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Move it to Machiya

With coronavirus making waves across the country, journeying out to crowded places to enjoy a cocktail has somewhat lost its appeal. Which is why Machiya Bar is your new go-to for a snug spot far from the madding crowd (and coughs and splutters).

Machiya stands right in the centre of theatreland; a short walk from Leicester Square and the buzz of the city. Named after the eponymous townhouses which once dominated the Kyoto cityscape, the restaurant champions home style cooking with influence seeping in from the great food halls of Japan. Yet, if you’d like to whet the whistle before dinner or indulge in an aperitif post-much then the downstairs bar area is where you’ll need to head.

Machiya Bar is the kind of place that you’d only find by word-of-mouth. Its secluded nature, discovered at the bottom of a set of stairs and through a closed door, makes it all the more special. Open the door, and you’re enveloped in mood lighting, the smell of freshly shaken cocktails and a venue ideal for date night.

‘Downstairs At Machiya,’ as it’s so aptly named, is the result of “weeks of mixing, shaking and testing,” to create an intimate space which oozes exceptional and unique cocktails. On the menu, you’ll find the likes of the Jigglypuff which comprises of Portobello gin, Campari, lemon and vermouth foam, and the Smokey Negroni which playfully mixes Lagavulin 16, Johnnie Walker Black, Umeshu, Antica Formula and Campari. Of course, the classics such as sakes and Japanese whiskies line the menu for your musing pleasure.

My visit saw our personal mixologist, Jun, getting on eye level with us to thoroughly discuss our palettes and what would make for the perfect cocktail – a guest experience I highly champion. To begin, it was something fresh in the form of Yuzu sake, Yuzu juice, grapefruit bitter and soda. This punchy mix set pulses racing and was presented beautifully. Next, a gin-based treat mixing fresh strawberry and blueberry with syrup and lemon. The Machiya mixologists are a dab-hand at mixing the perfect ingredients to create dreamy drinks, with the best being left until last.

Yes, my white rum-based cocktail was by far my favourite. The drink saw lemon, a dash of syrup and cranberry juice combined and was served in an aesthetically-pleasing ice cube and poured straight down the centre – this drink definitely requires a straw. Cocktails were enjoyed sofa side, making it far too easy to sink into the plushness and order away until the lights began to come up. To keep stomachs lined, you can opt for some of the moreish bar snacks, from a wagyu slider topped with a fried egg, to lotus root chips lathered in miso-mustard, and fiery Machiya hot wings.

The whole experience was a positive (and boozy) one, and if you want to tempt your taste buds even more then you simply must check them out on Instagram: @machiyalondon

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