Former city trader Grant Ashton is the visionary who, in the words of the famous NatWest ad, “turned a bank into a trendy wine bar”, albeit on a mighty scale. The CEO of 67 describes the public areas of the former Hambros bank replete with original safe and Austrian oak panelling, as “an iceberg where members see three-eighths of the operation”. Even on a quiet day “there will be 60 staff working here”.
With head of wine and Master Sommelier Ronan Sayburn, Ashton opened the club in stages from 2015. Together, they oversee 17 full-time sommeliers plying a core list of a whopping 6,000 lines from 42 countries, with 800 by-the-glass offerings, care of the Coravin, plus extensive members’ reserves kept on-site and at a second chamber close to Fortnum & Mason. Members, including Peter Charles Percival Hambros, “who sits where his desk used to be when it was the bank”, predominantly stockpile wines from Bordeaux, Burgundy, Tuscany and Piedmont, although Sayburn enjoys consistently veering down paths less travelled, hence events such as the Lebanese night, natural wines walk-around, and [David] Bowie & Burgundy – “the first wine-and-music monograph ever performed in celebration of the start of Burgundy week,” says Ashton.
Far from stiff, the club also hosts a jazz programme, and fortnightly Sunday lunches where members’ youngsters are entertained by the “animal man”, while their parents take the pleasure of wine seriously. “The average age of members went down half a year last year to 46.5,” notes Ashton. Other efforts to bring the median age down included the “BYOB young producers dinner for under-35 members” replete with post-tasting DJ, and a “reasonably priced trip to Bordeaux” for the same demographic. More conventional masterclasses, open to members and the public, include D’Oliveira Madeira back to 1908, and, held with regularity, “the Barolo Boys”, with truffle arancini.
Devised by Sayburn and head chef Marcus Verberne (ex- Le Caprice and Roast), food matches may include: “the pleasant, warm and balanced” Nascetta di Novello Anas Cetta Elvio Cogno with beetroot and goat’s cheese tortelloni and golden beetroot and horseradish purée; herb-and-juniper-roasted fillet of fallow deer “from the estate of a great friend and member of the club”, with bashed neeps and haggis, with Saint-Joseph (Tildé, Pierre Jean Villa), “which has ample fruit and a delightful, spicy complexity”.
Designed for “vin-curious” novice cooks and chefs alike, Sayburn’s new 177-page book, Wine and Food, offers a study of the world’s arguably greatest wines, with 100 sumptuous recipes taking in ‘sea and river’, ‘land and garden’ and ‘sweet’.
Rather than “sit here and pickle myself for 10 years”, Ashton made the “conscious decision” to establish more clubs globally, backed by investors in local markets but with reciprocal membership. In gestation for two years, 67 Pall Mall is working on its first overseas branch in Singapore, spanning floors 27 and 28 of the Shore Centre, complete with 113-metre sky-high terraces, spirits suites and, accessed by an internal lift, a “wibbly-wobbly wine tower” in the seven-metre-high club room. “There are as many wine distributors there as in the UK, and duty at £6 plus 7% goods and service tax isn’t as punishing as one might have thought.” Émigré Richard Hemming is one of three consulting Masters of Wine. However, given the tropical climate in Singapore, members will not be required to wear jackets.
During the lockdown, 67’s team were fully retained “hamsters in a wheel” while the Club hosted more than 500 virtual tastings available for existing members and newly-registered virtual members. Expect such digital initiatives to mushroom at the club.
By Douglas Blyde.
Terry Kandylis oversees 17 full-time sommeliers at the decorous, art-filled 67 Pall Mall plying a core list of 4,300 bottles, plus extensive members’ reserves. The physics graduate turned leading Master Sommelier initially studied WSET qualifications in his native Greece under the guidance of the country’s only Master of Wine, later earning spurs at The Fat Duck and The Ledbury before helping open the wine club in the grade II-listed former Hambros Bank.
Members predominantly stockpile wines from Bordeaux, Burgundy, Tuscany and Piedmont at the club, although Kandylis has seen “a promising increase” in Eastern Europe, Germany and Lebanon. Kandylis keenly accommodate their eccentricities. “One member has a personal decanter and asks that it is polished in the morning before every visit, while another wanted a mini-masterclass of Sancerre before deciding Sauvignon Blanc wasn’t for her. But we finally served her, blind, a lovely Sauvignon from Chile’s Aconcagua Valley, which she was very pleased with.”
