Back at The Galez’ House, they are going to have their traditional Christmas log “Buche de Noel”. A
It is Thursday afternoon and Jerome Bichot, owner of Jerome’s Wine Shop and Bar Crofton Park is opening his shop, chatting about his journey and sharing an aperitif of Champagne Thiénot with us.
We have known Jérome since 2004. He is like a member of the family so it was with anticipation that we waited at the end of last year for the opening of his new ventures – Jérome’s Wine Bar and Shop.
A young Jérome fresh out of France…
Like many French ex-pats living in the UK, Jérome came from his native Mayenne for a year or 2…that was back in October 2000! This happens to a lot of people coming to London……
“I used to visit my sister who lived in London and decided that it had a nice vibe and a good place to live.” Jérome ended up settling in London and making a life over here.
From pharmacy to hospitality….
Jérome was 27 years old when he arrived from France as a pharmacy dispenser. After some consideration and a few interviews, he decided to change career paths from pharmacy to hospitality. A complete change but one that felt right for him.
His first hospitality post was at Royal Opera House where he joined in 2000 and worked there for 4 years as a bar supervisor. There, he met his wife, Maria.
“After Royal Opera House, I met up with Philippe Moreau from La Trouvaille and he got me in touch with Cheyne Walk Brasserie in Chelsea. I joined them soon after and worked with them for 14 years. I worked through the grades until Cheyne closed for a whole year for refurbishment in 2018. This is where I got to meet the whole team at Champagnes and Châteaux and particularly Christophe.”
Jérome went to work briefly in a Private Members club as a Food and Beverage Manager. But something was missing, Jérome wanted to do something different and running his own wine bar – like many people in hospitality have – was a dream of his.
Mr Lawrence’s local hangout….
The opportunity knocked on the door with his severance packet from Cheyne Walk. Jerome had been considering an opportunity at Mr Lawrence’s wine shop in Crofton Park, which had been closed for a few years.
“I used to go to Mr Lawrence for over 10 years. This was my local wine bar and wine shop. I would come every Saturday and buy my bottle of Brio de Cantenac for £18!!! Those were the days!! I should have bought cases of the stuff back then!”
Mr Lawrence traded for 30 years. He used to get a lot of regular customers. This was the local hangout and part of the community in Crofton Park. When Mr Lawrence closed for health reasons, his regulars missed their local spot so when Jerome decided to take it over, everyone was over the moon that the new owner was Jérome – someone they knew from the local community – and that he kept it as a wine bar and shop.
Jerome’s Wine Bar and Shop is born….
After 5 weeks of works, Jerome’s opened at the end of October, on schedule. He kept most of the basics of the shop but the main feature was the bar counter which he completely redesigned using some reclaimed wood of over 100 years old. Jerome has a trusted carpenter which he used to rely on at Cheyne Walk.
The opening night was a success! All the locals helped make this busy night memorable. A new little gem of a wine bar was born…A proud moment!
A bit of Chelsea in Crofton Park…..
His clientele is very female-orientated and we can see why– apart from Jérome’s good looks – the décor is so charming with pretty chandeliers, soft lighting and candles. Jérome has managed to take a bit of Chelsea with him and stand out from the others.
All around the shop there is a nice selection of wines. Jérome knows his wines from his experience in the restaurant trade and he is not afraid of trying something new.
Always something to do…..
“The biggest drawback is not seeing my family enough, I have one day off a week on Mondays, I work from Tuesday to Sunday. My family come and see me in the shop but I know I miss out on family life.
The Wine Bar and Shop have only opened for 5 months so Jerome only has one extra staff working on Friday and Saturday. Max is a student who has a great affinity with the customers.
“I am looking to have a member of staff full-time but it is early days so I have to dedicate my whole time to my shop. I am alone in running my business so I have to do everything. From cleaning the shop, doing the shopping, cooking, buying wines, feeding my social media network and selling behind the bar. I make my own houmous and chocolate mousse, I prepare the cheese and charcuterie platters. I use Artisan producers for my products. Once I have some help, I will be able to have more free time to do some marketing and bring more customers into my shop.”
The current climate can be quite tough with opening a new business and trends such as Dry January can be quite damaging.
“Dry January hurt us like the rest of the drinks trade. We are a local business so if people abstain from drinking alcohol throughout a month, we suffer. Especially as we have only opened for 4 months.”
Wine dinners and Private events…
In this very short time, Jérome has managed to do 4 wine dinners: Champagne, Rhône, Bordeaux and Loire. These dinners are hosted by our very own Christophe Jeandeau.
What next? Italy? Burgundy? Grape variety focus? There is no shortage of wines at Jerome’s to host quite a few interesting wine events….
He has book clubs evening attending once a month and Private parties are really taking off.
“For big parties, it is going to be so hectic so I am going to call in a favour with my whole family, everyone is going to muck in!.”
At the moment the local competition is the food. Jerome doesn’t do hot food but offers charcuterie and cheese platters and nibbles. You come here to try a great glass of wine or bottle, have some nibbles and share a platter so Sundays tend to be a bit slow during the day and pick up later on after lunch.
There is already quite a lot of interest for pop-up events. Jérome would like to propose one dish such as a boeuf bourguignon and sell tickets beforehand for the pop-up events. Easier for Jerome to budget accordingly and no food wastage.
Ideas and vision…..
Whenever Jérome has some free time, he is looking for ways to bring customers in. He started at the beginning of this year to offer on Tuesdays a free cheese platter for a bottle to drink in. He is going to start doing monthly raffles with magnum and special bottles as prizes.
”I want to build up my customer list so I can keep them updated with what’s happening at Jérome’s. Or why not whatsapp groups, I use them for the wine evenings and they are a great way to stay in touch. I am also going to use Deliveroo. Nowadays they can deliver anything so it makes sense to start using them.”
A dream come true…
“I absolutely love having my own wine bar and shop. I feel free. I love opening the front door of my shop and knowing it is mine. It’s a feeling that I never had. You don’t really have a sense of working – even though it’s pretty intense and non-stop at weekends!”
Jérome has lived in this area for a long time so he knows the locals inside out but running your own business is a learning curve. His vast experience of running a successful restaurant has helped him greatly to get it right.
You can’t find anyone more hardworking, dedicated, passionate or loyal than Jérome so we had no doubts that he would make a success of launching his own place in such a short space of time.