By Jim Boyce
On Tuesday night, The Wine Republic’s Campbell Thompson and I visited Jianwai Soho’s three-floor Les Millesimes, a wine club that includes a “cellar”, two restaurants, a cigar lounge, wine displays galore, and 17 themed-private rooms that range in size up to more than 200 square meters.
This place is big. If it were a wine bottle, it would be a Jeroboam, or maybe a Salamanzar.
The first floor has the entrance and “wine cellar“, which holds a Bordeaux-heavy portfolio, including Mouton Rothschild, Latour, and Petrus, along with a sprinkling of Champagnes and dessert wines. Thompson and I considered going halves on the Petrus 1982, but forgot our stacks of 100-kuai notes at home. He found the cellar a bit warm – the staff attributed this to the door being regularly opened.
Millesimes offers memberships for RMB20000, RMB50000, and RMB100000. The RMB20000 package, for example, includes a portfolio of 36 wines, which are stored on-site, a 50-percent discount on food and on additional bottles of wine, and access to the members-only third floor (the second floor is open to the public).
The more expensive packages include bigger portfolios and better wines, as well as larger discounts, with the RMB100000 deal allowing the member to assign three additional people access to the portfolio, something useful for companies using Les Millesimes for entertaining.
The second floor includes two restaurants. French restaurant La Maree is focused on seafood dishes. It’s well-lit, with a blue-tuna colored ceiling and tables for two people and up, with four seats at the bar. Prices start at RMB45 for soup and RMB120 for main courses. Beers range from RMB25 for Qingdao to RMB50 for Duvel, cocktails are RMB40 and up, and there is small selection of Whiskey, though nothing notable. The wine list leans heavily toward French.
Meli Melo, a “French fusion” restaurant, is dimmer and cozier, though the seating looks a bit tight, as Thompson pointed out. A central area can easily be cleared out for dancing.
The members-only third floor includes a sizable cigar room, replete with lots of leather chairs and a walk-in humidor.
It also holds 17 private rooms, going by names such as Petrus, Napa and Beaujolais.
The Petrus room, for example, has a tropical colonial feel, with colorful murals, wicker furniture, thatch ceiling and round dining table that seats 12. The room requires a minimum bill of RMB3000.
(Thompson noted that the white wine here is being stored in a fridge made for red wine. How does he know? By how low the fridge temperature doth go.)
The Napa room is somewhere between 200 and 250 square meters and includes massive amounts of wood paneling and rough stonework.
Thompson and I ended up in La Maree sharing a couple of tasty appetizers – smoked salmon and crab salad – and a bottle of Couly-Dutheil 2006 from the Loire Valley, a lovely wine with apricot and melon flavors (“It has some sweetness balanced with acidity,” he said. “It’s slightly viscous, with a juicy roundness.”) There is 20 percent off during March and our bill, which included complimentary bread, came to RMB432.
Finally, we talked to about 10 staff members, hailing from China, Hong Kong and France, who were friendly, patient and attentive. Their language skills cover Mandarin, Cantonese, French and English.
All in all, it was a good experience. Some of the décor might not be up my alley, but that’s not to say it won’t appeal to the clientele, which appeared to be wholly local during our visit. My biggest peeve, as it is with so many of these places, is the promotional literature. “Les Millesimes – where symbolizes trends and refined taste,” “Tracing back to human civilization evolution,” and so on – surely, someone could be found to help write and edit this stuff, particularly if they were allowed to work in that wine cellar and sample some of its riches.
I hope to have some photos of Les Millesimes up shortly.
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