To those unaware, Mac & Wild is a Scottish drinking and dining destination across two London venues. Located a stone’s throw from Liverpool Street station, the Devonshire Square branch opened in November 2016 and has fed and watered cityslickers ever since.
Last week, I went along for the launch of two events taking place at Mac & Wild City – a virtual shooting range and the ‘Drams in the Dark’ experience. Having previously visited the Fitzrovia branch for an amazing dinner, I had high hopes for its sister venue. Located in the Georgian enclave of Devonshire Square, Mac & Wild covers two storeys and an outdoor terrace. Our visit coincided with the hottest day of the year at a sweltering 34c so a frozen gin cocktail on arrival was much appreciated.
After sipping a cocktail on the balmy terrace, stepping inside to the cool, air-conditioned enclaves of the building was very alluring. While the main restaurant is located on the ground floor, we headed downstairs to the lower ground to the new whisky bar and virtual shooting range. The vibe is Scottish Highlands-meets-contemporary with wooden beams, leather and fur seating, foliage and over 200 varieties of whisky bottles behind the bar. The team behind Mac & Wild have teamed up whisky expert Blair Bowman to curate the menu and special events, as well as Monkey Shoulder and Glenfiddich. The bar features some interesting twists on whisky servings, such as the Whisky Slushie, of which we enjoyed a few. The slushie was a short, frozen combination of apple and whisky which was both sweet and refreshing. My friend isn’t a big whisky drinker and said she really enjoyed them. As well as plenty of whisky, the bar also offers some of Mac & Wild’s most popular dishes, including Venison Scotch Eggs, Haggis Pops, Mac & Cheese and the Veni-Moo Burger.
Aside from the drinking, one of Mac & Wild’s most unique offerings is its Virtual Shooting Range. The Devonshire Square venue features two lanes equipped with state-of-the-art virtual shooting systems and replica shotguns. As a bona fide city girl and animal lover, the thought of going actual shooting is quite alien to me. However, I was a fan of shooting computer games such as House of the Dead and Duck Hunt as a teenager so was eager to see if my skills had stood up over time. My friend and I had a lot of fun as we tried shooting boars and bears, despite not being too successful, although we watched others fare better. You can choose between clays, rabbits, pheasants, grouse, to deer, boars and bears so the game has quite a variety.
Following a spot of shooting, we headed into a pitch black room for the ‘Drams in the Dark’ experience, hosted by whisky consultant and author Blair Bowman. The dark room setting means your senses are heightened so the aromas and tastes of the whiskies have new depths. Before the tasting begins, you are given an introduction as you settle in and slowly get used to sitting in the darkness. The experience sees you being guided through four or five drams of whisky, along with pairing canapes, which give an added dimension. Among the whiskies we tried were Talisker 10 Years and a Dalmore 12 Years – two very different flavours. Tasting the Talisker along with a bit of fruit cake was a really interesting combination. Despite sitting in a dark room full of strangers, we felt comfortable and really enjoyed the experience. Blair’s knowledge and passion for whisky was really evident and his guidance was useful for both newbies and experienced whisky drinkers.
- Mac & Wild, Devonshire Square, City of London, EC2M 4YN. Nearest station: Liverpool Street. The Whisky Bar is open Tues-Sat from 5pm until late, with the Whisky Hour (happy hour) available daily from 5pm-7pm. The Virtual Shooting Range lanes are available for groups of 2-40 people and are bookable between Mon-– Sat from 12pm-11pm.
- Drams In The Dark take place every Friday and Saturday night from 27 July 2018 and last 90 minutes. Tickets: £40 (include pairing canapes). For more information and booking, visit the Mac & Wild website.
Check out Metro Girl’s review of dinner at Mac & Wild Fitzrovia.
For more of Metro Girl’s bar and restaurant reviews, click here.
When it comes to finding a perfect bar, there’s two main things I look for – an extensive cocktail menu and a relatively low-key venue. I’m a sucker for speakeasies and hidden bars off the beaten track so I’m having a new experience and don’t feel I’m jostling for a spot at the bar with a big crowd. When it comes to whisky/whiskey, I’ve flirted with it in the past and am partial to a Bushmills and Coke when I’m visiting family in Ireland, but am yet to become a full whisky convert. However, after hearing of a new hidden Whisky bar in the heart of the City I went to check it out.
Merchant House of Fleet Street is the sister bar to Merchant House Of The City in Bow Lane, the latter being a gin and rum bar with 300 varieties of each. The newer Fleet Street branch focuses on whiskys and whiskeys instead, boasting over 500 different types, predominantly from Ireland and Scotland, but also some offerings from Japan and American Bourbons. To those less experienced whisky drinkers, like myself, there can be the preconceived notion the drink is dark, strong and heavy. However, the experienced mixologists of Merchant House of Fleet Street are here to change your mind, showcasing the fresh and floral side of the mighty Scotch.
