lizetta loves

An evening in church with strangers and negronis

The last time I was in St Mark’s Church in Mayfair was, having had a quick Google, nearly eight years ago when I volunteered at a Nomad Cinema screening of Dirty Dancing. I remember it well as a guy I’d had a couple of dates with was there on a date. It could’ve been awkward but I took the opportunity to day hi as she headed to the toilets on the way out.

I hadn’t thought about that night for a while until I walked in to said church this evening and I immediately recognised it. The place is now a food market – the perfect venue for a gathering of strangers.

I’ve been meaning to go for ages, having been a long time (albeit infrequent) visitor to the original Mercato near Elephant and Castle, but it took a friend from Paris arranging a get together there to finally make me tick it off my to go list. Perhaps unsurprisingly considering the building and the location, it’s got a very different atmosphere to Mercato Metropolitano and slightly different food and drink offerings.Whilst the main area is open for people to buy from any of the vendors, there are some areas limited to use by customers of specific vendors.

From the moment I walked in, after resisting the plants on sale in the entrance, the smell of food filled my nostrils, especially the freshly cooked pizzas that were pouring out of the pizza oven. While I defaulted to my regular drink of choice, I was determined to not just default to pizza for food. Having only been introduced to bao buns lat year, I opted for a crispy chicken bao and some pork dumplings. I was not disappointed.

Despite what people may think, I’m not a natural networker or that comfortable talking to strangers, but with some people you know the people that they are going to bring together are your kind of people. Tonight that was definitely the case. A small group of like minded people, all of whom are regular or occasional attendees of London Writers’ Salon’s Writers’ Hour. As well as my friend, we all immediately had that in common. Topics of conversation included litter, tattoos (including the near tattoo regrets if we’d had those tattoos we wanted when we were younger), wedding proposals, Harrods, books, the Edinburgh Fringe and famous people we’ve spotted at Writers Hour amongst other things. My catalogued wardrobe and jewellery collection seemed to really intrigue the group.

As we drank, ate and chatted we also admired the location. Built in the 1820s, it was built for the growing community of aristocracy and wealthy people who were moving to town houses in the area. It was Grade 1 listed in 1958 and ceased being a place of worship in 1974, sitting empty for 40 years before it was bought and started being used as a venue.

It may no longer be used for religious gatherings, but a lot of the features are retained including large stained glass windows at both ends and a pulpit, positioned right next to the cocktail bar. Before leaving a few of us had a wander down to the crypt, where there is a cosier bar area and a brewery, up to the balcony for a birds eye view of the crowds downstairs, and on to the roof terrace.

I rarely go out in the West End these days, preferring to opt for places nearer to home, but I’m glad I now have this place on my radar as it’s far more convenient and central for when I am in the area, and it’s perfect for bringing people together from all parts of London, and in this case further afield.

It turns out it’s not just Organoke that gets me to church. Good food, good drink and good company is also a good excuse.

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