Finding a good wine to drink in central London is not a challenge – finding it at a affordable price is. 67 Pall Mall, a private members club started by Grant Ashton challenged this issue exceptionally well. Being a members club there is a joining fee followed by modest annual membership dues (no different from any other club in London) but these can easily be offset by the small cash mark up on the wines. This though I feel is secondary to most members reason for joining – the other members and the quality of wines and expertise available.
It is a club with a common theme, one that is notorious for being of a generous nature, where sharing is normalised and friendships founded. In an hour there one morning prior to lunch, I was not witness to what it might fully be like to be a member, but I did get a very good sense. A sense of inclusion, non-elitism, friendliness, passion and congeniality. A place of discussion, education and welcomeness.
Having signed in at the front desk I waited within the members lounge, resplendent with a feature bar, located at the far end of the tastefully designed, not overly formal restaurant. It was a splendid with a huge variety of wines (over 500) available by the glass. Once opened these bottles are kept at optimum condition by the Coravin system. It is here that my tour would begin. Adjacent is the wine library filled with temperature and humidity controlled glass cabinets containing some of the worlds finest wines. Think DRC and down. It is an amazing display and alone could keep my mind active reminiscing over when I had enjoyed wines from those Chateaux and Estates. It transcends from being cabinets to a work of art in my opinion. You literally could spend hours in that room alone.
Just to the side is a set of stairs leading down to the St James room that hosts all sort of tastings and masterclass for members (and is also hired out for trade tastings as it has it’s own entrance). This is one aspect of the club I was particularly keen on – the educational element and opportunity to taste wines that you otherwise would rarely have the opportunity to. These are ticketed events and range in price between a few pounds into the hundreds for the super expensive wines. The point is that all members will have a chance to attend a selection of tastings within their price range. This allows you to not only learn, but I presume for any shy members, the opportunity to network and meet others in a setting that is relaxed. The addition of wine would also help some pluck up the courage to speak with a neighbour I dare say.
Passing back through the restaurant (jacket required) that serves modern European food, cooked up by Marcus Verberne, we ventured upstairs to the less informal clubroom and lounge area. Light and airy with a long bar, it is here that members must come to rewind and relax. A well stocked book shelf provides ample reading for those by themsleves, although I am sure after a few glasses of something nice they would soon be invited to join other members. It just seems that sort of club.
With 24,000 bottles stored in the sub basement cellar producing a written wine list would be nigh on impossible and very hard to keep up to date. What was needed was a modern interpretation of a wine list and that was found by using an iPad. Not only can the list be kept up to date, but also winemaker interviews, tasting notes from the huge team of Sommeliers (head up by Ronan Sayburn MS) and critics observations noted about the wines where possible. I did not see the app, but this might have been wise – I am not sure I would have put it down given the amount of reading and knowledge available.
Although we did not venture down to it, I imagine the cellar to be one of the finest in the country. Within it is the Chatwood Invincible Strongroom, where the clubs and members most valuable wines are stored. Originally the Hambros Bank safe it is regarded as the most secure storage facility in London. Members are permitted to store two cases of their own wine within the cellars that may enjoy for a small fee when at the club. I rather like this aspect, as wine is about sharing and preferably with fellow Oenophiles and not your son or daughters alocpop drinking partner who will never appreciate the complexities and intrigue of wine.
To join 67 Pall Mall you need to be propositioned and seconded by current members. To this end, I shall be trying to find and ingratiate myself with a member or two as I feel I would very much like to belong to this club.