London's club for wine lovers, 67 Pall Mall, has now been operating for just over two years. Last month, they opened a new upstairs floor which doubles their capacity and provides a much-needed casual space for drinks and food. (Unlike downstairs, jackets are not required, but there is still a ban on sportswear, ripped jeans, gym shoes etc).
The club room, as the upstairs is known, seats 93 in a cleverly designed space that has several different sections. The horseshoe bar is the main feature, with an assortment of tables and chairs around it. There's a large oak boardroom table high stools, and a coal fire with easy chairs.
Towards the back of the room is a smaller, more private section of tables and chairs which can be commandeered for book launches and the like, then a final cubby-hole known as the naughty corner, which features a mini cocktail bar and saucy pictures on the walls.
This extra space has made a huge difference to the usability of the club, which could frequently be overcrowded in the bar and mezzanine for those who hadn't booked a table. The lounge (downstairs) remains unchanged, serving a full menu and requiring bookings; the club room (upstairs) is unbookable and serves a different menu from a dedicated kitchen.
The by-the-glass lists are different too, though have similarly big range. Both are accessed via tablets, and can therefore be found online, using these links:
It's very useful being able to look at the wine list in advance! Top tip: hover your mouse to the right of the wine name to see how much is available. (Often there will be fewer than two glasses left.)
Compared to last year, I've been using the club much less in 2017. About half as much, in fact, though my average spend has doubled. That means I've been in around 25 times and spent about £2,000 (including the annual fee of £750). That's pretty small fry compared to some many of the spending I've seen in there, but it represents pretty good value for me.
Talking of which, the wine list is full of outstanding buys. Some of my highlights this year have been:
- Château Tahblik Shiraz 1999 Nagambie Lakes, £7
- Domaine de la Côte, La Côte Pinot Noir 2013 Sta Rita Hills, £17
- J L Chave Sélection, Offerus 2013 St-Joseph, £11
- Julien Pilon, Lône 2014 Condrieu, £8.50
- Dom St-Prefert, Collection Charles Giraud 2011 Châteauneuf-du-Pape, £8.50
- M Chapoutier, Chante-Alouette 2015 Hermitage, £11
- Two Paddocks Riesling 2105 Central Otage, £7
For me, the club has become indispensible as a place to meet colleagues and friends for drinks and meetings, or as a quiet place to work during the day. The food keeps getting better, and the kitchen seems proficient at everything from steak to Thai-style salads. And the staff are, without fail, professional, welcoming and superbly efficient.
Is 67 Pall Mall a perfect 100-pointer, then? Not quite. The biggest bugbear is the amount of time it takes to get served. This is perhaps an unavoidable consequence of a huge list and using the Coravin, but it isn't uncommon to sometimes have to wait ten minutes to get your wine in front of you. Regarding food, I'd still like to see a fixed-price menu option. Otherwise, the reception and cloakroom area can get congested at peak times and I'd like better filtering/sorting options in the wine list - arranging search results by price or vintage, for example.
But these are small gripes and overall, I am very impressed. What amazes me now is how we ever managed without a place which has now become a London wine institution.