Review: The Monocle in The Grove
Edison bulbs encased in a delicate chain link chandelier glow invitingly against the dark walls of The Monocle. Dotted with framed vintage Italian posters advertising wine and spirits, the eclectic bar hearkens back to a time of speakeasies and burlesque shows. The ambiance is interrupted, however, by a discordant, spinning, color-changing light that looks sourced from Spencer’s. With so many design elements seemingly lovingly selected, that one damn light is all I could look at.
Misplaced disco light aside, the heavy wood bar and leather chairs are a great place to snuggle in and meet for a drink. Plush seating and patient bartenders bring the aesthetic into a tangible experience. Even the patio is cozy – sporting twinkle lights and enclosed by a wrought-iron fence and tall bamboo partition so it feels private despite its location just off the main drag of The Grove. On a busy evening, the whole place feels like an old gin joint, though the drinks tell a different story.
The drink menu consists of classic riffs with modern ingredients that don’t always play out as elegantly as intended. A highlight was the Empire State of Mind, The Monocle’s take on a Manhattan made with Four Roses, Dolin Rouge and The Big O ginger liqueur. Mild and sippable, it was the ideal cocktail to get me into the spirit. It made me wish The Monocle focused on old-school cocktails done right, as the other drinks I tried beat me over the head with one ingredient that felt out of place – just like that disco light.
Though the menu didn’t always live up to the fantasy the pressed-tin bar promised, there were other consolations. Like a bottomless sangria: you have to admire the moxie of offering a bottomless drink in The Grove. With a tropical Sunny D-plus-rosé vibe, the sangria was a sweet, refreshing chalice to enjoy on the patio if you’re in for a marathon and not a sprint. I found myself going back for several refills, which meant the drink easily paid for itself until they ran out. (I wasn’t the only one taking advantage that night.)
If your marathon lasts a little too long, there are a few snacks on the menu like a requisite hummus plate and meat and cheese board, but food is clearly not the focus here.
In true speakeasy fashion, The Emerald Room is an intimate event space hidden in the back. Everything from improv comedy to local musicians, drag shows, magicians and the apropos burlesque show, The Emerald Room hosts it all between lavish green velvet curtains. Tiny tables pushed right up against the small stage provide a cheeky experience not found elsewhere in St. Louis. Cabaret shows can be seen around town, but this intimate format is the way they were intended to be enjoyed.
Offering such a broad swath of entertainment attracts just as wide an audience with many different types haunting the bar. Whether you want to mingle or just be surrounded by open-minded folk while drinking on your own, you’ll have a place at The Monocle. Go for the show, but stay for the people.
4510 Manchester Ave., St. Louis, 314.932.7003, themonoclestl.com
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