London's members' club for wine lovers opened officially one year ago today. I wrote two early reviews of 67 Pall Mall last year (both of which have become the most read articles on my blog) so I thought it would be worthwhile detailing my experience over an entire year.
I have visited the club about 45 times in twelve months, so roughly four times a month, and I spend an average of £40 each time. That means that a year of usage, including the trade membership fee of £625, costs me something like £2,280 annually. That sounds like quite a lot, though it's actually less than a single bottle of some of the wines on their list ...
... and nearly half the price of their most expensive bottle (if you add the customary 12.5% service) ...
... so, you know. Value is relative.
For me, the club is definitely worth the money. I can spend several hours working there during a weekday and spend less than £10. I can add a light lunch for less than £20. Having a quiet central London space with reliable wifi and comfortable seating is a godsend. It's also a very handy place to have meetings, with several quiet areas to ensure privacy if needed.
As you might expect, it's also a great place to pop in for a drink. Choice of wine by the glass is superb. Prices start at £7 for 125 ml, which can get you excellent quality - currently, the choice at that price includes:
- Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey 2014 Rully
- Garnier et Fils 2014 Chablis premier cru
- Two vintages of Terre de Gneiss Muscadet
- Graillot's Crozes-Hermitage (white and red)
- Three different Montlouis-sur-Loires
- Fennochio's delicious Roero
- Reichgraf von Kesselstadt, Piesporter Goldtropfchen Riesling spätlese 2007 Mosel (and several other German Rieslings)
- No fewer than seven Greek whites, including awesome Santorini from Sigalas
- Four Central Otago Rieslings, including Rippon - top stuff
- Several classic Chardonnays from Australia, such as Stella Bella 2011 from Margaret River
- Badenhorst Family White from Swartland
- As well as selections from Japan, Canada, England, Thailand, Lebanon, Jura and elsewhere
... and that's just the whites. Pretty much everything is served by Coravin - so it arrives in pristine condition - in Zalto glassware. The only drawbacks are that the bar can sometimes get busy (though the club is expanding - see below), and that service can be slow on the mezzanine level.
Then there's the restaurant. This is when an evening can get quite spendy, because the menu isn't cheap. I've heard some people say the food is unexciting, but I have always found it spot on - apart from the salt and vinegar onion rings served with the burger, which are way too strong and kill any wine match! The menu may be fairly conventional, but it offers plenty of choice, changes regularly and often features one-off specials.
It might be nice if there was a fixed-price option for two or three courses, but otherwise I think they are getting it about right. The scotch egg is a must, and head chef Marcus Verbene seems a particularly dab hand at Italian classics - I've been very impressed by the risotto and pasta dishes.
That brings me to the staff. As you'd expect for a St James members' club, service has to be impeccable. The entire 67 Pall Mall team does an excellent job. Everyone there has been a pleasure to deal with - from reception to event management to waiting staff - professional, efficient, friendly, helpful.
Special mention must go to the team of sommeliers led by Terry Kandylis, since they are the ones who put the club's USP into practice. Handling such a large list, including different glassware and many different serving sizes, requires a great deal expertise and experience. They achieve it admirably.
The team also administer an exhaustive program of tastings and dinners. Recent events have included:
- A masterclass on orange wine (eight wines, £40)
- A Phélan-Ségur dinner (six vintages, £125)
- A tasting of Catena's Adrianna vineyard (seven wines, £50)
- A fine wine dinner with François Audouze (10 wines, £2,675)
Other topics have included rum, sake, caviar, champagne, chocolate and identifying fake wine. There seem to be at least two or three different events every week, and as you can see they cover just about every possibility of style and price.
Expanding the club
In 2017, the club plans to double its space by going up into the first floor. This will be a dedicated lounge area, allowing the ground floor to focus on dining. With this added capacity, the club is currently accepting membership enquiries via its website.
For me, 67 Pall Mall is like the sixth-form common room of the wine trade. For some other members, it is a private restaurant where they can store and share their best wines for a reasonable corkage charge. For still more, it is an events space for tastings, masterclasses and dinners.
For all of us, it is a place to meet, relax, socialise, eat and drink fantastic wine in a familiar, comfortable setting. After the first year of membership, it has become invaluable.