Something a little different from the Friday Photo today because this week I found a fabulous little wine bar in Villiers Street outside Charing Cross Station and just had to share. 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 so me and the man decided to investigate. We could have easily missed the unobtrusive dark brown door of number 47 but didn’t and gingerly crossed the dusty threshhold – it’s amazing what the lure of cheese will lead to! We made our way down a precipitous creaking staircase into the under-street depths of what is said to be London’s oldest 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 a wall was plastered with yellowed newspaper cuttings of a young looking Queen Elizabeth II. Blackboards displayed lists and prices of ports, sherrys, madeiras and fortified wines – no lagers, beers or spirits. All the tables were taken here so we ducked under an arch into a low cavern, flickering candlelight danced off the brick domed ceiling and walls. We bagged the last table, just about visible through the gloom – the place was heaving at 3pm on a Wednesday afternoon. We went and loaded our wooden platter with a rich Stilton and gooey Camenbert from the large cheese menu (£8.50 for two large pieces) accompanied with pickles, silverskin onions, butter and a huge hunk of crusty bread. Salads, pies ploughmans were also available in proper-sized portions. We decided on a glass of port to accompany 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 then filled them to the brim from a wooden cask and handed us the now jewel-coloured glasses.
Gordon’s has a bit of a history; Kipling House where the bar is housed was home to Samuel Pepys in the 1680s and 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 sat and relished our cheese and port in this under-street, cobwebby cavern all manner of people conversed seated at mis-matched, rickety tables and chairs – the type your grandad might have consigned to his garden shed. A vicar at one table, an ageing hippy at another, a couple of office workers and many others that I couldn’t make out in the gloom. Occasionally the wall would vibrate and a deep rumble filled the air as the underground trains passed nearby from nearby 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 make time for an hour or two at Gordon’s before taking the train back to the sticks – maybe I’ll bump into you there…