Marylebone’s Clarette isn’t your usual wine bar.
Firstly, it’s set in a proper old boozer and despite having been significantly scrubbed up and converted it rather impressively manages to keep much of the pub atmosphere.
Secondly, it’s owned by Alexandra Petit-Mentzelopoulos who is the heiress to Château Margaux — one of the most highly-regarded (and expensive) wine estates in Bordeaux.
Thirdly, it might be the only place in London where you can pair a glass of Château Margaux with a burger.
The space is firmly divided between upstairs and down, with most of the lower floor saved for walk-ins and focused on drinking, with the pub’s original bar still in place. Head there after work and it’s just as bustling as you’d expect a pub to be, only people are more likely to be drinking pinot noir than pints.
Upstairs is where the food really comes into its own, with both an atmosphere and a menu that hovers somewhere between bistro and bar.
At the nibbles end of the menu there are cheese and charcuterie selections, which take in choice picks from both Britain and France, and at the other there’s the option of sirloin steak.
Some of the real gems lie in the middle. A couple of ‘petit burgers’ (which, incidentally, sound so much sexier than sliders) are gloriously, messily juicy with a big whack of fromage. A ham and cheese croque brioche is a dirtier, more buttery version of the Parisian café classic. And a dish that’s called Frenchy mac and cheese, which is made with small pasta twirls rather than actual macaroni and studded with ham, is a creamy triumph.
Pairing these less than elegant dishes with absolutely excellent wines only furthers the enjoyment.
Unsurprisingly, France (and Bordeaux in particular) dominates the long list, which offers a whopping 50 options by the glass. They start at just £4.50 but watch what you’re ordering because thanks to the use of a coravin to serve some special vintages they rise to an eye-popping £100.
Included at the relative lower end is a 2012 vintage Margaux du Château Margaux (the third wine of the estate) sold as a house special at £15 a glass, which those in-the-know will tell you is incredibly good value.
But while Clarette might have the potential to become a wine enthusiast’s playground there’s nothing about it that should put off a thirsty novice.
After all, what’s not to like about a world where the wine is French, the ingredients are British and seasonal and the setting is a London boozer? Clarette pulls together the best of both our cultures and the result is definitely somewhere you’d choose to remain rather than leave.
Clarette, Marylebone: The lowdown
Final flavour: French fancies in a British boozer
At what cost? Most smaller dishes from £4.50 to £7.50, and larger ones £15 to £19.
Find it: 44 Blandford Street, W1U 7HS; clarettelondon.com.