67-pall-mall

Book review: ‘Wine and Food: The Perfect Match’ by 67 Pall Mall

Nestled discretely in the former home of the now-defunct Hambros bank, opposite Britain’s oldest wine and spirits merchant, Berry Bros & Rudd, you will find 67 Pall Mall. Spanning three floors, in a building imagined by renowned English architect Edwin Lutyens, the private members club has come to be a mecca of sorts for wine lovers the world over. While the decor is grandiose and traditional, the team, lead by Master Sommelier Ronan Sayburn, is innovative, energetic, and dynamic. Facing a global pandemic, they’ve revolutionised wine tasting at home, shipping some of the worlds greatest wines around the globe to existing and newly-subscribed ‘digital members’. The club has demonstrated unparalleled resilience and commitment to delivering to members despite facing an existential crisis. Further expanding their repertoire, I was excited to receive word from Ronan of the imminent release of the club’s inaugural book. ‘Wine and Food: The Perfect Match’ sees Sayburn and head chef, Marcus Verberne, guide readers through an introduction to wine and wine service followed by 100 mouthwatering recipes and wine pairings. The book is available now, in this article I took a sneak peek prior to launch.

In typical 67 fashion

Beautifully bound and emotively photographed by commercial food photographer, Joakim Blockstrom, cover to cover, the clubs ever inimitable style is striking. Serving as a reference point for evenings at home or as an answer to burning questions. The book, with its attractive design, doubles as the perfect addition to the chicest of coffee tables. Anybody who has spent time at 67 Pall Mall will know they do nothing in half measures. Whether it’s the stainless-steel beaded sparkling wine cooler, the club’s flawless ‘regular’ service or the recreation of monumental tastings such as the Judgement of Paris. Every element of the book is immaculately presented and recognisably utilitarian. Embodying everything wine lovers have come to associate with 67 Pall Mall.

While not uncommon for wine and food pairing books to begin with a brief overview of terminology, regions, style, and more. It is certainly rare for one to provide this level of useful, easy to grasp, information (whether you’re a buddy amateur or seasoned professional) from the perspective of an individual at the very top of his game. The first half of the books sees Sayburn discuss terroir, tasting wine, wine service, matching wine & food, and cover in detail the majority of common red and white varieties. Laying the ground nicely for the second half, this first portion of the book is a great primer for anybody wanting to brush up their knowledge, learn the basics, or perfect their craft.

67-Pall-mall

In the latter half of the book, with readers now suitably primed, seasoned head chef Marcus Verberne, and Sayburn, walk readers through 100 recipes paired with well over 100 wines. Although a ‘core pairing’ is suggested, Ronan also suggests a range of alternative options, ranked from cheapest, making the pairings approachable to a broad readership, regardless of budget or access. There will almost certainly be those trepidatious as to whether they’ll actually be able to cook anything from this book. Not only will you be able to, but you’ll want to and will. And that is what I admire most about this inaugural print.

The wines

Careful not to overwhelm keen amateurs, Sayburn skillfully takes readers on a seamlessly delivered seminar of everything they need to know about wine. Adding enough detail to captivate even more advanced wine lovers he touches on a brief history of wine, explores the idea of terroir and how it practically applies to wine, delves into what makes some of the greatest wine regions so special (think Bordeaux, Burgundy, and more) and begins to link these topics to wine style. Drawing on his many years of experience, not only as a Master Sommelier, but also as an educator, Sayburn’s writing is fresh, engaging and interesting whatever your level of interest.

After this brief tour of wine fundamentals, the book begins to lay the groundwork for pairing wine by discussing the basics of tastings. In just over 3 pages, with useful infographics and imagery, readers can pick up the basics of tastings or sharpen their skills. If you’ve spent any time at 67 Pall Mall, you’ll know how seriously they take wine service, and rightly so. The pages which succeed wine fundamentals are dedicated to decanting, serving temperature, identifying common wine faults, and more. Following this, readers are guided through what to think of when pairing wine and food, given an idea of why some pairings work better than others and why the order of service matters. As if this wasn’t already enough, Sayburn then dives into exploring the most prevalent white and red grape varieties, where they’re found, what defines them and how to identify them.

This section serves as a standalone introduction to wine whether you’re interested in the latter half or not. Although I would strongly suggest you will be. The information is delivered succinctly and with enough detail to benefit any level of knowledge. After all, it’s not everyday a Master Sommelier and his team from the world’s greatest wine club guide you through wine service, right?

67-Pall-Mall

The recipes

The second half of the book, totalling over 200 pages, is all about food. If you’ve been fortunate enough to eat at 67 Pall Mall, whether in the member’s lounge or club room, you’ll know just how delicious the food is. If you haven’t yet visited, the book provides not only an alluring insight but also lends a solid base from which to successfully recreate 100 of Marcus’s preferred dishes. Many either currently featured or were in the past on the menu. In case you’re wondering, yes this includes the famous scotch egg.

Working through Sea & River, Land, Garden, and Sweet, there are no recipes which stand out as being overly ambitious. That is by no means intended to downplay or critique either the quality or nature of the food. Quite the opposite. I’ve purchased an embarrassingly large number of cookbooks in the past which upon reflection are either evidence of my overinflated sense of skill or a display of ego from a chef who knew full well few readers would be able to emulate their dishes.

Particularly enjoyable, and equally useful, is the commentary on each pairing from both Sayburn and/or Verberne. A brief paragraph discussing the rationale behind the pairing, the origin of the dish and in some cases potential replacements if particular ingredients do not suit all readers. This, combined with Sayburn’s alternate pairings (starting with the cheapest option) further add to the suitability of the book for all readers.

67-Pall-Mall

Avoiding unnecessary adjectives and esoteric vocabulary, 67 Pall Mall’s inaugural book avoids being stuffy or verbose. Instead, the volume offers an easily digestible and visually captivating journey through the pairing of wine and food. Throughout the recipes section, wines are tied together with earlier pages, providing readers with more clarity with information expertly delivered by one of the wine industry’s great educators. This is a landmark piece and deserves a place on your bookshelf as a key reference point. Priced at £40 including shipping, the book is available to purchase now.

2 comments

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.