Zoe Fryday steps back in time to the Prohibition era at Vintry & Mercer’s Do Not Disturb bar. Photography by Amy Murrell
Tucked away on the cobbled streets of Garlick Hill, London sits Vintry & Mercer, a new luxury boutique hotel with 92 bespoke rooms and suites, two restaurants, a roof terrace and a underground cocktail lounge, aptly named Do Not Disturb. Inspired by the historic trading guilds of the area, the venue brings long-standing traditions of craft and commerce into the present day, creating a charismatic and enchanting escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.
The Do Not Disturb bar, otherwise known as DND, is modelled on the clandestine bars of the Prohibition era, offering a decadent speakeasy experience that transports guests to another life. Dimly lit by candles, golden-hued, traditional up-lighting and large statement lamps with opulent tassel shades, the space has a sultry ambience, harmonised by an eclectic soundtrack of classic and contemporary jazz. There are plenty of cosy corners to settle into – some of which are shrouded by deep, smouldering red curtains for ultimate privacy. Plush velvet chairs, plum-coloured leather banquette seating and smooth, low marble tables are enriched with gorgeous art deco detailing. Dazzling portraits grace the walls, framing old photographs of the Ziegfeld Girls, actresses of the 1920s and 30s. Each piece of artwork is hand-beaded with 15,000 Swarovski crystals by Latvian artist Binka Rigav.
Moving across to the bar area, Cosmin Tigroso and his close-knit, talented team are expertly pouring cocktails while chatting away to guests. The bar itself is a real statement feature, embossed in a striking peacock mirror design. A large golden stag punch bowl takes prime position on the counter top, and a collection of sustainable, locally-sourced spirits and oak barrels fill the back shelves.
The uniquely branded DND menu, which emulates a ‘Do not disturb’ hanging hotel room door sign, lists a comprehensive selection of cocktails, from barrel-aged classics through to playful house creations that replicate some of the popular flavour combinations in 1920s New York during the Prohibition. All recipes have been developed and refined by Cosmin, and feature added quirks and twists. “I have always believed that if you are going out to drink, you need to be served something special and unique,” he says. “A guest’s experience in a bar needs to be memorable and unusual. It is only with time that you become brave enough to try different touches and combinations of flavours. The balance comes with practice.”
A twist on a Daiquiri, the Martina is a mixture of Don Papa rum, fresh grapes and lemon sugar, with a touch of soy sauce which brings all the elements together, while Ephemeral contains Somerset cider brandy, cherry heering, frangelico and lemon sugar, heightened with fresh parsley to create multiple layers of flavour. Strained into a delicate, custom-made bird glass, Lift Yourself combines Ocho Blanco Tequila with coconut and asparagus syrup, whereas the Average Joe is a novel take on an Old Fashioned. The drink centres on simplicity, presenting a blend of Bulleit Rye and ‘Joe syrup’, made with banana, rosemary, thyme and coriander cooked in white wine. “Guests have started to call it the Banana Old Fashioned,” reveals Cosmin.
In terms of the barrel-aged cocktails, the Negroni reigns supreme. Lucid and rich in colour, complementing the bar’s dark, seductive interior, DND’s ‘twist’ sees the liquid, created with Bimber gin, Belsazar red vermouth and Campari, aged in a Maximin Grünhaus Riesling seasoned barrel. El Presidente is also popular with guests. Earning its acclaim in Havana, Cuba during the 20s-40s, it quickly became the preferred drink of the Cuban upper class. Aged in a Taylor’s Chip Dry White Port seasoned barrel, it presents a blend of Plantation 3 Stars, Belsazar dry, Cointreau and a dash of Grenadine. There are also two non- alcoholic tipples. The Tropical Toad, made with passion fruit puree, lime, sage leaves, vanilla syrup and ginger ale, not only tastes great, but is served in a decadent bronze pineapple shaped vessel.
Cocktails are served alongside crowd-pleasing bar nibbles, including green olives, roasted almonds and edamame beans with sea salt, and a menu of small plates, tacos and sliders. The truffled polenta fries are a must, and can be enjoyed alongside a delectable lobster slider with wasabi mayonnaise or teriyaki chicken quesadilla with caramelised onion and melted cheese. “Inspired by New York, the food and drink menus reinforce the bar’s inspiration,” adds Cosmin. “Both offer something guests genuinely want to eat or drink and allow you to pop-in for a quick aperitif before heading upstairs to Vintry Kitchen or Mercer Roof Terrace for dinner, or linger in a cosy corner over some sharing plates.”
Behind the scenes
Interior design: Dexter Moren Associates
‘Do Not Disturb’ light feature: Roger Taylor (aka Papi)
Artwork: Artefect Hotel Art Consultants
Vintry & Mercer Hotel, 19-20 Garlick Hill, London, EC4V 2AU
Originally published in the May 2019 print edition of Bar magazine.