Spread across four areas, Clarette in Marylebone is for wine-loving novices and connoisseurs alike
Alexandra, daughter of Corinne Mentzelopolous, owner of Château Margaux, always wanted a restaurant of her own. With co-owner Natsuko Perromat du Marais, an experienced restaurateur who worked with Alain Ducasse for 10 years, they succeeded, among 22 other offers, to rent a Scottish pub in London’s Marylebone area. Clarette was an obvious choice for the new restaurant’s name, reflecting the huge British affection over centuries for claret wines.
Alexandra Petit Mentzelopolous grew up among the finest of wines, but she admits that she has had no formal wine training. However, she did spend six months working with Berry Brothers and Rudd wine merchants in London. Her passion for good wine shines through in the wine list she initially created. She is now assisted by the head sommelier, Caroline Fridolsson.
While keeping the black and white timbered façade and windows with the Scottish coat of arms in stained glass, the new owners have made the three-floor interior relaxed, cosy and welcoming. Clarette’s ground floor has a wine bar, central communal bar-table and blue velvet banquettes with chairs around the sides. The ground floor is popular with guests for a glass of wine and a light dish or sharing plate, or for just a coffee between meals.
The second floor with indigo walls covered with French prints and posters is the place for more leisured dining. The red room, an alcove with scarlet walls enclosed behind curtains, is popular for wine dinners, where up to six people can dine in private. The next level is for celebrations, wine tastings, and private dinners with wine producers. One wall lined with empty wine bottles is a striking feature. Outside, a terrace is being refurbished to provide more enclosed private dining.
Alexandra says Clarette started as a wine bar with nibbles, but now the thrust is towards restaurant food. Caroline, who supervises two female sommeliers from Spain and Greece, describes the wine list as “versatile and flexible”. It is not extensive with 100 to 121 bins but has plenty of wines by the glass and “half bottles”, which are 375 ml servings from full bottles kept under the Coravin system. “Clients like this option when they don’t want a full bottle,” she says. “It gives them a chance to sample different wines.”
At Clarette, the emphasis is on classic French wines especially Bordeaux and Margaux, which Alexandra buys directly from the château. Although the list includes wines from around the globe including Hungary, Greece and Syria (a red 2010 Domaine de Bargylus), an entire page is devoted to Château Margaux ranging in price from `8,521 to `98,667. Clarette offers the chance to sample Margaux or other wines in four wine flights. The “Margaux Discovery” at `6,279 includes 2013 Pavillon Blanc, 2004 Pavillon Rouge and 1999 Château
Margaux Grand Vin, while a flight of “Sommelier’s Picks” embraces French, Greek and American wines.
Caroline does not rigidly pair wine and food although she may recommend.
She is guided by diner preferences, which at Clarette are mainly for classic Bordeaux. To go with the wine, Chef Aaron Ashmore serves dishes like 28-day steaks, small burgers and beef tartare. The menu, Aaron says, is ingredient focussed, seasonal, and changed every six to eight weeks. Signature highlights are Comte and truffle beignets and pulled pork croquettes with lovage. Dishes are French-inspired, comfort food with a twist, such as pancetta, onion and Rebluchon tartiflette. Vegetarian options include ample side dishes like roast carrots with goat’s cheese, honeycomb and herbs. Closed for lunch on Mondays, on other days of the week Clarette features lunch menus for Rs 1,794 comprising two small plates and a glass of wine.
Clarette, 44 Blandford Street, London. WIU 7HS; + 44 (0)20 3019 7750. www.clarettelondon.co
This article appears in Sommelier India, Issue 2, April – June 2018