Skip to content

Mercy Me!

Nestled in the basement of Newcastle’s Cloth Market lies Mother Mercy - a cocktail bar that blends the meticulous professionalism of a five-star hotel with the charm and characteristics of a traditional Geordie watering hole.

These components aren’t by chance. Moreover, they are testament to the remarkable career of co-founder Neil Donachie.

From a young age, Neil had a passion for music and creativity, and after living in Manchester with his band in his late teens, the Durham native moved back to the North East and studied music at Newcastle University.

During this time, he secured a part-time job at Popolo, on Newcastle’s Pilgrim Street, and was introduced to the dynamic world of hospitality.

“It’s really similar to a lot of the reasons why I enjoyed music.

“It was lively, it was active, we were having a good time, it was creative.

“It didn’t feel like a nine-to-five in any way.”

Coming to the end of his degree, an opportunity to work at The Savoy, in London, came up through a friend and past colleague at Popolo.

After numerous interviews, Neil started at the bottom, polishing glasses and learning from the best.

During his time at The Savoy, he worked his way up to senior bartender, was part of the team when they won ‘Best Hotel Bar in the World’.

“It was one of the biggest periods of professional development in my life.

“You’re surrounded by a big international team, all people that were there for the same reason, which was to learn and be the best.

“The culture was a rigorous focus on quality and professionalism.”

After nearly four years at The Savoy, Neil moved back to the North East.

He worked across the region, most notably as bar manager at Michelin-star restaurant House of Tides and brand manager at Fentimans.

It was his experience across the industry, from managerial to operations, marketing and the support of co-founder Luke Comer, that made Neil realise he needed to take the next step in his career.

That next step was Mother Mercy.

With a passion for creativity and a dream of curating spaces, Neil knew there was a gap in the market for a table service-led cocktail bar in Newcastle.

Since its inception in November 2019, Mother Mercy has enjoyed rapid growth, huge award wins and has since opened sister venue Café Mercy and expanded into Fenwick.

Even after lockdowns and roadblocks in the industry, the brand is going from strength-to-strength.

“We try to be ruthlessly focused on the consistency of our recipes.

“We’re much more like a liquid restaurant than we are a bar, and guests notice these things.

“We apply Michelin star and five-star hotel service techniques to a basement.”

From freshly squeezed juice and frozen glasses to a commitment to excellent service, the team at Mother Mercy have an unwavering dedication to quality – a simple characteristic that has been a recurring motif within Neil’s extraordinary career and undoubtedly plays a key part in Mother Mercy’s success.


Words by Kate Hewison

Photography by Christopher Owens



March 8, 2024

  • Feature

Created by Kate Hewison