25 Albemarle Street, W1S 4HU
WLC Rank : 7
Glass from : £ 12 (175 ml)
A bibulous Nirvana for well-heeled oenophiles, Oswald’s, opposite the Faraday museum on Albemarle Street, takes the name of founder, Robin Birley’s royal portraitist grandfather, Sir Oswald Hornby Joseph Birley MC RA. Opened in May 2017, glass pillars, Murano chandeliers, grand fireplaces and a glass cupola brings character to an interior lavishly realised by designers, Tom Bell, and Bruce Cavell who overhauled the former minimalist Michael John hairdresser according to Birley’s exacting vision. This now includes, at the top of a curvaceous staircase, lounges, bar and cigar terrace.
Wine Director, Tim Parkinson worked for Robin Birley since 2005, initially at Annabel’s Cellar then 5 Hertford Street which he opened in 2012. Prior to coming to the UK, he experienced ‘a misspent time’ studying economics at Sydney University before discovering ‘the true joys of the wine world.’
Oswald’s was born out of a discussion on the often vertigo-inducing wine prices in London restaurants. ‘So many of the world’s great wines disappear from wine lists as they become more collectable and valuable, so we wanted a club environment which allowed these icon bottles to be offered at more sensible prices,’ says Parkinson. ‘And founding members may store and drink their own wines in the club.’
‘House wines’, including Krug Grande Cuvée 164ème Edition and potentially, Raveneau Petit Chablis are poured from magnum into John Jenkins crystalware, offering a window onto an astonishingly humbly priced list focused on ‘drinking vintages’ from both new and old world. ‘We are fortunate to have very good relationships with Châteaux and producers around the world, with much of the list being sourced directly for the club list,’ says Parkinson.
Dishes, by head chef, Gianluca Cossu (formerly of Birley’s Upstairs restaurant at 5 Hertford Street, and London’s incarnation of Nice bastion, La Petit Maison) are created ‘with a view to a wine-friendly menu,’ says Parkinson, and may include vitello tonnato, risotto Milanese, Josper roasted Veal T-bone for two, and a selection of freshly made pasta dishes.
Oswald’s has played host to several standout wine producer dinners, including Harlan Estate, hosted by Bill Harlan and Don Weaver, and Lafite-Rothschild with Jean-Guillaume Prats.
Service of the hallowed, but surprisingly boisterous club, where tables often send blind samples to other tables to discern overseen by General Manager, Michele Caggianese.
Membership is similar to that of 5 Hertford Street, says Parkinson. ‘Applicants need to be recommended by existing members and there is a waiting list.’
By Douglas Blyde.