67 Pall Mall is going from strength to strength and has now opened some new space upstairs, writes Christopher Jackson
In relatively short order, 67 Pall Mall is an address that has acquired romance: tell people that you are going there, and their eyebrows rise involuntarily, as if at the suggestion of some intrigue. Opening in 2015, it’s the brainchild of hedge fund owner Grant Ashton, ably supported by Niels Sherry – the very apotheosis of nominative determinism – as General Manager.
It’s all about wine: specifically the club is a genteel retort to the monstrously silly prices in the capital. Most of us, the argument runs, don’t enjoy the sort of wine we should because of widespread overpricing. This in turn leads to numerous untold evils such as house music, the Corbyn cult and teetotalism among the young.
And there are a lot of people who seem to agree. The success is there in the hum of the place: good wine attracts good people. But it’s also evident in expansion: Sherry – who is affable, and enjoying a deserved success – takes us upstairs to see the club’s new rooms: the building is Grade II-listed and was designed by Edward Lutyens, that underestimated architect. This upper area provides additional nooks – places suggestive somehow of tryst or the instigation of confidences.
But we spend most of our time in the member’s lounge: there the menu has been designed by Marcus Verberne, who has worked his way up through Le Caprice and the Ivy group – but his cooking is far more interesting than anything to be had at the Ivy.
We begin with the Carlingford Lough rocks oysters: these were ice-cold and rejuvenating, and washed down with a judicious glass of champagne. ‘This is utterly splendid,’ said my companion, surveying the lounge like a king considering his rightful domain. I, agreeing, eyed the Iranian beluga on a next-door table and made a mental note to have it on another occasion.
After the oysters I was in the mood for more sea: I opted for the Isle of Mull hand-dived scallops: these came with fresh blood pudding and a Bramley apple and potato sauce. My companion decided on the risotto nero with baby squid and hedgerow garlic: ‘This is just seriously amazing,’ was his verdict on these, as he looked around with a slightly hunted look, as if someone might any moment evict him before he’d had his main.
But of course, the crucial thing in all this was the wine, weaving in and out of the food, expertly paired by Terry Kandylis, the place’s head sommelier. By the time my 8oz beef burger with wild boar pancetta and cheese and onion rings – and my companion’s perfectly cooked steak – arrived we were reminding ourselves of the critic’s duty, and looking around for things to criticise.
Drunkenly, we landed upon a patch of wall in the upper gallery which is yet to be decorated, and would be a fine candidate for a bit of sprucing up. But we were not convinced even by our own pernickitiness. 67 Pall Mall is a difficult place to carp at, and after a while one ceases to bother: it is not quite in the spirit of the place somehow.
‘I really do think this place is f**ing splendid,’ said my friend by way of summation, as we waited for our coats before walking up towards Green Park.
Good wine is a sign of civilisation, I decided as I whistled the last hundred yards home. So is good food and good company: and 67 Pall Mall is a sign of a species you’d be foolish to write off just yet.
Christopher Jackson is deputy editor of Spear’s