Feature – Met Bar at the Metropolitan Hotel
Infamous before its recent renovation as a members bar for the rich and famous, there were far too many tabloid stories for it to ever be considered a ‘must visit’ venue for me. However, along with the lick of paint, it has also sought to reinvent itself as somewhere altogether more refined, and inclusive too as it has ditched the members only policy.
Inside the bar is all-together more contemporary than many of its competitors. Burnt orange leather and slick minimalist lines are the name of the game, and touches like the hardwood flooring in place of the typical plush carpet make this bar stand out as somewhere that is still looking to attract the ‘cool’ crowd. There is an air of relaxed sophistication which, coupled with the fact it is no longer a members bar, make for an approachable and inviting feel about the place.
Despite the high level of competition in the market, the Met bar achieves a differentiation with its cocktail menu that is really rather pleasing. The menu is divided into four sections; sophisticated, adventurous, golden age and signature; with each section featuring cocktails in a particular style. The ‘sophisticated’ list is designed to be approachable, with a focus on less challenging flavours, and a bias towards a fruity palate. That said, drinks such as the ‘Met 97’ which combines strawberries, pear, parsley, rhubarb bitters, lemon, sugar and vodka, demonstrate they are not afraid of flavour. The ‘adventurous’ cocktails ramp up the range of flavours, with an interesting trend towards ingredients more commonly associated with the kitchen than the bar, with beetroot, sage and lavender all making an appearance. The third section of the menu moves the focus back in the direction of the spirits themselves but continue the theme of unique creations where it would have been easy to revert to the ‘classics’. It is great to see three of the five cocktails here use fortified wines as one of the ingredients, and the result is some great tasting and pleasantly boozy libations. Finally, the signature cocktails are each served with a chocolate specifically created to match the drink. This is a very nice idea in my book, and is a clever way to demonstrate how flavours and textures can be combined to great effect.
The cocktails themselves are really very good; they are well executed, unique and flavoursome. I particularly like the fact that they are not too ‘safe’, something that is evident in several hotel bars as a result of trying to appeal to a wide range of customers. It feels as though the Met bar is willing to be a little more selective in it’s clientele, at least from the cocktail perspective, and this makes for a more interesting option for those who want to explore the cocktail list. The idea of the different sections of the menu is very appealing, and gives the consumer an idea of what to expect. There is a clear focus on interesting and different flavour combinations, without ever straying too far. Although the base spirit character is lost a little in some, there is also plenty for those who want to leave the booze to do the talking. At £12 for all except the signature list (£14) they are also intelligently priced to compete with hotel bars with a more established cocktail reputation. The pricing also fits more with the feel of the bar, being more contemporary than many of the more classically styled hotel bars.This is however a big plus point as it means the Met Bar has genuinely added something new to the market. Lets just hope those prices don’t start creeping up, for at the moment it is well worth a visit.