Down a spiral staircase fashioned out of raw steel and oak in London’s Marylebone neighborhood is KOL Mezcaleria, where the pairing of imaginative tequila or mezcal cocktails and upscale small plates that riff on Mexican street food, known as antojitos, is an art form.
Like the ground-floor KOL Restaurant, the subterranean Mezcaleria reimagines Mexican flavors with British ingredients, so there are petite portions of chef Patron Santiago Lastra’s guacamole that swaps avocado for pistachio mole, say, or empanada-like quesadillas stuffed with Kentish Oaxacan cheese, truffle, and corn.
These snacks are all meant to accompany the libations masterminded by bar manager Maxim Schulte, who most recently served as head bartender at the venerable American Bar inside Covent Garden’s Savoy Hotel. Springing for a drink that stars an agave-based spirit (although the menu keeps loyalists happy with like-minded gin, rum, and whiskey concoctions) is the natural move here.
One refreshing way to begin the evening is with the carbonated Lowball, made with Salmiana and Espadín mezcals, quince, verjus, and fruity, not fiery, pasilla chile. Another is the tequila Martini that pairs Dolin dry vermouth with crème de cacao blanc, cucumber, and a bracing pine distillate.
One of the reasons the dimly-lit Mezcaleria is so alluring is its vibe. Alessio Nardi, founder of the London studio A-nrd, designed the space, as well as the adjacent chef’s table and restaurant above, and all of them exude a glamour that recalls coastal Mexico.
In the Mezcaleria, found past a sliding glass door speckled with tones of amber, there are lamps swaddled in shades of ethereal seagrass and a smattering of folk-art objects on display. Slide into one of the custom cane booths, or better yet, a stool at the commanding concrete-and-reclaimed wood bar. That sorrel-laced sour the cordial bartender is shaking up should be your last call, too.