Davies & Brook
Claridges Hotel, Brook Street , Mayfair, W1K 4HR
WLC Rank : 5
Glass from : £ 9 (125 ml)
BEST FORA focus on back vintages and pleasure
Killer cocktails including clarified Nori milk punch made with whey
Utterly clued-up staff adhering to the Humm motto, “make it nice”
The bijou chefs table – for Krug and truffled pizza
“It’s super balanced and detailed, like the food of Daniel Humm – the best chef in town,” says wine director, Gabriel di Bella of the clean-cut dining room housing Davies and Brook.
The dining room of Davies and Brook at Claridge’s evokes the auditorium of an art deco cinema, the bar where the stage would be. Trolleys promising at-table experiences such as the removal, by red hot callipers, of the necks of prized bottles (you get to keep the cork), are opened by Wine Director, Gabriel de Bella and his seven-strong team. Born to restaurateur parents, his father Sicilian and mother, French, Gabriel di Bella gained much floor experience as a youth before formally studying at France’s first sommelier school, Tain-l’Hermitage, later working at Alain Ducasse, Monaco, Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley, then, alongside Guillem Kerambrun at Caprice Holdings.
On joining the Claridge’s project last summer, di Bella spent a busy two weeks with the sommelier team at garlanded chef Daniel Humm’s New York mothership, 11 Maddison Park, working with wine director, Cedric Nicaise, whose 15 years of buying has resulted in a list of 4,800 bins. In comparison, di Bella’s list, currently poised at around 1,800 bins, may seem fitter, though he vows to ensure this “drastically evolves to 3,600 bins.”
Di Bella expended considerable thought in ensuring his team are “wide and eclectic” and “fit the culture of being nice and caring.” He adds: “it’s the most well-oiled experience I’ve seen and people truly care about what they do, from porter to assistant server and GM – and you feel it on the floor.”
The first UK in the UK to be realised using “BinWise”, a Californian layout, stock control and ordering system which automatically updates the website, di Bella’s wine book is predominantly organised by grape variety. All-encompassing, it is in part a love letter to the Rhone valley, with, acknowledging the parent company, an increasing tally of North American wines, whereby flights of and Harlan and Mayacamas nestle alongside Grace & Favour fizz from Vermont, USA fizz and Black Sheep Finds from Holus Bolus, Santa Barbara. Acknowledging Humm’s Swiss heritage expect the odd Swiss wine and cider – and a Swiss movement clock dominates the seemingly serene, shiny, daylight flooded kitchen where particularly fortunate diners could encounter a private audience with Estonian head chef, Dmitri Magi, di Bella as part of their meal.
A large selection of carafes and wines-by-the-glass appeal to lunchtime diners and indeed solo diners who clearly feel comfortable dining with Miles Davis for company.
Di Bella might pour young Jalousie from Domaine du Closel, Savennières with virtuous-looking, impeccably textured, carrot salad with sunflower seeds, horseradish and pickled quail egg, “to cut through the natural sweetness of the carrot,” and super clean-cut Guinevere Chardonnay from Kent’s Gusbourne with variations of artichoke, mushroom and fennel, then bigger Ampodium, Côte-Rôtie (René Rostaing) with 14 day dry-aged, lavender-scented Creedy Carver duck – “the British answer to Peking Duck,” he jokes. Finish with the joyous milk and honey soft serve, ideally with marmalade coloured and scented, Suidiraut Sauternes.
During the lockdown, Di Bella spent more time with his family than in the past decade and stopped smoking.
By Douglas Blyde