Kandylis, who works alongside Head of Wine and fellow Master Sommelier, Ronan Sayburn (Le Manoir Aux Quat’ Saisons, Pied à Terre, OW Loeb, Gordon Ramsay at Royal Hospital Road, The Greenhouse) describes his vinous approach as having “no boundaries”. Hence the list features selected low-intervention wines. “Natural wines are most certainly getting better, cleaner and more linked in flavour to their geography. Real artisans have a deep knowledge of what they are aiming for and an understanding of the facts that can go wrong. If you need to be clean in a conventional winery, you need to be one hundred times more so in a natural one.”
At 800 bins, Kandylis and Sayburn offer likely the most substantial by-the-glass selection in the world, from 42 countries, including such tears of Bacchus as Sine Qua Non Tant Pis! 1995.
Kandylis recently visited Bordeaux, California, Australia and Austria, “seeing new trends and upcoming vignerons striving for quality and expression.” He also dispatches his sommeliers around the globe, the last trip being to the Douro and the next to Champagne. “We have a yearly calendar of all the whereabouts and happenings of our sommelier team. And our chef, who visits the fishmongers we work with, and shoots at the estate where we obtain venison.”
Dishes by said chef, Marcus Verberne (Le Caprice and Borough Market’s Roast) may include fried sea trout with steamed asparagus and oyster velouté paired with single estate Austrian Grüner Veltliner (F.X. Pichler). “Its vibrancy and minerality enhance the iodine aromas of the dish,” says Kandylis. Other dishes may include braised rabbit, cider and snail pie, and the 1kg of 100-day dry-aged cote de boeuf for two, as well as Lindisfarne rock oysters, Cannon & Cannon British charcuterie, and Russian Oscietra caviar.
67 very often plays host to standout masterclasses, “including a showcase spanning 40 years of first-growth of St-Estèphe, Château Montrose, presented by CEO, Hervé Berland.” Kandylis also fondly recalls the Burgundy masterclass by Jasper Morris MW, “a man who can travel you straight to the Côte-d’Or with his stories.” Off-piste, an event seeing wines matched with music played on an electric bass guitar was also incubated at the club.
In autumn 2017, the club expanded its tannic tendrils into an additional floor, creating the Clubroom including a spirits bar named, tongue-in-cheek, the Naughty Corner, equipped with 90 spirits such as Ben Nevis 42, bottled from 67’s own cask, which may be sipped by a real fire.
Forthcoming plans, according to founder and CEO, Grant Ashton (a former City trader), include a supplementary St James’s-based storage facility for 85,000 bottles “allowing us to expand our list to our long-term goal of 10,000 bins.” And, come early 2020, the team envisages the opening of their first overseas branch in Asia.
By Douglas Blyde.
Running to well over 4,000 bottles, the core list is intended to ‘excite, challenge and captivate’ members at Green Park’s well-upholstered, art-filled, 67 Pall Mall, says founder and CEO, Grant Ashton (a former City trader), with thousands of cases of the finest and rarest wines stored in the extensive cellars below ground in this grade II listed former bank.
Members may use a now thankfully dimmable memory function iPad, featuring winemaker comments, tasting notes and critic scores, to access some 26,000 bottles, including their own reserves. For those more analogue of nature, guidance is available by way of an 18-strong team of full-time sommeliers, lead by Terry Kandylis, a former Moët UK Sommelier of the Year, also accorded Best Sommelier in Greece.
‘We’re proud to list wines from every winemaking corner of the planet, from Napa to Kazakhstan and Japan to Uruguay,’ asserts Kandylis. ‘Members are encouraged to take the road less travelled and try something new – at a reasonable price.’ Ashton is in accord. ‘The concept of bottles forever locked in cellars, gathering dust is our bête-noir. Our mission, therefore, is to entice members to pull the cork and discover a new wine.’
Kandylis describes his vinous approach as having ‘no boundaries’. He elaborates: ‘we offer what we believe are good wines regardless of trends or fashion. Our events calendar reflects our broad wine spectrum, whether members are invited to a 15-vintage vertical of Vega Sicilia, or a Burgundy masterclass dinner with Anne Gros.’ Another event might include the Judgement of London (English fizz versus Champagne) as well as bottle versus magnum versus jeroboam, or an eye-opening masterclass on wine fraud.
Kandylis and Ashton offer arguably the most substantial by-the-glass selection in the world, with 750 bins available via Coravin, including such tears of Bacchus as: Latour 1961, Harlan Estate 1997 and Sassicaia 1985, as well as an amphora-made Sangiovese and even the odd (deliberately) orange wine.
