Every wine lover must at some point make a pilgrimage to Gordon's Wine Bar – the oldest wine bar in London. Located on Villiers street, next to Embankment, Gordon's opened in 1890 and has enjoyed a colourful history – the building was home to diarist Samuel Pepys in the 1680s.
Before becoming a bar, it served as a seed warehouse until the Thames was embanked in 1824, and shortly after opening, author Rudyard Kipling moved in as a tenant, penning the London-based novel The Light That Failed in the parlour above the bar.
The charm of Gordon's lies in the fact that very little has changed in its 120-year history. Walking down the narrow staircase, it's like the 20th century never happened. The wooden walls are covered in yellowing newspaper cuttings and old posters from a bygone era. It's full of trinkets, from grandfather clocks and ornate vintage tills, to old wine kegs and Champagne bottles cloaked in cobwebs.
I spent a happy hour at Gordon's last night, in the company of the bar's current owner, Simon Gordon. Well, his mum owns it, he runs it. We sat in 'the cage' as they've christened it, a tiny area at the back of the bar under the arches, complete with what looks like a prison door. It's where the wine used to be kept, until they recently built a new cellar. Crammed around a table in a space no taller than my modest 5 foot 5 height, the dining area is not for the claustrophobic.
With the peeling ceiling and cracked floors, it feels a bit like you're partying in a WW2 shelter. Candles wedged in wine bottles adorn the wooden tables, dripping waxy stalactites down the green glass. You can hardly move for people. I went on early a Monday night and it was rammed, even though they only serve wine. On my first visit before Christmas I enjoyed a glass of Oloroso straight from the barrel. Simon's father, Louis Gordon, was a huge Sherry fan – for 200 years the family Sherry shippers were the sole importers of Domecq to the UK.
Last night I was on the Fat Bastard, the Rhône-based brainchild of Thierry Boudinaud and Guy Anderson. I indulged in a glass of the 2007 Chardonnay, moving on to pair the '07 Pinot Noir, which uses a proportion of Corsican grapes, with my tapas. The chef kept rolling out dishes – chorizo, tortilla, pinchitos, albondigas, alitas de pollo...
After a quick chat with Simon, and a bellyful of tapas, I hoofed it to Centrepoint in my purple kilt for a Burns night party, hosted by Monkey Shoulder Whisky. Last summer, Monkey Shoulder built a tree house at the Big Chill festival, full of tables that doubled as backgammon boards. Much monkeying around ensued. Last night was a similarly raucous affair, with a devilish selection of Whisky cocktails on the menu, my favourite being the pink Scotch drink, a creamy concoction served with raspberries and Shortbread.
Scottish roast beef and mini haggis's did the rounds, while beatnik poets lyrically spouted the works of the Bard. The party was held in the Paramount members bar, designed by über-cool architect Tom Dixon. The views it afforded across the London night skyline were spectacular, but after a few pink Scotch drinks, my (tube) carriage awaited.