Two years ago 67 Pall Mall’s team of sommeliers were busy stocking its cellar for its first ever service. Back then, at the end of 2015, the club had opened with one goal; become the epicentre for fine wine appreciation in the UK. With plush interiors, a renowned head chef and the ability to make the world’s finest wines accessible at sensible prices, they arguably achieved just that – closing off membership a mere two months after opening, and becoming the destination no one could get to. From then until now all of its enviable tastings, dinners and parties went on behind closed doors.
But with the addition of an entire new floor, a vastly expanding array of wines and some of that old St James style, membership is once again open. Curious to get inside, we went to see if this wine club was still worth the investment.
So many of St James and Westminster’s beautiful buildings can feel pretty soulless inside. Repurposed for offices and so often a part of some government cut-back scheme, many have lost whatever charm they first had. Having worked as a writer behind the stunning façade of The Sanctuary next to Westminster Abbey in a pokey cream office, it was a phenomena I’ve been all too aware off. Luckily, this isn’t the case with 67 Pall Mall at all.
Downstairs the dining room and bar feature gorgeous wood-panelled walls, richly-hued blue seats and large windows looking out towards St James’s Palace, flooding the space in subdued natural light. The entire room is dominated by the impressive wine display behind the bar, featuring just a fraction of what the club is stocking below, and stacks of elegant Zalto glassware. Even at Midday, there’s someone swirling viscous amber liquid around a fish-bowl glass before burying his nose deep within. It’s also here where Marcus Verberne, former head chef at Roast, serves his seasonally changing menu designed to pair beautifully with the extensive wines on offer.
A private dining room, carefully tucked away, and the events space below, all feature ingenious lighting in large white squares on the ceiling that can be toned down for a cosy atmosphere or turned right up to mimic bright daylight, allowing wine-tastings to fully appreciate a wine’s stunning range of colours and textures.
This part of the club was opened in 2015 and quickly became a place to host and be hosted as the old traditional winemakers rubbed shoulders with the new ‘it’ girls of young, fun wine. Despite the fancy postcode and lashings of Burgundy, 67 Pall Mall managed to capture both worlds in one in much the same way as the smaller Noble Rot restaurant has.
The shinny new part of 67 Pall Mall takes the club to an entirely different market, this feels much more like a wine bar than the restaurant-vibes of downstairs. Designed by the talented Russell Sage studio the space has regained some of its former glory when the building was first erected as residential space. It’s all autumnal colours, brass, natural light and some stunning wooden features. Perch at the bar, take up a comfy sofa or head into the backroom where the colour palate continues and the views are strictly regal – and what pairs better with your Taupenot Merme than a peek at the Queen driving past? Only some more of Marcus Verberne’s tasty morsels, here presented as a new sharing menu.
There’s one last little gem to the new floor, and this is the rather darker and moodier naughty corner where the offering switches from wine to spirits. Here you can follow up an evening grapes with a smooth Manhattan, a bitter Negroni, or perhaps a crisp Martini. It’s certainly where you’d find the DrinkUp team come Friday evening.
The reason we’re all here of course is the wine in 67 Pall Mall’s many bottles. Across the two floors they have a staggering 800 wines by the glass, achieved using Coravin’s revolutionary wine access system where the cork is never removed from the bottle, keeping them fresh with neutral argon gas. The club is quite possibly Coravin’s biggest success story, and means you can sip some outstanding wines without waste or taking a giant hit to your pocket. The range charts across both the old and new world so whether you’re into zippy Rieslings from Austria, heavily-fruited reds from Italy or the funky wines coming out of Adelaide Hills in South Australia, you’re unlikely to be disappointed on choice.
On the ground floor I’m shown the much-talked of wine library where members can browse the entire collection via an iPad, reading through each producer and tasting notes. What makes this collection utterly unique in its offering, besides the incredibly quantity, is the fact the club will often purchase wine from its members as well, some of whom are serious collectors and have cases stashed away on bonded warehouses, meaning the wine is probably in great condition. Think a vintage is unavailable? Well you might just find it in this library. For those seriously hoarding bottles there’s storage options available as well, and you can drink your own wine, with a corkage fee, here. That said, with a choice of 4000 wines, you’re probably better off trusting of the much-lauded and expertly trained sommeliers that make up the team here.
With prices on most wines that you simply can’t find anywhere else, educational events from the good and great of the wine world, the less formal and exquisite upstairs lounge and bar and the lure of monthly payments for those under 30 (because Millennial life is tough enough without having to save up £750 for one lump sum) this St James wine club is offering something every wine lover in London should be jumping at the chance. And no doubt this second burst of memberships will be drying up very quickly.