Gordon’s Wine Bar is a fabulous little wine bar in Villiers Street by Charing Cross Station. It’s the oldest wine bar in London. Allegedly. We’d missed our train back home and someone mentioned that you could get a decent glass of Port and a cheese platter in Gordon’s Wine Bar. Me and Mr Jones decided to investigate. We could have missed the unobtrusive dark brown door of number 47 but we didn’t and gingerly crossed the dusty threshold. It’s amazing what the lure of cheese will lead us to do! We made our way down a precipitous creaking staircase into the depths of Gordon’s Wine bar.
We descended into an amber light – a dimly lit area stacked with barrels. A dark wooden bar gleamed with spit and polish and yellowed newspaper cuttings of a young-looking Queen Elizabeth II were plastered over one of the walls. Blackboards displayed lists and prices of port, sherry, Madeira and fortified wines. No lager, beer or spirits here. There were no free tables so we ducked under an archway into a cavern where flickering candlelight danced off the brick domed ceiling and walls.
Port and Ploughman’s
We bagged the last table, just about visible through the gloom; the place was heaving at 3pm on a Wednesday afternoon. We loaded our wooden platter with a rich Stilton and gooey Camembert from the large cheese menu (£8.50 for two large pieces). Pickles, silver-skin onions, butter and a huge hunk of crusty bread completed the line-up. Salads, pies and ploughman’s in proper-sized portions were also on the menu.
We decided on a glass of port to go with but didn’t know what size to choose – a schooner, beaker or a tumbler. The barman advised a schooner was the perfect size for a lady and the beaker was man-sized. He filled them to the brim from a wooden cask and handed us the jewel-coloured glasses.
Gordon’s Wine Bar History
Gordon’s has a bit of a history. Kipling House, where the bar’s located, was home to Samuel Pepys in the 1680s. Rudyard Kipling was a tenant in the building in the 1890s. He wrote ‘The Light that Failed’ during that time; I wonder if the gloomy parlour that is now the bar was inspiration for the title?
As we relished our cheese and port in the cobwebby cavern all manner of people conversed. We sat at miss-matched, rickety tables and chairs; the type your granddad might have consigned to his garden shed. A vicar languished at one table, an ageing hippy at another, and many other characters that I couldn’t make out in the gloom. Occasionally the wall would vibrate and a deep rumble filled the air as the trains passed nearby from Embankment Tube Station. The atmosphere in the cellar had a real sense of time and history about it. A place where ‘things’ had happened.
In future we’ll be sure to stop at Gordon’s before taking the train back to the sticks. Maybe I’ll bump into you there…