If you have been wandering up Dover Street and wondering what is inside number 10, the house with the fires out front and the brass monkey head on the door, we found out last week.
MNKY HSE is a Latin-American restaurant, bar and music venue that seems to have become a firm favourite with diners, even though it only opened four month ago. There is a bar on the ground floor and also one in the basement where you also find the restaurant. Earthy tones, leather, wood, mirrors and quirky art dominate the design.
We went along to ‘El Mundo del Mezcal’ an evening hosted by Javito Escirbano, Head Barman at MNKY HSE, who demonstrated with the help of his team how to create MNKY HSE’s various Mezcal cocktails and taught us about the different flavour blends that go best with the increasingly trendy, strong, smoky spirit.
First cocktail up was Floating Gardens – Pierde Almas Puritita Verda Joven Mezcal, green Chartreuse, mint jelly, fresh mint leaves, bitters, freshly pressed pineapple juice & egg white – a refreshing summery drink, the kind of drink you want when lying in your hammock on Tulum beach.
The second cocktail was called Mayan’s Gift – Mezcales de leyenda Durango, lemon, freshly pressed beetroot juice, homemade rose & vanilla sugar, cloudy apple juice & house smoked chili salt – a bright blood-red cocktail which had a lot going on. Sweet, spicy, floral, salty – it shouldn’t work, but it does. I liked that the smoked chilli salt was on the outside of the glass, so you could decide yourself just how spicy and salty you wanted the drink to be.
Number three isn’t even on the menu yet, but it probably will be soon, as everybody I talked to really liked it. A twist on the Negroni, the Negromante is made with Pierde Almas Puritita Verda Joven Mezcal, Campari, Marolo vino chinato, Andogstura bitters, cherry wood smoke and fresh grapefruit juice and the earthiness and smokiness of the mezcal, which is compounded by the cherry wood smoke, works perfectly with the Campari.
The last cocktail of the evening was not mezcal, but rum based and arrived in dramatic fashion. The bar’s signature MNKY BUSINESS – Ron Millonario XO Reserva Especial Rum Stirred with Jade Perique Liqueur de Tabac, Antica Formula, Peruvian Bitters & cherry wood smoke – arrives as a glass filled with ice and garnish and a small bottle of the cocktail on a bed of dry ice, which then gets activated by pouring water on it. Very theatrical!
Another very enjoyable part of the evening was meeting and chatting to Jon Anders from Amathus, a brand ambassador for their agave spirits, who brought along some of their rarest mezcals to give us a taste. He told us just how much work goes into making small batches of this famous Mexican spirit (agaves take ten years to grow), the process of producing it in the traditional way, about meeting the people who have been distilling it for most of their lives and he even taught us how to say the appropriate toasts in the local language (which I have sadly forgotten again – I blame the mescal!). One of the mezcals we tried was the special limited edition Del Maguey Madrecuixe, for which mature Madrecuixes have been earth-roasted, fermented with airborne microbes, twice distilled, unblended the original, centuries-old Oaxacan, hand- crafted way. Another one a £200 bottle of Mezcal Peirde Almas Conejo, the rarest of their mezcals. This double distilled Espadin mezcal is blended with an assortment of wild fruits, herbs and nuts, while a wild rabbit is suspended in the alembic still.
We also ate a number of bar snacks, all of which have been created by Executive Head Chef at MNKY HSE Pablo Peñalosa Nájera (previously Four Seasons – Bogotà/ Morimoto – Mexico City): Grilled Shishito Peppers with Spicy Sauce, Trio De Guacamoles -smoked, wasabi Guacamole, chilli , Yellow Tail Tostadas with Mayan sauce, habanero chilli coriander and Cochinita Pibil Tacos made with Pork belly, pickled red onion, habanero chilli and they definitely made me want o go back to try out the full menu in the restaurant.