Wine snobs beware – you might not be welcome at 67 Pall Mall. Spear's Sophie McIntyre dines at London's favourite new wine club
Despite its grand surrounds – the club is right next to St James’ Palace – the interior of 67 Pall Mall has an intimate feel: the restaurant space by which you enter is cosy, and it is most certainly operating at full capacity on the night we visit.
Just over a year after opening, private members’ club 67 Pall Mall is cooking on gas because of its unique raison d’etre – the 2,000 bottles of the world’s most interesting wine residing in its cellars.
The club’s founder, former City trader Grant Ashton, has turned the old Hambros West-end branch into a cool space for wine lovers. And the atmosphere is anything but stuffy – 67’s members have an enthusiasm and joie de vivre that sets a relaxed tone for a Pall Mall club (although you still have to sport a jacket).
Sommeliers flash past with crystal decanters and thin Zalto glassware, sporting numerous wine-related badges of honour, as members recline on armchairs and long velvet benches, swilling and sniffing interesting looking vintages.
The dining room has its clubbable aspects: panelled wood, club chairs and tastefully weathered Persian carpets, but there are also some nice modern touches. A pair of large and sculptural Art Deco lights hangs from the ceiling; and fashionable rattan screens separate the dining space from the slick modern bar – around which the serious buffs seem to congregate. My guest and I covet a pair of stunning Liberty print chairs as we sip a glass of Gossett Grand Reserve Champagne.
Once seated, diners are presented with an iPad. At this point, the wine buffs in your party will probably decide they never want to eat anywhere else ever again. There are more than 2,000 very fairly priced wines on the interactive wine-list device (the iPad is a live representation of the cellar’s contents at any particular moment), an astonishing 500 of which are by the glass. The club offers more wines by the glass than anywhere else in the world.
The club’s menu extends from burgers to caviar. We test the kitchens and our keen blue-eyed, South African Sommelier Gareth to the max, requesting three courses of formal dining options, with individual glasses of wine chosen for each dish. Gareth, named best South African sommelier in 2015, rises to the challenge with wines slightly outside our comfort zone but all the more fun for it.
We start with oysters and sustainably farmed French caviar. The former were plump, creamy, and large enough that you had to chew them – so not for the faint of heart. Gareth pairs our fish course with a cool Chablis and two slightly sweet German wines. We had doubts about one, but it turned out to be a grower.
For our main course we tuck into steak (the fillet was superbly tender) and duck legs with chips and Dauphinoise potatoes. Gareth pairs the duck with an unusually sharp French red (Tardieu-Laurent Cornas Vieilles Vignes) and the steaks with a spicy and moreish Rioja. Nice work Gareth.
Our puddings were accompanied with an unusual selection of wines: a fortified Macvin de Jura, a peachy Italian white from Roberto Anselmi and a 2003 Quinta do Noval Colheita Tawny Port.
An after dinner tour takes us to the dimly light bar area, where aficionados furtively discuss a few reds; and then it is on to a tasting space, known as the Wine Library: a cellar-cum-bar which is brightly lit so as to allow for proper analysis of the wines, and it’s a cool place to chew the fat with other members.
There are a few other rooms to the club: the peaceful library area, a private dining room and a huge underground banqueting hall. But the club’s real treasure is, of course, its cellar. Beneath the kitchens lies the old Hambros Vault. And behind the re-enforced doors lie the personal wine collections of the club’s 1,800 members.
Whether you are an enthusiastic young bibber wanting to learn more or an old hand, it would be worth putting in a call to the founder, Ashton, before the club’s waiting list gets prohibitively long.
Certainly, if dinner is anything to go by, 67 is sure to become the hangout for those who know their grapes, or would just like to drink fantastic wine.