Founded in 1890, Gordon’s Wine Bar is thought to be the oldest wine bar in London. It’s great charm is that little has changed since its founding, and never will. The place oozes with history; the building was the home of Samuel Pepys in the 1680s and the home of Rudyard Kipling around the time of the bar’s founding.
The shabby burgundy exterior on Villers Street looks like an old dive wine shop that’s been boarded up and closed down decades ago. But fear not. Pop down the stairs to the right and you’ll find Watergate Walk, so named as it runs behind the Water Gate built by Indio Jones for the Duke of Buckingham’s London palace, which stood here. Gordon’s has colonised this narrow path and set up tables and chairs that stretch down the whole length. At the bottom of the stairs, on the left, is the true entrance to Gordon’s.
Popping inside you’re greeted by an old school salad come tapas bar to the right and a dingy low ceilinged space split into sections around a central staircase that holds up the building above. You’ll inevitably queue to get to the bar at the back – this is not a place you pile up to the bar at, you join the queue, get to the front, order your wine, collect it and head off; it’s all very civilised. So don’t be put off, Gordon’s walls are covered in a shear cornucopia of old images, posters, black boards, and newspaper clippings (often related to the Royal Family), to keep you entertained while you queue.
When you get to the bar in front of large old wine barrels, order yourself a glass, or better yet a bottle, of one of the wines listed on the blackboards; you can’t really go wrong, they are all perfectly decent in quality and well priced. If it’s a lovely hot summer’s day, ask for a bottle of the chilled Beaujolais, a light red that, when served perfectly cold on a hot day, is picture-perfect with its notes of strawberries and summer fruits.
Whatever you order, if the weather’s good enough, head back outside and find a barrel to lean up against or a few chairs and a table to perch at, and while away the rest of the day with your friends and the wine, and then maybe another bottle or two when the first one is dead.
Gordon’s Wine Bar
47 Villiers Street