The bar is located down Bride Court, a covered alley off Fleet Street dating back to the 18th century. The venue has a natural and contemporary feel, with a rustic wood and white marble bar, lots of plants and green velvet sofas and bar stools giving a subtle nod to the Highlands and Emerald Isle. Behind the bar are huge shelves showcasing the expansive whisky collection. My boyfriend (who happens to be a bit of a whisky aficionado) and I grabbed two stools at the bar as we were looking to experiment with flavours so wanted a seat near the action.
Before we began perusing the extensive menu, we enjoyed a shot of whisky for ‘Whisky Wednesday’ to kick things off. You’ll notice the menu doesn’t list any brands under the cocktail ingredients, just a rough description of the whisky so it means you focus on the flavours instead. I’m a bit of a sucker for floral flavours such as elderflower and rose so started with a Rose Without Thorns (Island Malt, Rosehip Water, Raspberry Cordial and Americano Rosa). It was quite different to any whisky cocktail I’d had before, sweet and light and went down really well. My companion opted for a Karyukai (Japanese whiskey, plum wine and smoked water), which involved the bartender getting out a blowtorch on the water – who doesn’t like a bit of bar theatrics?! Out of the three cocktails we would try that evening, my boyfriend said this was his favourite as he particularly liked the smoky flavour.
Next up, I continued the floral theme with an Émigré (Single Pot Still Whiskey, Bramley Apple Juice, Rhubarb and Elderflower) which came served with a big slice of rhubarb and tasted very dessert-like and I really enjoyed it. My boyfriend opted for something harder – a Sazerac (Cognac, Rye, Sugar, Bitters and Absinthe) which was served in a short glass – definitely one to be sipped slowly!
Finally, we finished with a Mulligan’s Travels (Poitin, Banana, Vanilla Ice Cream and Ginger Soda) and a Brooklyn (Rye, Sweet Vermouth, Picon and Maraschino). The Mulligan’s Travels was my first introduction to Poitin – essentially an Irish moonshine with potatoes as one of the ingredients. The bartender was happy to educate me and I tried a some of it straight before my cocktail. The strength hits you immediately, before the sweet after-taste comes in. When it came to the cocktail, it was somewhat of a hard shake thanks to its ingredients, with the sweetness overpowering the alcohol so it’s a good choice for those who don’t like their concotions too boozy tasting. Meanwhile, the Brooklyn was bittersweet mix served in a sherry glass, complete with maraschino cherry in the bottom.
Overall, it’s a fabulous bar for both whisky and cocktail fans alike. Those unfamiliar with whisky would do well to pay a visit and will be surprised at the variety of flavours in a whisky cocktail. For more seasoned whisky drinkers, with 500 to choose from, there’s more than enough choices to keep your glass topped up. When it came to the venue, the cosy space and the hidden location makes Merchant House particularly appealing. During our couple of hours in the bar, we were never without an empty glass thanks to the attentive and friendly bartenders, who certainly knew their stuff when it came to whisky and were happy to educate us. As well as cocktails, Merchant House also serves a small food menu and host whisky masterclasses if you want to delve in further.
- Merchant House of Fleet Street, 8 Bride Court, City of London, EC4Y 8DU. Nearest stations: City Thameslink, Blackfriars or St Paul’s. Open Mon-Fri 11am-11pm. For more information, visit the Merchant House of Fleet Street website.
For more of Metro Girl’s bar reviews, click here.
St Patrick’s Day is always a good excuse to down a pint of Guinness or a dram of whiskey. This year, both whiskey fans and novices will have the chance to learn about the Irish tipple and enjoy some tastings at The Gallery bar in Hampstead.
On Wednesday 16th March, The Gallery bar will be hosting ‘Whisky 101’, an event celebrating and exploring some of Ireland’s finest contemporary whiskies. The evening will be hosted by The Gallery’s manager and whiskey enthusiast Daniel Pavey and Dominic Tait, who will be representing The Dubliner and The Liberties whiskey brands. Guests will be taken on a journey from 10-year-old and Bourbon Cask expressions of the Dubliner range to the rich, spicy tones of The Liberties.
Each whiskey will be paired with a canapé course, while there will also be the chance to try beers from Northern Irish brewer McGrath’s. After learning about some of the history, production and styles of Irish whiskey, guests will be invited to record tasting notes on flavour cards. There will also be a selection of whiskey cocktails available to order on the night so you can really leave with an all-rounded knowledge of the tipple.
- ‘Whisky 101’ takes place on Wednesday 16th March 2016 from 7-9pm at The Gallery, 190 Broadhurst Gardens, West Hampstead, NW6 3AY. Nearest station: West Hampstead. Tickets: £15 include 3 flights of whiskey, 3 beer samples and canapés (10% of sales will be donated to UK charity Centre Point). For tickets, visit Billetto or for more information, visit The Gallery website.
For a guide to what else is on in London in March, click here.