It is quite a statement to open a private members club with 1,400 members without having spent a penny on advertising. But it’s still very early days for 67 Pall Mall and as Ronan Sayburn MS, its charismatic wine director, says it still has a lot of things to put right if it is to live up to its own very high standards.
For a venue that you have to be a member of to get in, and was sold out virtually before it officially opened, it is a wonder 67 Pall Mall has had such good press.
In these cash strapped, austere times you might have thought a wine club that costs you £1,000 a year (£500 for the trade) to even have a chance of becoming a member might have struggled to get a few positive reviews. Never mind the glowing praise it has received since it opened for business at the end of last year.
Part of that comes down to the actual reality of 67 Pall Mall versus the perception. This is probably one of the most relaxed, less exclusive private members clubs you can find dotted along Pall Mall, and around the corner on St James’s, home to Berry Bros & Rudd.
Most of all you have as your main host the northern charm of Ronan Sayburn MS. On paper his list of sommelier credentials and a track record that takes in the likes of Gordon Ramsay Hospital Road along its way, would make him an intimidating fellow to meet.
Not in the slightest. Sayburn was brought up in Scarborough, north Yorkshire, and yes they might make them tough and challenging in those parts, but they are also as friendly as they come.
It is that combination of relaxed, charm, but an absolute professional eye for detail that makes 67 Pall Mall such an impressive and interesting venue to visit. Or be a member.
Sayburn sets the tone. If jeans and a jacket are fine for him then they are for the guests too.
But it is not just for his charm and friendly nature that the near on 80 investors behind 67 Pall Mall have entrusted Sayburn to shape and deliver what has become one of the most talked about wine venues and lists in the country. If not the world.
Sayburn has been involved with the project for around the last two years and has seen it move step by step to launch. Much of his work over that time has been building up the highly impressive 67 Pall Mall wine collection.
In time, including all its members’ wines, the list should top 5,000, with 500 available by the glass.
Those members’ wines are very much part of the 67 Pall Mall offer.
For after all the heart and soul of 67 Pall Mall are the wines the members, themselves, keep on site to either drink themselves when they are in town, or offer up for fellow members to purchase from the vaults down below.
When they do 67 Pall Mall will charge a mark of between 20%-40% depending on the credit terms of the wines and members, explains Sayburn. The wine’s price is calculated on the day it is traded.
The system potentially offers huge benefits for members and the chance to drink high quality, exclusive wines at what could be a third of the price of what is available in other London restaurants.
“You could be buying a wine for £1,000 that might cost £3,500 or £4,000 in another venue,” says Sayburn.
All the information about the members’ wines are available for guests to search through as part of the highly innovative iPad wine list.
For as well as hosting the club’s main listed wines, it also allows guests to trade, in real time, and bid for wines housed on site by fellow guests. Even whilst they are sitting at the bar or a table waiting to eat dinner.
It certainly appeals to the high City membership on 67 Pall Mall’s books, says Sayburn.
“We think it is the only one of its kind in the world,” he claims.
As well as trading functionality there is a full explanation of each wine with clickthroughs to their own websites for guests to peruse at their leisure.
The venue itself needs some explaining. It is situated just on the corner between Pall Mall and the roadway arch through to the Mall and Buckingham Palace. It apparently took the owners some five years of negotiating to turn what had been an unused bank for some 16 years in to a working, thriving wine club.
Even then they were only given permission to use the ground floor and the floors below the road where the kitchen and function rooms are situated.
But being a bank it also means being able to use the abandoned bank vaults to store members’ wines.
Tucks and tweaks
Even with the glowing early reviews, Sayburn is honest enough to admit there have been teething problems getting the offer right.
“It is like having a smart, comfortable pair of shoes. At the beginning they pinch a little and you have to wear them in,” he says. This is why it has held back the waiting list to iron out those issues before going to the next stage.
Although you would think it would help there is no need to be a wine geek or lover to be a member of 67 Pall Mall. It’s location and relaxed vibe would be reason enough. But for those members looking to find out a little more Sayburn himself will put on WSET-approved training courses.
“All the staff working here from porters to those in the kitchen are all trained to WSET Level 2.”
But for members that do love their wine then there is a constant rolling tasting and masterclass programme.
One of Sayburn’s favourites is when they are able to Skype in a winemaker live from his vineyard from the other side of the world to talk to guests on a big screen at the end of a private dining table. It is as if they are there head of the table, only with a pair of secateurs in their hands than a glass of wine. It is hard to imagine what they might be thinking is on the other end of the computer screen.
When they do make it to 67 Pall Mall we’re sure they will like what they see.
67 Pall Mall In Numbers
1,400 The number of full members at launch
600 those on the waiting list hoping to get the nod once teething issues have been resolved over the first six months
250 wines by the glass
500 ambition is to be able to eventually offer
4 the number of Coravin needles it went through in first couple of months of launch
200 glasses poured by Coravin on some days
8 sommeliers at launch and looking to hire another two.
9,000 Zalto glasses were made exclusively to be used at 67 Pall Mall.
4,500 case capacity to be stored at 67 Pall Mall