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I would never go to London without visiting Gordons wine bar. If you didn't know it was there it is very easily missed as it looks very small and understated from the front. The front is quite dark with a sign on the front saying Gordons wine bar a standard size front door. You could easily walk past as it doesn't look much at all from the outside and in fact looks a bit shabby. It is in Villiers Street right by Embankment Tube Station so is very easy to get to.
It was recommended to us a few years ago from a colleague at work who knew that me and my husband are wine lovers. He told us that it was the oldest wine bar in London and had a great atmosphere and was so different from other places, so we thought we would give it a try.
The first impressions you get when you step through the door isn't anything special with a flight of stairs in front of you and a corridor to the side leading to the toilets. The walls are completely full of posters, memorabilia and historical newspaper clippings which are fascinating to look at and read. There is usually a queue for the toilets, especially the ladies so you can read these while you are waiting!
When you get to the bottom of the stairs it is hard at first to focus as there are hardly any lights on and candles are the main form of light provided which are stuck in old wine bottles. There are quite a few tables which are packed quite close together and as you walk through there is a wonderful arched tunnel area which has the original ceiling complete with drips of water coming through the bricks occasionally. The ceilings are very low in places and most people have to stoop to get around but this just adds to the experience.
There are numerous signs around warning you to keep your belongings close to you at all times as it is so dark down there that it would be easy for thieves and pick pockets to steal your bag/wallet/phone. There are specially made hooks underneath most of the table to hang your handbag which I have always done and which I think is a brilliant idea. You can feel your bag against your legs so you would be alerted if anyone tried to take it or have a rummage in it.
As the title of the place would suggest they only sell wine, sherry and port, often from the barrel, but that suits me fine as I don't like beer. There is an extensive wine list which you can look at although it is quite hard to read due to the dim lights. There are always specials on a blackboard behind the bar which we have tried on several occasions. I wouldn't say that the wine is cheap but you have to remember you are in London and you can buy it by the glass if you want to keep the price down or don't want to drink too much. The last time we went we bought two bottles of a Chilean red, I can't remember the exact name but it was £17.50 a bottle.
The food I think is superb, it is traditional pub food but the portions are very generous and they do a lot of home made dishes. They also do a cheese selection where you can choose up to three different cheeses which come complete with fresh crusty French bread, copious amounts of butter and you then help yourself to a selection of pickles, picked onions and other accompaniments. We chose this one time when we went and have never had anything else since. In my opinion cheese and red wine are the perfect partners and you get such a generous portion it is well worth the money. We usually have the three cheese option which comes with two or three massive chunks of bread which is plenty for the two of us and if I remember costs around £9 so is a cheap meal. We just sit there drinking wine, cutting and spreading the very generous chunks of cheese and soaking up the atmosphere.
They do have bands down there on a Monday and Tuesday but we have never been there on these days and usually go at the weekends. It is such a popular place that it is always packed. There are always people waiting for a table and people will readily go and sit at a table with other couples to fill every available seat. There is a diverse range of people who visit here, from students to people my age. You often see a lot of foreign people here who I am sure have heard about this place due to the history and want to visit it themselves.
The bar is always busy but the staff are very experienced and they serve you quickly. They also clear the tables speedily and change the candles frequently when they are almost burnt down. You really do get the feeling that you have gone back in time as soon as you walk down the stairs and there is such a lovely warm intimate atmosphere, and I would say that it is quite romantic.
There is a 'cage' at the end of the cellar which fits up to ten people and is very popular. I have never been in there but if there are a few of you and you know when you are going you can book this, for lunchtime or the evening. If you get there before 4.30 you can stay in there all evening. I would think that you would feel as though you were having a VIP treat if you were in there as you have a bit more room and it is a bit separate from the rest of the room.
There are also a lot of tables outside which we didn't realise until we have been there a few times. We went out of a different door to the side and realised what a great area this was, so we actually ordered another bottle of wine and sat at a candlelit table for another hour. I do remember we were staying at the other side of London on this occasion and we always walk whenever we can in London but this journey seemed never ending and my head and feet weren't too steady!
The history of Gordons is displayed on the walls and there are leaflets available telling you that it was established in 1890 and is currently owned by Wendy Gordon who is the widow of Luis Gordon however they are not related to Angus Gordon who set up the bar in 1890 but is a great coincidence. The building where the bar is now situated was actually home to Samuel Pepys in the 1680's and was then used as a seed warehouse in 1820. Rudyard Kipling actually also lived in the building in the 1890's as a tenant so it has a great deal of history
All in all this place is a unique experience and a fantastic place to visit. We go there every time we go to London and if ever we couldn't fit it in for any reason I would feel cheated as it is just a fabulous place. I would recommend if you have never been there to give it a try and you'll want to go back there. I can't rate this bar high enough and is most definitely worth 5 stars.
This is the first port of call for friends of mine visiting London as it really gives you an olde worldy feel, and you completely lose track of time when your inside. You would'nt really know Gordon's wine bar was at the bottom of Villiers Street near Embankment station, unless you noticed all the people drinking wine in the park next to it after work. I didnt know it was there until I was introduced to it on a first date. It is based in the cellar and features underground railway arches that you can sit under. The wine list is very extensive, and the staff very friendly if your not sure what to choose. They also serve a buffet style food, although I've never eaten here. The only downside is making sure you arrive before the work crowd get there if you want to get a good seat under the arches. I have been here many times and only achieved this once, it was well worth it though!
About half way down the Street between Charing Cross and Embankment Tube station, is Gordon's Wine Bar, which is an excellent place to meet up with people either at lunchtime or in the early evening. The bar consists of a number of tables set in a former wine cellar, with sawdust on the floor. They sell good wines in generous measures and also have a variety of Ports and some minimal food (salads etc) as well. While it can be a bit noisy and crowded that just adds to the atmosphere.