Do try Gordon’s. No not the famous London Gin, although with a tonic water and a slice of lime there’s nothing quite like it after a challenging day at the typewriter…but Gordon’s Wine Bar. Gordon’s is an institution for those in the know. Situated in Villiers Street next to London’s Charing Cross Station, this place is a temple to the Oily Rag. An unassuming door hard on the street and a disarmingly simple enamel sign give no clue to the delights within. It always looks closed – closed as in ‘not open for trade’ from this angle – try the handle and the door swings inwards to reveal some huge and tatty posters on the wall and a near vertical flight of stairs leading down to where the serious business takes place. Wow! This place is humming! Crushed with people from all walks of life but rumoured to have once been the favoured watering hole of the security services –
“Where’s Bond?” asked ‘M’ wearily,
“Oh probably down at Gordon’s with a floozie” replied a secretary…
well, it could have happened!
A Gordon’s, it’s not only tourists who are beginning to discover its delights, but couples who probably shouldn’t be there and lone drinkers thoughtfully toying with bottles of something red – and French. And men whom it might be better if you didn’t speak to, unless you want a tip for the 4.30 at Kempton Park…or need someone ‘taking care of’.
You see Gordon’s is a wine bar. It sells wine and port and sherry and not a lot else. By the glass, by the bottle, by the magnum. You feel as if you really are drinking in a ‘cave’ too, for after you’ve bought your bottle and received the requisite number of glasses you pass from the bar area to a series of inter-connected low-vaulted chambers and if you’re lucky, find a seat. There you can people watch and so the hours pass with no sense of time whatsover. The place is candle-lit, not in some hugely romantic way but in the practical sense, augmented by some very low powered electric light bulbs. There are no windows and thus no reference to time of day. The peeling emulsion paint on the brick vaults has long since rejected its substrate and has developed a rather pleasing patina of gentle decay. Intriguing paintings and ancient advertising posters adorn the walls, some so stained from years of being exposed to cigar, cigarette and pipe tobacco fumes, that their images are barely discernable. This place has an atmosphere unlike any other drinking establishment in London.
Gordon’s decays delightfully – and positively, because it is kept vibrant by the passage of human beings with their conversations, their trysts and their indiscretions.
If you’re in London, and if ever you have an afternoon – or even an hour to kill, try Gordon’s
- John Dudley