Pall Mall is well known for its members’ clubs, but there’s a new kid on the block: 67 Pall Mall is ‘founded by wine lovers, for wine lovers’, and you can even bring your own bottle…
WORDS Alexander Larman
On the august stretch of London’s clubland that is Pall Mall, most of the institutions pride themselves on offering their members a mixture of good food and wine as part of their expensive service. However, none has previously gone so far as the newly opened establishment 67 Pall Mall, which describes itself as ‘founded by wine lovers, by wine lovers’.
Set in a grand Lutyens building, a painstaking refurbishment of a derelict former bank has resulted in an appropriately inspiring space in which its members (1,400 at the last count) can either bring their own bottles (for a very reasonable £20 corkage fee) or choose from an awe-inspiring selection by the glass, starting at £7. Prices are kept deliberately low; as CEO and founder Grant Ashton puts it, ‘where else in London could you come and drink a glass of Krug or Dom Pérignon 2004 for £20?’
Inside the opulent but far from overwhelming space, Ashton is in fine fettle when we meet on the first official day of opening, although the sizeable private spaces downstairs have been in use for tastings and samplings for some time. Joined by smoothly authoritative (and appropriately named) general manager Niels Sherry and master sommelier Ronan Sayburn, all three bring an impressive weight of knowledge and experience to the operation. Ashton proves both a convivial host and an evangelical figure when it comes to the merits of a club where the enjoyment of fine wine is not only a by-product, but the entire point of the operation.
Five and a half years in the planning, it’s both a labour of love and a carefully planned business idea; Ashton, who worked in the City for years as a hedge fund manager, balances a love of wine (‘especially good claret’) with a finely tuned commercial sense.
Where else in London could you come and drink a glass of Krug or Dom Pérignon 2004 for £20?
‘My motivation was to found an establishment that would allow people to sample fine wine at considerably smaller mark ups than they would expect to pay in a restaurant,’ says Ashton. ‘Our mark ups are between 20-40%; in many of the establishments round here, you would expect to pay three to four times what the wine originally costs. And I felt that this put people off going out; speaking personally, I found that I was drinking more at home rather than in restaurants, which seemed a shame.’
With this in mind, members who want to splash out can do so (on our visit, some people enjoying a convivial lunch were tucking into bottles of a particularly fine Cheval Blanc 2004, a Bordeaux that one would expect to pay several hundred pounds for), but those of more moderate tastes can enjoy the fine English sparkling wine Nyetimber at a mere £7 a glass – half what it costs in many other restaurants.
The food, overseen by ex-Roast head chef Marcus Veberne, is certainly key to the operation: ‘We’re open from breakfast to dinner,’ says Ashton, ‘and we want people to be able to enjoy some excellent cooking, but we’re wine-led, rather than food-led; Marcus has been coming up with dishes that are dictated by the wine list, rather than the other way round.’
‘This doesn’t really include the breakfast menu so far, but we’re working on it’, adds Sayburn, followed by a brief discussion about ‘the perfect breakfast wine’ (the conclusion was, unsurprisingly, champagne). Although membership is currently full, it is hoped that the lists will reopen soon, and at £1,000 for an annual membership, it compares extremely favourably to several other institutions around Pall Mall.
As Ashton puts it: ‘You can have excellent food, really excellent wine and hopefully sparkling conversation in a convivial setting. What more could you ask for?’
67 Pall Mall SW1Y 5ES; 020 3000 6767; 67pallmall.co.uk