Spear's drops in on the palate-pleasing offering with a Palladian theme, and finds an oasis of top wines – and reason
London is not short of private members' clubs to suit every personality and proclivity. Whether right-wing or very-right-wing, media twit or intercontinental daredevil, there are premises for your taste. And now comes one in which taste is paramount: 67 Pall Mall, the private members' club for wine-lovers.
Founded by ex-hedgie Grant Ashton, with wine-world habitu’ Niels Sherry (yes, he's heard the jokes) as general manager and master sommelier Ronan Sayburn as head of wine, 67 Pall Mall will offer its members the choice of thousands of bottles at reasonable prices in a Grade II-listed Lutyens club room. When I visited last week, the triple-height room was still in reconstruction, with boards over some of the windows, but you could easily see how the south-western light would flood in when they were unbarred.
The reasonable prices are one of the club's chief selling points, says Sherry. Whereas a restaurant might charge ’350 for a bottle of wine whose cost price is ’100, 67 Pall Mall will offer it for ’140 or ’145. A thousand-pound bottle of wine would be around ’1,200, instead of upwards of three grand. If nothing else, that will make even the driest white taste sweet.
There will be modern British food ('it's not about foams and drizzles and twirls') served throughout the day, and 5,000 wines on their list. 200 of them will be sold by the glass, including some of the best, thanks to whizzy technology, and eight champagnes like Dom Perignon '04 will go for ’15 a glass. This covers the cost, says Sherry, but no more. Members can store a mixed case of their own in the club's cellars (capacity: 31,000 bottles) and corkage is a flat ’20.
Membership is ’1,000 a year plus ’1,000 joining fee and will be limited to 1,200; there are already a thousand. (After a How To Spend It piece, says Sherry, they had 450 enquiries.) There will be a soft opening by August, with the official launch the month after.
Not that Pall-Mall-haunting oenophiles have ever been in the avant-garde, but Sherry takes pains to stress he's not interested in 67 Pall Mall being 'London's next trendy club', part of the 'migratory club world'. Given the City grandees (stock exchange CEO Xavier Rolet) and wine-trade scions who have already joined, this seems a realistic proposition.
The building hardly seems migratory: 'a brilliant variation on a Palladian theme, full of subtleties and felicities', according to a 1960 critic, it was Hambros Bank from 1934 to 1999, and the new club retains the original wood panelling. It is in about as prestigious a site as possible too: it overlooks Marlborough House, is adjacent to Inigo Jones's pale-lemon Queen's Chapel and across from St James's Palace.
It'll be easy for wine-lovers to make a case for joining.