Named after the year in which Fortnum and Mason was founded, this underground wine bar reflects the virtues which have endeared the iconic department store to Londoners for so long. Admittedly, your first impression may be that you've walked into some kind of chic sauna, but once you adjust to the wood-paneled walls you'll see that 1707's understated decor, accentuated by hints of slate and silver, provides a relaxing retreat from the bustle of the adjacent food hall. We enjoyed the live music played throughout our visit and our only negative observation was that having an audible conversation did become mildly challenging as the bar filled up.
Nevertheless, surrounded by its devoted audience of small tables the square central bar - backed by a transparent wine cellar which saucily lights up its wares for all to see - provides an interesting selection of wines by the glass, carafe and bottle. The bias is slightly towards old world produce, as well as (understandably) their own F&M range, but with 175ml glasses ranging from £5.50 - £11.50 it offers a decent selection at prices that are competitive for the area. What's more exciting, however, is the option of 'wine flights': trios of 125ml servings which allow you to compare grape varieties, wine regions or styles. This kind of teach-yourself approach really works and, having tried the rosé (£12.00) and Italian (£12.50) flights, we felt more knowledgeable about the variations and more confident about ordering in future.
Those who already know their wine, however, can also select any bottle from F&M's neighbouring wine department and have it served in the bar for £10 corkage. This deserves to be highlighted because, despite the store's prestige, their extensive cellar list comes at a shockingly reasonable price and easily undercuts many of the capital's bars even when corkage is added. As bottles won't come ready-chilled, however, we'd suggest that you check out the wine selection here and mention what you'd like when making a reservation.
As the bar sits in one of the world's most famous food halls they would have been hard-pressed to get their menu wrong and everything we tried was delicious. Rather than try to compete with the store's other restaurants they offer a simple selection of snacks to compliment wine and thus top-quality meat, fish and cheeses are prominent features. We were particularly impressed by the Affettato Misto (£18), a sumptuous selection of ham, bresaola and white truffle salami with appropriate sides, although their degustation menu (£16 for 4 choices) looked well worth a nibble.
1707 is located on the lower ground floor of Fortnum and Mason, 181 Piccadilly, W1A 1ER. Open until 10am Monday-Saturday.