Head of wine at private members’ club 67 Pall Mall, Master Sommelier Ronan Sayburn is a formidable and well-respected force in the world of sommellerie. As former executive head sommelier for the Gordon Ramsay Group, he oversaw the list at the three-Michelin-starred Royal Hospital Road, and has also been the man behind stellar lists at Claridge’s, The Connaught and The Savoy, as well as Le Manoir Aux Quat’ Saisons, Pied à Terre and The Greenhouse.
What’s your vintage?
1969 – dire for Bordeaux but good for Burgundy.
What’s your go-to drink at the end of a long day?
A glass of Champagne!
What’s your most embarrassing front-of-house moment?
On one occasion, while working with Gordon Ramsay, I told him in the middle of dinner service that a guest seated on one of the tables in the restaurant was going to propose to his girlfriend. I could see a sommelier pouring two glasses of Champagne shortly after and upon enquiry, the sommelier said they were on request of Gordon who I could see standing next to the table chatting. As I quickly ran over I could hear him congratulating the couple and saying how nice it was they had spent the evening at his restaurant – before it had even happened.
If you could give your younger self advice when starting out as a somm, what would it be?
Be prepared for the long hours!
Has a wine ever given you an epiphany? Which one?
Several, one in particular was 1900 Margaux. It was exceptionally good.
Which customer habit annoys you the most?
No customer habits annoy me as all customers are important, but definitely rudeness to other members of staff.
Who is your inspiration in the gastronomic world?
Working so closely with Gordon Ramsay was amazing, and Michel Roux Jr is an inspired tutor, mentor and leader to his team.
What’s your ultimate food and wine pairing?
Simplicity. For example oysters and Chablis, amontillado Sherries with aged hard cheese, Côte-Rôtie with venison.
Where would your fantasy vineyard be?
Either on Santorini or in the Mosel Valley, Germany
If you weren’t a sommelier, what would you be doing?
Geologist or a diving instructor. I used to be a diving instructor, but not anymore!
Which wine (grape/style) do you find it impossible to get along with?
All rosé wines, and Pinotage from South Africa.
Who is the most memorable customer you’ve ever served?
Paul McCartney. He used to come to The Greenhouse when I worked there and would have dinner with his daughter, Stella. He would always drink orange Margaritas at the bar before she arrived, and only I knew how to make them, so I would stand and talk to him for a good half an hour before his daughter arrived. He’s a very nice and down to earth guy. One night he came in and wanted a really special bottle, requesting either a half bottle or full as he was dining alone. I suggested a bottle from Domaine Dujac, and at the end of service he called me over to say the wine was excellent but he didn’t drink it all. He asked if I wanted to enjoy the rest, so I went and did my emails, while drinking one of the best Burgundies from one of the best producers in the region.