Where: Blandford Street, Marylebone, London, W1U (tube Baker St/Bond St)
Vibe: Serious French meets English wine bar culture
USP: Chateau Margaux
Nearby Restaurant: Roganic
Price: In parts, hugely decent. Read on.
'Legendary grump' Norman Balon of the Coach and Horses pub, Soho, was better known as London's Rudest Landlord. On the occasions I ever visited the Tudor Rose pub on Blandford Street, Marylebone, I always felt they were making a land-grab for the title. Perhaps this is why they closed down back whenever. While a refurbed and revamped Tudor Rose with a new and polite landlord installed might have been expected, instead, Clarette appeared.
Clarette's website reads, 'Clarette is a chic, refined and stylish restaurant and wine bar,' and that it is. But that undersells it somewhat, but as the website's 'About' tab reveals, 'wine is at the heart of everything at Clarette.' I know they all say that but really, now we're getting somewhere. One of the co-owners is Alexandra Petit-Mentzelopoulos, the youngest daughter of the owner of Chateau Margaux in Bordeaux. Yes, the Chateau Margaux.
That is one hell of a USP. And that is why I am here.
I've been curious to visit Clarette for sometime, but with a trip to Roganic planned, browsing the Clarette website, one thing really caught my eye, they do a 'Margaux Discovery wine flight'. For £65, you get a 50ml glass of each of the following: Pavillon Blanc du Chateau Margaux 2015, Margaux du Chateau Margaux 2012 and Chateau Margaux Grand Vin 2004. Yes indeed, 50ml of one of the world's truly great wines where the provenance is assured (and two other fabulous wines from the fold).
At this moment, you're either thinking, wow, that's good value, or wow, £65 for 150ml of wine is crazy expensive. But of a 750ml bottle, 50ml is 6.7%. Now, the Pavillon Blanc is a £200+ bottle of wine, retail. That's £15 then for 50ml at retail prices. The Margaux du Margaux, which I admit is something I've not tried before, is the third wine of Margaux (the second being Pavillon Rouge), yet despite that fact, it is still a £150 bottle of wine, so there's another £11, say. And finally, the BIG ONE. Now, as it turned out, they didn't have the 2004 behind the bar so they checked that I would be okay with the 2006. Err, yeah. Now, the Chateau Margaux Grand Vin is (as cheap as I can find it online) £400 retail, so, that's another £28. Adding those up, it comes to £54. Bear in mind, the prices I quoted above are the cheapest single bottle price I could find on the internet over three different suppliers. Essentially then, you're drinking these wines at retail price. I love it.
As you flick through the wine list and reach the Bordeaux section, you might initially be puzzled that in the Bordeaux listing, they don't actually have any Chateau Margaux there. Fear not however, turn another page or two and you will discover that Chateaux Margaux has its own page dedicated to the four wines of the estate, with, on the Grand Vin, vintages from 1985 - 2008. Interestingly here, the 2006 I tried above is priced at £800 a bottle so 50ml of the Grand Vin when you buy a whole bottle of the stuff here costs around £55 (so maybe just keep going for the flight, upset the staff, and then get cut off and barred).
At the risk of seeming like I'm the person who knows the price of everything but the value of nothing, well, this is an iconic wine, a first growth. It wont float everyone's boat, but yes, hand up, my boat is properly floated and in that moment sailing away toward an idyllic sunset. I wont provide my tasting views, Bob Parker can give you a better steer if that's what you want. But in a world of me-too wine bars, this is spectacularly unique as far as I'm aware and it alone makes Clarette worth visiting.
They do other stuff too, apparently it's all very good. Maybe another time.