Wine Director and Master Sommelier, Piotr Pietras leads the large team at the much anticipated ‘wine lover’s Mecca’ brought to you by the minds behind Hedonism Wines and chef, Ollie Dabbous...
Three floors dedicated to the fermented grape
Access to Hedonism Wines’ catalogue
Deft plates by Ollie Dabbous
Location overlooking Green Park
A fine smelling on-site bakery
Hide’s wine list opens with the words, ‘a corkscrew, a glass, a memory…’ Formerly Fakhreldine (a restaurant named after a Lebanese prince) 85 Piccadilly has been re-oriented as a calibrated ‘wine lover’s Mecca connected by spiral staircase’ according to dynamic Wine Director, Piotr Pietras. With cork pillars, vine leaf plasterwork and the occasional bottle-shaped door, both of its restaurants and inventive cocktail bar, are a collaboration between Evgeny Chichvarkin and Tatiana Fokina, minds behind the nearby Hedonism Wines, chef, Ollie Dabbous (a protégé of Raymond Blanc), and mixologist, Oskar Kinberg. According to Dabbous, Chichvarkin was a regular guest at his Fitzrovia restaurant, ‘even doing a day in the kitchen.’
Pietras’ cellar, fronted by bow window cabinets stocked with Imperials, is no mere wine equivalent of a car park. Indeed, rarities such as 1889 Château d’Yquem, recorked 100 years on, halves of hallowed Hermitage La Chapelle 1961 (other formats from 1937 are also available), Pétrus 1949, and near cassis in colour, Sine Qua Non rosé rest upon baize lined, sliding shelves. ‘The project is about back vintages and direct relationships with growers,’ says Pietras. However, with over 100 wines under £50, and wines by the glass (totalling 65) beginning at £5, the selection is not undemocratically priced. And, ordered via leather wrapped tablets, guests have access to the wider portal of Hedonism’s 6,000 plus lines, meaning bottles may be couriered to table within 15 minutes or fewer of ordering, ‘and sometimes half that time,’ Pietras reports. Standard-sized formats of still wine attract a reasonable £30 corkage when chosen in this way.
Of the meticulous cellar, Pietras hopes to accrue a slightly more lived-in look over time, ‘making it a sommelier’s cellar rather than a designer’s cellar.’
Pietras and his 16 strong sommelier team, named on the wine list’s credit roll, and drawn from, among other countries, Australia, Dubai, Germany and Sweden, are divided between street level ‘Ground’ restaurant, featuring a bakery which is mostly operational at night, and glass fronted wine fridges amply stocked with Champagne reaching back to the 1950s; Bruno Paillard is house pour. ‘We would like to serve Champagnes at 12 degrees Celsius, but customers like it really cold!’ Pietras laments. There are also effervescent bottles from England (including opulent Hambledon), and Pietras has high hopes for German Sekt. ‘Serious Prosecco is available on the digital list from Nino Franco,’ he adds.
Mezzanine is Michelin-inclined ‘Above’ with a seriously well equipped cheese cart and views to the kitchen, as well as the brightest of the four private rooms, accessible by private lift. A further three PDRs occupy alcoves beneath the Mayfair pavement, and are distinctively decorated, including a banquette mounted on books.
Pietras is happy to decant wines such as Harlan and Screaming Eagle up-to 48 hours prior to a guest’s visit, ‘though we will process payment first...’ Just don’t ask him about Coravin, a system he mistrusts to best keep tapped bottles.
Alongside the tasting menu at Above, Pietras has devised three styles of wine pairings, of which ‘Discovery’ option is arguably the most exciting, including phylloxera-free Palo Blanco, Envinate, Valle de la Orotava from Tenerife with roast king crab and camomile honey. Meanwhile, ‘Hedonistic’ (based on ‘Hedonism’) could include 1982 Vieux Château Certan with 1999 Meursault (Arnaud Ente), barbecued Herdwick lamb with 1992 Harlan Estate, and, with coconut, 1937 Sauternes (Château Rayne-Vigneau).
Pietras began his working life as a footballer, ‘playing half-professionally - but I wasn’t injured like Ramsay,’ He subsequently embarked on a hotel management course, working part-time as room service waiter at the Sheraton hotel in cobbled Poznań (a city known for its whisky show) in his native Poland. ‘I remember literally not being able to open a bottle of Dom Pérignon for a customer,’ he recalls. ‘Pretty embarrassing!’ An inherent thirst for knowledge and competitive streak saw him study wine via Google and books. By the time he left Poland in 2013, Pietras had created the country’s largest wine list at the five-star City Park Hotel and Residence. He believes his upbringing in Poland, a country bereft of furrowed prejudices predominating mature wine markets, allowed him to develop, ‘with passion’, an unrestrictedly curious approach.
Not content with being a big fish in a small pond, Pietras ‘knew it was time to move to wine capital, London,’ resulting in a trial shift then instant offer of employment at Corrigan’s, Mayfair, followed by Maze, ‘which was fast paced with high profile customers and a huge wine list.’ That experience taught him to communicate concisely within a team, ‘sometimes without using words.’ After getting married, Pietras joined Launceston Place, which was, he says, ‘a completely different story, allowing me to explain wine pairings to guests for two-to-four minutes rather than seconds…’ Alongside, Pietras made time to achieve the Master Sommelier qualification.
From not being able to open a bottle of Champagne to leading arguably London’s most wine focused restaurant, Pietras’ journey is inspiring.
By Douglas Blyde.