New York–based hospitality group Make It Nice is going international. On Dec. 9, the fine-dining force debuts a London sibling to its Wine Spectator Grand Award–winning Eleven Madison Park (EMP): Davies and Brook is taking over a historic dining space in Claridge’s hotel, where Make It Nice chef-owner Daniel Humm worked one of his earliest kitchen jobs at just 15 years old. British tasting-menu destination Fera formerly occupied the space.
The restaurant takes its name from the hotel’s location in the Mayfair neighborhood, at the corners of Davies and Brook streets. Featuring an 85-seat dining room, a lounge, a small bar and a private dining room, the layout is reminiscent of EMP’s (and was designed by Allied Works, the architectural firm that worked on EMP’s 2017 renovation), but the concept is more casual. A customizable prix-fixe format lets guests choose three courses for $93 or four courses for $124. There’s also a tasting-menu option of seven courses for $188.
“We have to kind of keep this mix between bringing a little bit of modernity, and at the same time respecting where we are and feeling humble of this space,” said wine director Gabriel Di Bella. He built the program after spending some time in New York with EMP wine director Cedric Nicaise, who will continue to serve as an advisor.
Extensive wine lists are a hallmark of Make It Nice, which also includes three Best of Award of Excellence–winning locations of hotel-restaurant the NoMad, and Davies and Brook is no exception. It’ll open with about 1,800 wine selections and grow significantly over the next two years.
The program covers diverse international regions but primarily focuses on Old World wines. There’s particular breadth and depth in the Rhône and Burgundy, with standouts such as eight vintages of Jean-Louis Chave Hermitage going back to 1983, three vintages of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti La Tâche as old as 1972, and a five-vintage vertical of Domaine Jamet Côte Brune going back to 1990.
Di Bella nods to the company’s roots with top United States producers like Heitz and Mayacamas, and honors its new London home with a selection of English sparkling wines, which he plans to expand. “The quality is becoming better and better and better every vintage,” he said of producers such as Gusbourne, Rathfinny and Nyetimber.
While there are plenty of collector’s items, the program spans a wide range of price points and offers values at each tier, an effort to cater to the community as well as hotel guests. “We don’t want an overpriced wine list,” Di Bella said.
To further this mission, there’s an impressive by-the-carafe section of about 50 wines that will change frequently, as will the list of about 40 wines by the glass. “As soon as there are new dishes, we are going to look into new things, and as soon as we get excited by new wines, we’re going to look into putting them by the glass,” Di Bella said.
Assisting Di Bella is a team of seven sommeliers, most based in London but originally hailing from an assortment of countries, from France and Italy to Ireland and New Zealand. “We really wanted a diverse team,” Di Bella said. “Everyone’s gonna bring their own point of view and their own background and culture and character.” Five “sommelier spotlight” pages at the start of the list highlight selections they’re particularly excited about.
The program’s overall Old World focus complements the cuisine, which reflects Humm’s signature contemporary style, relying heavily on classic French techniques while drawing influences from London and around the world. Though they’ll change at least seasonally, opening dishes include bass ceviche, beef short rib slow cooked and grilled with endive and fermented mint, and an EMP classic: dry-aged duck glazed with lavender and honey.
“All the dishes are super balanced, super fresh … so in my view, we really need wines which reflect that and have this lightness, elegance and finesse on the palate,” Di Bella said, noting that there are also a good deal of richer, more intense options.
As for whether Davies and Brook will offer any behind-the-scenes experiences like EMP’s famed kitchen tours and cellar tastings, Nicaise said those will develop down the road.
“We want to create a restaurant that’s fun and busy and that people want to come to, and then once we’ve really focused on that and achieved that, then we’ll find ways to increase that and to give special experiences,” he said. “The challenge will be how to make that special to Claridge’s and special to Davies and Brook.”
The restaurant is Humm’s first opening as sole owner of Make It Nice, following his recent split with partner Will Guidara.