‘Transformational’ changes taking place at 67 Pall Mall wine club
Changes coming to London’s 67 Pall Mall in the next eight weeks will be “transformational”, according to the wine club’s founder, Grant Ashton.
Speaking to the drinks business on Friday, Ashton, who founded the private members’ club two years ago, said that October would see the opening of a new floor for 67 Pall Mall that would significantly enhance the appeal of the place.
“I think upstairs will be transformational,” he stated, referring to the conversion of office space on the first floor of the former bank.
The new space will allow the club to add a further 96 seats for its members – roughly double the current number – and will take the legal capacity of 67 Pall Mall from 225 people to 375.
Significantly, the additional space allows the club to install a “huge” 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”.
Significantly, 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.”
As part of the expansion – which has been going on since February – 67 Pall Mall has attracted a further 800 members, taking the total up to 2800 people, while it will be launching a “massively increased” wine list later this year, which, as previously reported by the drinks business, will comprise 5,000 different lines, ensuring that the club has the largest wine selection of any on-trade establishment in the UK.
“We don’t have a bad list but I’ve always said that we could have a bigger list,” commented Ashton, noting that areas of expansion would include the range of biodynamic, organic and natural wines, while the club will also be adding more spirits, beers and sakés to the drinks offer.
As for the increase in membership, having previously capped the numbers in May 2015 at 1,200 people before the club opened, the amount of members then moved up to 2,000 by October last year, when Ashton announced that he was looking to add a further 1,000 to the club – although these would have ‘off-peak status.’
Although the new floor has yet to be finished, Ashton told db on Friday that the club had attracted a further 800 more people, which he said had “mainly come through existing members, who have introduced their friends – it has all been done through word of mouth.”
And in terms of staff, the total number will rise from 92 to 135 as 67 Pall Mall expands, including an increase in the amount of sommeliers employed by the club from 11 to 16.
Describing the club as the best place in London to educate your palate, he said that members and their guests could “try anything they like” – such was the diversity and size of the wine list, and availability of wines by the glass.
He also stressed that there was a vast amount of combined knowledge from the team of 11 sommeliers at 67 Pall Mall, as well as the possibility for members to learn more from the regular tastings and masterclasses at the club – “We have an event virtually every day”, he recorded.
Since the club opened in 2015, Ashton said that the average spend on wine has “gone up a lot, because people are seeing that they are buying great value wine”.
By way of example, he said, “They are trading up because if they order a £20 glass of Leflaive Burgundy then they understand that there is £12 worth of wine in the glass… if you were in a wine bar and you spent £40 on a bottle, you’d only be getting £8 worth of wine in the whole bottle.”
He also mentioned the appeal of the £20 corkage fee for members, a relatively low level for a London restaurant, particularly as 67 Pall Mall’s team of sommeliers are skilled at handling fine wine, and serve everything in Zalto glassware.
“Our cellars are packed with members’ wine,” he said, before stressing the benefits of keeping cases at 67 Pall Mall: “Everything is stored underground at 13 degrees Celsius and our cellar master is an ex-sommelier.”
“Everyone has got too much wine sitting in bond, but now they are having it delivered here, and drinking it with their friends as intended – so the wine mountain is going away,” he added.
Nevertheless, more than half the wines sold at 67 Pall Mall are served by the glass, according to Ashton, and hence his decision to increase the number of wines sold in this way from 500 to 800, with 400 available in the new upstairs bar, and another 400 on offer at the existing ground floor bar (pictured).
Currently, he said that the by the glass offering goes from £7 to £667 (for Sine Qua Non 1995), although he also told db that members can, if they want, have anything by the glass from the 3,800 bottles on the list, with every wine served using the Coravin wine access system.
Illustrating the intensive usage of this piece of technology, which extracts wine from a bottle without the need to remove the closure, Ashton said that 67 Pall Mall was currently employing the Coravin to ‘access’ wine 5,600 times per month.
“We are the biggest single site Coravin user in the world,” he said.
Not only that, but the club must also be home to more Zaltos than any other restaurant worldwide, with over 12,000 pieces of the stemware stored on-site.
As for what’s selling the most presently, Ashton said that he has been surprised by the take-up for mature white Burgundy by the glass.
“We are seeing a huge demand for white Burgundy with a bit of age, so from 2007 to ’11, which has surprised me, but I think it’s because so many people stopped buying as much because they got hurt in the early noughties with the premox issue – I have friends who tipped away hundreds of bottles.
“So when you put nicely-priced white Burgundy on the list it gets drunk, because our members’ don’t own any.”
Consequently, he said, “I spend my life trying to buy more of the same…”
67 Pall Mall – the facts
- Number of wines by the glass: 500 (going up to 800 when the first floor opens)
- Number of bottles on the list: 3,800 (going up to 5,000+ when the first floor opens)
- By the glass wine prices: £7 to £600 (for Sine Qua Non 1995)
- Number of Zalto glasses on site (12,000)
- Number of times the club uses the Coravin Wine Access System: 5,600 times per month
- Below-ground cellarage capacity at the club: 24,000 bottles
- Number of sommeliers: 11 (going up to 16 when the first floor opens)
- Number of staff: 95 (going up to 135 when the first floor opens)
- Joining fee (applicable to all applications): £1250
- Annual membership: £1250 per person, per year
- Number of members: 2,800