Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Vaults and vines

In the 17th century, the area around Villiers Street was part of an estate owned by the Duke of Buckingham. Number 47 was a respectable house occupied by a bookish fellow named Samuel Pepys, who kept a diary of his daily activities. He lived here until 1701.

By 1792, the Pepys house had been demolished and the site was home to a warehouse for a firm of seedsmen called Minier, Minier & Fair, who found it convenient for loading and unloading cargo from the docks along the Thames river.

But in the 19th century, the area was drastically changed by commercial development. Charing Cross railroad station was built in the 1850s, and the Thames was pent up between stone embankments, bridged and bolstered by railway lines and, finally, by Tube stations, streets, shops and commercial development.

The seed warehouse, now landlocked, became a rooming house of dubious respectability - it may have been a brothel in the 1920s. On the ground floor, in 1890, a wine merchant named Angus Stafford Gordon set up shop.But even then, it retained its literary heritage, housing Rudyard Kipling in the parlour room above the wine bar.

Enter through a narrow doorway, and descend a steep stairway to the lower bar, where huge casks are ranged behind the bar, and tapped by the barman for your order.

Gordon's is said to be the oldest continually operating wineshop in London - and probably in the world. It is family owned and operated. Only wine is sold, no beer, ale, or liquor. Sherries, Madeiras and ports are served directly from the cask.

Once you have your drink, you'll need to find a table in the dark cellar seating area. If you're tall, stoop and mind your head on the low arching stone vaults, lit only by candle light.

Sit and sip your tawny port or gold-brown amontillado.

You can't do this anywhere in the world but London.


21 Wits said...

Have you tried John Smith? (I believe the name is right) it's locally brewed but after my first taste of it over there...that's all I ever ordered! My mouth still waters for it...so very smooth! This was an excellent read and the photos fantastic...a travel dream...into the not so travelled paths!

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

What a cool place! Thanks for the pics.

Jason, as himself said...

You're having so much fun!