Maison Assouline is the kind of space that you really ought to know about, but probably don’t. The pantheon-like structure occupies a glorious Edward Lutyens designed red-brick building on Piccadilly, just next to Bafta, but it’s a quiet and discreet kind of place.
More than a bookshop, or a bar and cafe, Maison Assouline is a ‘culture concept store’, the vision of founders Prosper and Martine Assouline. Walk in and you’ll be greeted by the book shop, with Assouline’s remarkable collection of coffee table titles and compendiums on show. Delve deeper into the store and up to the gallery below and you’ll find a warren of exquisite galleries filled with exotic one-off design pieces, many of which are extremely rare antique finds. Return to the ground floor and you’ll find more displays dedicated to luxury gifting and the Swan’s Bar, a refined spot a cocktail, coffee or light lunch.
The entire experience (and the curiosities in the maison’s galleries) is curated by Prosper and Martine personally – the vision of two culture-vultures with exquisite taste. Now the pair have introduced a six week residency with Vins Extraordinaires, offering a carefully curated selection of aged fine wines and rare champagnes, which commences tomorrow.
Vins Extraordinaires was founded last year to draw the world of fine wine away from it’s often stuffy, elitist environment. The company offers enthusiasts the opportunity to experience exceptional wines by the glass with an emphasis on simple enjoyment. Founder Stuart George’s position is remarkably clear on the subject, ‘great wines are meant to be drunk and enjoyed, not worshipped unnecessarily,’ he says.
This refreshing attitude chimes closely with that of Assouline itself. ‘Prosper and Martine believe that books are a matter of intellect and emotion, of heritage and innovation. The same is true of fine wine’, continues George; ‘a fine wine should offer intellectual and sensual rewards, not only pleasurable to drink but also worth talking and thinking about.’
With this in mind, George has chosen a suitably intelligent range of wines to sample, many of which feature in Enrico Bernardo’s The Impossible Collection of Wine, a cornerstone title of the ‘Assouline Ultimate Collection’. There’s Klein Constantia’s famed Vin de Constance, a precious South African wine that’s been made on the same hallowed ground since 1709, Domaine des Comes Lafon’s superb Mersault, and Sassicaia from the Tuscan coast (purportedly Italy’s finest wine) among other gems.
The maison is certainly a place to stop and think, an enlightened retreat from the chaotic, relentless world outside. Now, for the next few weeks at least, you’ll be able to indulge a little while you do.