For: intimate drinks, casual drinks, small groups, date night, whisky lovers