In autumn 2017, the club expanded its tannic tendrils into an additional floor, creating the ‘Clubroom’, featuring a dedicated spirits bar aptly named the ‘Naughty Corner’, equipped with 1848 Godet Cognac and Ron Edmundo Dantes Grand Reserva 25 años, along with private dining area, The Marlborough Room. Of the real fire up here, Ashton loves the ‘more club-like’ atmosphere it engenders.
Wine lovers fortunate enough to pass through the doors of 67 Pall Mall are likely to enjoy themselves quite a lot, promises Ashton. A London annual membership is a formidable £3,000 (£1,500 joining fee, plus £1,500 a year), ‘but if you have it, spend it here.’ Overseas, country, wine trade and under-35 memberships are also available.
Ashton remains buoyant in the face of Brexit. ‘We see increasing demand, both for the collecting and the consumption of fine wine. Whilst inevitably this has led to higher prices, in practice, this has translated into a diversification into lesser-known regions by our members, as they seek new wine experiences in less explored regions of the 37 different countries represented on our list.’
The food offer by Marcus Verberne is expectedly wine-friendly, and may include Cannon and Cannon British charcuterie, monkfish osso bucco with mussels and sea beet, a rabbit and king oyster mushroom pie, and a 35-day dry-aged Porterhouse, as well as Welsh rarebit.
If visiting for breakfast, note the near Burgundian of provenance, single estate and micro-lot speciality grade tea and coffee options by Difference Coffee Co. and Lalani and Co.
By Douglas Blyde.
Housed in a grade II listed building, which is a former bank designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, members of 67 Pall Mall have access to an unrivalled list of wines, all of them sold at an eminently sensible price, all expertly curated by Master Sommelier Ronan Sayburn. The list is crafted “to excite, challenge and captivate” the club’s members, its amazing diversity and depth made possible thanks to its extensive sub-basement cellars, which allow 67 Pall Mall to hold thousands of cases of the finest and rarest wines in the world on the premises.
Pricing is a fundamental consideration and works on the basis of a small cash mark-up, rather than a multiple of the cost price.
As founder and CEO Grant Ashton explains: “The concept of bottles forever locked away in cellars gathering dust is our own particular bête-noir. Our mission is to entice our members to pull the cork and discover a new wine.”
Members make their wine choices on a searchable list on iPads which is packed with winemakers’ notes, tasting notes and critics’ scores. Further expert guidance is available from 67 Pall Mall’s team of 10 full-time sommeliers – possibly the best in London, including head sommelier Terry Kandylis (Moët UK Sommelier of the Year 2016, formerly Best Sommelier in Greece), assistant head sommelier Gareth Ferreira (UK Ruinart Challenge 2016 winner, Best Sommelier in South Africa 2016), Roberto Duran (formerly Best Sommelier in Spain) and Caroline Fridolffson. A section of Sommelier’s Recommendations presents an ever-evolving list of the team’s favourite wines. This section gives guests immediate access to an edited selection of wines from 67 Pall Mall’s cellar, which this December will increase its holdings by 2,000 to 5,000 wines, as part of its bid to become the home of the UK’s largest wine list. In addition, a massive 500 wines are available by the glass, including such drops of the gods as Château Latour 1961, Harlan Estate 1997 and Sassicaia 1985, as a small sample or full glass, thanks to Coravin technology.
Earlier this year, the club set about expanding the venue with a new floor, set for completion in October. The additional space will allow the club to install another wine bar that will carry 400 wines by the glass, as well as a further bar just for spirits, along with a new private dining area called The Marlborough Room. It will also feature a less formal seating area with views over Pall Mall, or towards a real fire, which Ashton said he wanted to install to make 67 Pall Mall “more club-like”. The extra floor will provide an area for eating and drinking without the need to book or wear a jacket – “people want non-bookability and something more relaxed”, he said, adding, “We don’t want to lose those people who just want to drop in.”
Wine lovers fortunate enough to pass through the doors of 67 Pall Mall are likely to enjoy themselves quite a lot. Membership is a formidable £2,500 (£1,250 joining fee, then £1,250 a year), but if you have it, spend it here.
I was lucky enough to be a guest of Tim Hall in 2014, and I’ve never forgotten the wonderful experience of being able to choose from an exceptional champagne list at more-than-fair pricing. As for the ambience, the knowledge, the service.
Comments are closed.