Gordon’s is thought to be the oldest wine bar in London, it was established in 1890. The bar is very much a family affair, owned by Wendy Gordon who is the wife of the late, much loved Luis Gordon, and now overseen by Luis’ eldest son Simon. The Gordon’s wine bar family includes the bar staff many of whom have been with us for many years including Joao who runs the team and Amanda who works behind the scenes to look after the business. We try to maintain the bar as our customers like it which basically means “no change!”. While we have maintained the original décor, we have expanded onto Watergate Walk for an al fresco Gordon’s experience and still sell only wine, port and sherry, whilst providing traditional and well priced dishes . . . easier said than done in a world dominated by rules and regulations!
Angus ‘Staff’ Gordon
a Free Vintner, started Gordon’s wine bar in 1890. His son took over after him and his grandson after him (all three had the same name!). The grandson worked at the bar for 3 years as a young man, but went off to become an actor – something he loved. In March 2009, Angus Stafford junior came to the bar and met Simon Gordon (Luis Gordon’s son), and kindly brought along a batch of wonderful old photographs, some of which are now hung in the bar.
In 1972 Luis purchased Gordon’s from Staff Gordon (see below), someone bearing the same surname but of no relation. He was the former chairman of the family sherry shippers who for more than 200 years remained sole importers of Domecq to Britain.
Father of six, many of whom worked behind the bar, Luis was an exuberant, gravelly-voiced character who bought this historic watering hole after a lifetime in the wine trade. During his 30-year ownership Luis preserved the bar’s special character – fine wines, old oak casks of port and sherry, memorabilia and crusting walls – even keeping the cobwebs after a six-month closure for what was supposed to have been a “revamp”. A tradition that will continue to be preserved by his family who have now taken on the mantle!
After Luis passed away in 2002 his wife Wendy took ownership of the bar with their eldest son Simon taking up the reins.
Gordon’s Wine Bar Timeline
1230 – 1688
First mention of the Villiers Street area as Norwich Place, the town- house of the Bishop of Norwich until 1536.
Becomes Suffolk Place as it was taken over by the Duke of Suffolk.
It is given to the Arch-Bishop of York and is named York House until 1674. In 1626 the Watergate is built which still stands along Watergate Walk, part of Gordon’s terrace.
York House is burnt down and rebuilt.
The Free Vintners
Edward III’s Charter: The result of his financial embarrassment at being unable to repay a loan made by the Vintners to him some years earlier which granted the Vintners the ability to set up and sell wine anywhere without applying for a license.
1688 – 1701
The famous diarist, Samuel Pepys occupied the House above Gordon’s. He remained until 1701, and for the next 30 years the house attracted aristocratic tenants.
The detailed private diary that Samuel Pepys kept is one of the most important primary sources from his period. It gave great insight into important historical events, such as the Great Plague of London, the Second Dutch War, and the Great Fire of London.
1732 – 1880
1732 – 1788
The building was taken over by the Salt Office to collect the salt tax.
1792 – 1880
The company of seedsmen named Minier, Minier & Co. with a shop on the Strand takes over and turns it into a warehouse, to store its stock.
The river is embanked and this change affected the area, as the loss of access to barges would mean the loss of ease of business.
The building was converted into a rooming house, with shops along the street and renamed “Embankment Chambers”. It housed very interesting tenants: from Rudyard Kipling to a brothel to Gordon’s Wine Bar, it sure has seen plenty of character. (It also makes us the longest running tenants).
The Bar Opens
In November 1890 Angus Stafford Gordon, one of the few remaining Free Vintners, opens Gordon’s Wine Bar. The business is passed down for two generations.
1972 – 2002
Luis Gordon chancing upon the bar with his own name decides to take over Gordon’s Wine Bar. This photo was taken in 1975.
He continued to run Gordon’s until 2002, when he lost his battle against cancer.
1980 – 1990
Gordon’s Closure Scare
A disagreement with the landlords of the time, Greycoat, began in the late 1980s which culminated in 1990 with the threat to pull the building down. The bar fought against the complete refurbishment of the building and the sharp increase in rent prices launching a Closure Party and urging everyone to write to the landlord.
Wendy Gordon takes ownership of the bar while Simon Gordon takes over the management.
Throughout the year various events and tastings were hosted at Gordon’s to celebrate our fantastic 125th year. From Music Tuesdays with live performances on our terrace to cheese tastings straight from the wheel.
To celebrate we also launched our very own Gordon’s Wine Bar label wine!
2019 – 2020
Calamity Strikes Again
Gordon’s risks losing the license for the outside terrace, a new agreement is struck with Westminster Council allowing only seated customers outside.
This leads to the new and improved terrace with dedicated wine and food kiosks and yes, table service!