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Wine List Confidential: Bolívar at Annabel’s Club

Douglas Blyde gets a taste of South America in Mayfair as he visits Bolívar, taking in the “remarkably youthful” Catena Zapata Malbec Argentino 2010 and a surprising contender for “most enjoyable dish” of the meal.

Bolívar, which takes the name of “El Libertador”, Simón Bolívar, who is present in a focal portrait over the bar, was called “an ode to South American cuisine” by Victoria Moy, founder of The Mayfair Musings. With a cosy interior personally designed by Richard Caring, co-executive chairman of The Birley Clubs, it replaces The Mexican restaurant at Annabel’s Club.


According to a spokesperson, Caring’s vision was “to transport members and their guests to an eighteenth-century cantina, using rustic Latin American architecture and design elements.” The results, framed by a beamed ceiling, walls of deliberately displaced plaster, and a floor laid to hand-woven rugs, are convincing. The best vantage is the circular table beside the salvaged stone fireplace illuminated in a blaze of candles, which is where a DJ booth previously stood.


Created by Georgios Iordanidis, head of wine at Annabel’s, and Daniele Palomba, club head sommelier, 90% of Bolívar’s list, inclined to South and North America, is not available elsewhere in the building. It opens with the words of Jorge Luis Borges’ Soneto del Vino: “Vino, enséñame el arte de ver mi propia historia como si ésta ya fuera ceniza en la memoria” (Wine, teach me the art of seeing my own history as if it were already ashes in memory).

Options by the Riedel Performance glass range from a barrel-fermented 2023 Torrontés by Argentina’s first woman to graduate as a winemaker, Susana Balbo (£16/125ml) to 2012 Catena Zapata Malbec Argentino at £65 via Coravin. Entitled “Íconos del Nuevo Mundo”, there is also an enticing tasting flight comprising three 75ml glasses of 2017 Bordeaux blends from Almaviva, Cheval des Andes, and Seña (£80). A sweet option by the glass is the late harvest 2023 Chilean Sauvignon Blanc from Morandés at £10/100ml, being roughly retail price for a half bottle. Sparkling wines by the glass include Errazuriz’s NV Aconcagua Blancs de Blancs Brut Nature at £20, subject to five years on the lees, and, at the top end, Dom Pérignon 2013 (£56). By the bottle, another South American fizz at home in this setting is the part French barrel-aged Casa Valduga Vale dos Vinhedos from Brazil (£120).

Still wines by the bottle range from the 2023 Bonarda from Altos Las Hormigas – Colonia Las Liebres at £80, and ascend to 2006 Harlan at circa double retail at £2,475, being one of seven vintages. Other producer collections include six vintages of Stag’s Leap Cellars’ Cask 23 reaching to 1979, seven iterations of Catena Zapata to 2008, and enviable collections of Seña and Almaviva, including magnums. The majority of the list is divided into sections such as “tropical and exotic”, which is where you will find a wine from sommelier-turned-winemaker, Terry Kandylis, in the form of Bendito Destin’s bush vine Albillo Mayor 2022 (£205), the “opulent and expressive” 2019 White Bones from Adrianna Vineyard, Gualtallary (£275) and, from “earthy and smoky”, not Mezcal, but a rare 1992 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve from Robert Mondavi in Napa (£810).

In addition, serving every nook of the 26,000-square-foot Club, the core wine list is available on request. Its jaw-dropping compendiums of first growths or equivalent include magnums of Latour from 1961, Mouton from 1966, Petrus from 1981, and 1986 Penfolds Grange.

Bolívar continues the tradition of the previous restaurant, called The Mexican, in offering in excess of 350 tequilas by the double measure, organised by style, including Jose Cuervo 250th Anniversary 1st Edition at £1,100 per shot, followed by almost sixty mezcals. The collection is overseen by the detailed Director of Bars for Birley Clubs, Denis Broci, who, based on a four-month quest, representing half his tenure at the Club, even managed to source a bottle of the non-UK release of Clase Azul Dia de Los Muertos 2023.


Dinner started as it ended – with mezcal, first deployed in the excellent, jade green, signature Bolívar margarita alongside an equal measure of tequila, tempered with agave syrup. It brought, like the fireplace beside us, controlled heat to soul-enhancing springy cornbread, imbued with whole corn kernels, subsequently smothered in smoked butter.

Senior sommelier Marcos Rapado Segurado (formerly of Mews of Mayfair) chose 2021 old vine Semillon from Patagonian producer Matias Riccitelli to bring extra zest to soft, floury tacos of tempura shrimp with guacamole, pineapple pepped pico de gallo, and subtle kimchi mayonnaise. The notable elegance of the wine could have disappeared with the rich, generous, chilli con carne croquettas with corn cream, and a saucy beef tartare with adobo pepper on the side, hence Segurado ventured to North America with what he called “a perfect example of Merlot for those who don’t like Merlot.” The 2018 Long Meadow Ranch from Napa effortlessly worked its easy charms with these.

A steak ensued, with glasses of “best-seller” at Bolívar, the glossy Cheval des Andes 2017, and remarkably youthful, fennel-scented, Catena Zapata Malbec Argentino 2010. Rather than opt for the “Cowboy” rib-eye, so-called because of its scale, from around 1.2-1.7kg, we chose the chargrilled wagyu picanha – because Annabel’s is still a place of opulence. Beyond the char, its supple flesh was best coated in smoked salt and juicy garlic rather than béarnaise. Carved at table, whole charred cauliflower “Al Pastor” proved one of the most enjoyable dishes of the meal, surprisingly, along with outstanding crisp potatoes offered with kimchi aioli.

We culminated with a mezcal tasting performed by senior bartender, Ronald Douglas (previously of The Ned), resplendent in a jacket approximating that of Adam Ant’s Prince Charming. “I’ve brought some friends,” he said soothingly while explaining a trio of intentionally divergent expressions. These ranged from the almost floral, orange oil-scented Derrumbes Tamaulipas to the off-list, richer, smokier Elixir de La Reina, made in a fiercely luddite, ancestral fashion, via the also extremely hard-to-come-by Yuu Baal. The latter is a “Pechuga” which gains an umami character from the dripping turkey breast suspended in the still, along with various fruits. “Sometimes they’ll use part of an iguana instead of a chicken or turkey breast,” added Douglas, nonchalantly. It transpired his three-year journey into agave has been “a very deep rabbit hole.”

While not needed, the final dish of churros with salted caramel sauce delighted with its fluffy centre and brittle, crisp shell. At this point, our companion, who had spent the day tasting what must have felt at times an infinitely deep pool of Pinot Grigios, was brought mocha coffee ice cream, having already been asked twice by the waiting team if he would like a coffee. Now awakened, we headed into the depths of the Club in search of sgroppinos.

Last word

Bolívar has sufficiently distinctive decor and quality drinks lists to suggest it could thrive as a concept even beyond the much-adorned walls of the most famous member’s Club in the world. Add into the equation a well-informed, keen-to-please, cohesive team, and this feels like a worthy successor to the original restaurant here, The Mexican. We therefore apply one of Simón Bolívar’s most famous quotes to it: “To do something right it must be done twice. The first time instructs the second.”

Best for

  • Flights of South American icons
  • Carefully sourced beef from Argentina to Uruguay
  • Considered, atmospheric decor

Value: 91, Size: 96, Range: 95, Originality: 97, Experience: 98.5; Total: 95.5

Bolívar at Annabel’s – 46 Berkeley Square, London, W1J 5AT; 020 3915 4046;;

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