I love it when I stumble upon a hidden away bar or speakeasy whilst travelling, never more so when it happens to be close to home here in central London.
Tucked away in Greek Street in Soho you will find a discreet entrance that leads upstairs to the cosy Martinez, an exciting new members’ cocktail bar that specialises in reuniting forgotten vintage cocktails with those much loved classics.
The first floor space is airy and has a loft-style look to it whilst remaining intimate and cosy. There is a rather sleek, bottle-green tiled uprights frame to the bar, which is centrally located and one of the focal points of the large room. The other are the two fireplaces. The walls are adorned with custom works of art by Madrid-based fine artist Tomás Balentza, who has exhibited in the National Portrait Gallery. The furnishings are mid-century with Art Deco-style elements. And during the day, you can wonder over to the tall and wide windows at the front and gaze out onto the hubbub of Soho.
The three distinct areas include ‘The Lounge’ with its comfortable low seating and coffee tables, offering a degree of intimacy. ‘By The Bar’ is furnished with dining height tables and seating directly opposite the bar and barstools. Then there is ‘By The DJ’ with a DJ booth, tall tables, high stools and a raised banquette.
The bar team is headed up by Maurice Marshall, who has worked at Sketch, Cuckoo Club, Maddox Club and Scorpios-Mykonos, and is known as one of London’s most memorable and popular nightlife figures. Max Greco, the Head Bartender, has plied his cocktail making skills all around the world, having worked at ‘Eau De Vie’ in Sydney before he opened his own bar ‘Vasco’. He has also won several prestigious cocktail awards in his time.
It probably comes as no surprise to learn that the bar’s eponymous cocktail is hailed as the original precursor to the Martini and is served in both its original form as well as two evolved variations. The Martinez, which dates back to the 1860s, is made with either Old Tom Gin or Ford’s London Gin and Old Duff Genever.
The drinks at Martinez are overseen by the acclaimed and much respected Dré Masso, along with the consultancy of highly respected specialists Gary Sharpen and Sandrae Lawrence. And you will find that all the bartenders and waiting staff are well-versed in every cocktail and style and offer a personalised service to all members.
In fact, every member receives a one-on-one drinks orientation with the bar team when they join Martinez, and it’s an opportunity for them to discuss penchants and preferences, so the team can give a very precise and personal experience to every member on future visits the bar.
The bar’s food menu offers a variety of snacks and small plates that have been created by Michelin-starred Chef Hervé Deville and will all pair perfectly with the cocktail selection at Martinez. For example, the delicious Lobster Thermidor Petit Choux is made with native lobster meat and coated with a Thermidor sauce. The Truffle Croque is made with Comte cheese and a truffle mornay sauce, while the Serrano Bruschetta comes on a homemade Focaccia bread. There is also a sweet selection of three mini homemade desserts.
As well as the humble Martini and Martinez cocktail, other cocktails worth trying on the menu include the Charlie Chapman, which dates back to 1920, and is sweet, fruity and citrusy, made with apricot, Sloe Gin and lime. The Toreador on the other hand dates back to around 1936 and is both sour and sweet and is made with Ocho Blanco Tequila, peach, lime and bitters. I would also recommend starting your evening with a refreshing Champagne Juliette, made with Veuve Clicquot, St Germain Elderflower, vanilla, lemon and garnished with mint and a lemon sherbet mist. More recent cocktails include the Nuclear Daiquiri and Italiano Sour from 2005 and 2006 respectively.
Membership to Martinez is priced at £300 a year and offers a community that represents all walks of life, backgrounds and dispositions. But more importantly, all members are united in their love of cocktails, good company, great music and good stories, and it is a place where you can always find a welcoming face, an interesting beginning or simply a continuation of friendships already made.
Martinez, First Floor, 49 Greek Street, London, W1D 4EQ, England.
Tel: +44 (0)330 043 1884
Located in Greek Street in London’s Soho, Martinez is just a five-minute walk from Leicester Square, Tottenham Court Road and Covent Garden Tube stations. Piccadilly Circus is about an eight-minute walk. The bar is open Tuesday to Saturday from 5:00pm to 1:00am.
Type of Bar: Members’ Cocktail Bar and Lounge
Price Band: Medium
Insider Tip: Be adventurous in choosing which cocktails to try.
Reviewer’s Rating: 9/10
Simon Burrell is Editor of Our Man On The Ground, a member of The British Guild of Travel Writers and professional photographer.
Photographs courtesy of Martinez