Tucked away in central London near Embankment Underground Station is Gordon’s Wine Bar. Established in 1890 and coined as London’s oldest wine bar, it’s a real gem just off the beaten track.
The main entrance, on Villiers Street, is pretty ordinary and gives you absolutely no indication of what’s on the other side. Once the door opens though, a real experience begins. The fifteen steps down to the bar are narrow, rickety and almost perpendicular.
When you reach the main bar area, you get the feeling that not much has changed in 124 years. There are old photos and newspapers clippings on the walls and wine bottles on display that look like they have not been dusted or cleaned in years. At one time in the bar’s history, the building was home to poet Rudyard Kipling.
There are two main rooms, one with a rather high ceiling with about six tables. It also houses the bar and the food bar. The other looks like a cave. This room, situated under Villiers Street, is long, lit with candles, has a very low ceiling and seats about 30 people at eight or nine tables. At one end of the cave, there is an area called the “cage” which is the old wine cellar. It seats about 10 people.
While the bar has remained relatively unchanged for years, it has expanded outside in the last few years. There are now tables spanning one city block between Villiers and York Buildings on Watergate Walk. Underneath the tables’ umbrellas are heating lamps to keep people warm during the fall and winter months.
When I visited on a November evening, people wearing woolly hats, scarves and winter coats were huddled together laughing and joking as they sipped their favourite wines. Even on a cool, autumn night the place is packed. One thing about the British, they never let the weather stop them having a good night out.
Gordon’s serves wine, mulled wine in the winter, champagne, sherry and port served from barrels. There is no beer or hard liquor in sight. Wines start at just over £5 a glass.
There is also food. Gordon’s Winter Corner Stall serves cheese platters, cold plates, and sharing plates. Up to twenty cheeses are on offer at the Stall from Brie to Gouda to Dolcelatte. Cheese boards which include butter and pickles start at £6.
The crowd is quite sophisticated, mostly city types in business attire. You’ll also find a few tourists passing through wondering what is going on.
Gordon’s Wine Bar is a great place to people watch and to sit for a couple of hours and just let the world pass you by.
Gordon’s Wine Bar
47 Villiers Street
London, WC2N 6NE
0207 930 1408