Dock in and get Infused at C.G.R Merchants and Co
Before we go any further, it stands for Coffee, Gin and Rum. Also, I have to warn you, that I was very taken with this establishment, so prepare yourself for some prattling. I mean it’s early days in this review, but the potential for getting sidetracked is substantial.
Simply walking into the place to meet owner Jonny McKenzie was an experience. You walk up the stairs (it was formally the premises of Hooch) and your ears are greeted by some Afro-Cuban/Latin beats. Walking in off a bustling Courtney Place you find yourself instantly mellowing. When you round the top of the stairs you’re suddenly transported into a scene out of The Rum Diary.
I think the interior of the bar is best likened to one of those classic Caribbean blokes that you see in the movies. You know the ones, fifty or sixty years old, hair that’s more silver than black, wearing a beautifully pressed linen suit with a crisp shirt that’s open at the collar. Probably nursing a rum and cigar, with a panama hat to top off the look. That is how C.G.R Merchant and Co would dress. Casual, but smart. Cool as a cucumber. Elegant, but understated.
It’s a romantic place that conjures a sense of nostalgia for those exciting times of exploration and discovery that saw spice traders docking into ports to sell their wares all over the world.
The furniture is classy, the bar a beautiful dark wood, with mismatched chandeliers hanging from the visible beams in the ceiling and an alcove with a single table and a few chairs in, framed with curtains.
“We wanted to make that look like a place where people would sit when they were doing some serious bartering. Close the curtain and strike a deal sort of thing,” Jonny tells us, as three cups of cold-fusion coffee are brought over to us. The coffee was incredible. Made six days previously, utilising a method I can’t quite remember, it’s served chilled and is refreshing as anything.
Jonny also had us try the egg coffee. Yes, that’s egg as in the sort that comes out of a chicken. Naturally, I was dubious. I envisioned a cup of coffee with a fried egg slotted onto the rim like a wedge of pineapple.
It wasn’t. It was delicious. When I asked Jonny how they made it he told me it was a secret method he had picked up in Vietnam.
C.G.R specialise in making their own rum and gin infusions using a variety of herbs and spices. The infusions are always changing, depending on ingredients available, season of the year and how long it might take to make a particular one. They also only stock IPAs on their beer menu, to stay true to the time.
For me, what made C.G.R such an enjoyable experience were the little touches. The smoking area that overlooks different levels of tin roofing, giving the impression that you’re in a shantytown. The clove-studded orange-peel hanging over the bar, ready to have a strip snipped off by the barman as he makes you up your favourite cocktail. The fact that they use only one standard glass for their spirits, no matter what you order. The potted palms and old pictures of ships that line the walls, and the coffee sacks that fill the ceiling cavity. All of these factors lend themselves to the theme of exotic escapism, which is what I love about the place.
“We’ve even tried to make it so that only a few of our chairs face the stairwell, so that people don’t arrive and feel scrutinized.” Jonny explains. “We’re trying to create an environment where people don’t come up to the bar to order. We just want them to sit back and enjoy the service and the experience.”
I honestly can’t recommend C.G.R Merchant and Co enough. It’s the perfect place to unwind after work, to pop into on a lazy weekend day, or visit after dinner.
They also have gin and rum tastings on Monday and Tuesday evenings. It’s an exciting time we live in.