Monday, 24 February 2014

Gordon's Wine Bar

Gordon's Wine Bar  has been a London institution since the 19th century, and claims to be the oldest wine bar still in existence in London, and perhaps one of the oldest throughout Europe. While the current Gordon family who owns the place aren't actually related to the original Gordons, the name has been maintained and so has, I suspect, much of the interiors. Apparently, the place was shut for a while in the 90s for alleged Health & Safety violations, and to get around it the late owner used hairspray to deal with the worst of the dust bunnies. It's a marvellous story. The inside didn't seem terribly grubby when we went to pick up glasses of wine and a plate of cheese, although I suspect the dim lighting may have had something to do with that. 


For all the people who walk by not realizing this gem of a wine bar exists, there are enough people in the know that the place is packed on Sunday afternoons, and we were lucky to be able to find a seat outside. Next time, we go, we'll probably hit the bar early to get a seat in their outrageously dim cellar. I'm not quite tall enough to hit my head on the low arches, and the candle-lit tables seem like the best place to settle down for some booze and gossip. The bar stocks some lovely Sherries, Madeiras and Ports, but it felt like a good afternoon to run down their list of wines, so that's what we did. 


Sitting outside in the sun is an excellent way to people-watch and gawk at the bottles being enjoyed by the other tables, but you absolutely must walk round the inside of the wine bar itself, which could probably function as a time capsule in a pinch: vintage furnishing and old newspaper clippings abound. Had quite the trippy visit to the ladies' - a picture of Prince Charles and Princess Di beaming down at a baby Prince William was on the wall,  and it felt so awkward I had to find another cubicle. 


We got a selection of cheeses including the Gouda and Smoked Cheddar, which came with a warm and really crusty baguette, pats of deliciously salty butter and as much pickles and relish that you dare to heap onto your plate. After Sunday Roast, SSH couldn't stomach anything beyond the odd pickle, but the rest of us are a bunch of gluttons and polished off the rather delectable cheeses in no time at all. 


Even under the radiators, whenever a breeze came in we got a bit of the chills and a sudden hankering for something fleecy to wrap ourselves in. The only solution we could think of in the absence of blankets falling from the sky was to enjoy some more wine and hope its warming properties set in. This wasn't very difficult at all given the dangerously drinkable by-the-glass list on offer. For all the flavours and complexities of the wines we had, all of them went down terrifyingly smoothly, and were rather well-priced given the high quality.


We sent ES to the cheese counter to beg for more pickles, and he came back to the table bearing a small plate of them that we set upon quite ravenously. Time works a little bit differently at Gordon's - it's like stepping into a fairy circle. You only feel like you're there for minutes, and when you finally make your way out you realize a whole swathe of time (Like an entire afternoon) has suddenly vanished, which you can't quite account for. But everyone leaves happy, and at the end of the day that's really all you ask for. 


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