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Port in London

Posted: 23:20 Thu 23 Dec 2010
by JacobH
We need a Port in London thread. Please feel free to add bars and other places related to Port in London.

The first entry is Gordon’s Wine Bar, 47 Villiers Street, London, WC2N 6NE. Surprisingly young--it dates from 1890--Gordon’s attraction is essentially unchanged since then (and usually looks like it hasn’t been cleaned since then, too!).

Finding the Bar is a bit challenging: Villiers Street is on the East side of Charing Cross station. Gordon’s is a the river end on the corner. Go through the rather shabby-looking door and down the stairs.

The Bar is usually packed but it is possible to get a seat if you get there early or wait long enough. There is food, though I think the cheese is a better option. In terms of drinks, Gordon’s is unusual in being a proper wine bar selling only wine (with no beers or spirits) and, even more unusually has a good selection of Port, Madeira and Sherry which so many other City wine bars have ignored.

It is this selection of Ports available by both the glass and the bottle which puts Gordon’s on this list. For a while they have been either a Gordon’s blend or Messias, but they have recently started stocking some Warre Otima too. To my taste the Port to drink is the cheapest: Gordon’s Old Wood Tawny, served from a barrel behind the bar. The current price is £4.80 for a decent-sized glass or £5.30 for a ‟beaker” which is essentially a glass tumbler filled to the brim with Port! A few glasses of this is a very pleasant way of spending an evening with a friend or two.

Re: Port in London

Posted: 16:19 Sat 19 Feb 2011
by Zelandakh
Only a hundred yards or so up the hill underneath Charing Cross is Champagne Charlie's. Looks like a dive, you can buy bottles of champagne and bottles of port for fairly sensible prices.

Highly recommended.

Re: Port in London

Posted: 22:12 Tue 01 Mar 2011
by JacobH
It looks like that is a branch of Davy’s the London wine-bar company which also owns the favourite :tpf: haunt ‟The Crusting Pipe” in Convent Garden. Although the Crusting Pipe has, I think, a slightly longer Port list and more Ports by the glass, all of them have a reasonable selection and most will open a fresh bottle if requested.

Re: Port in London

Posted: 22:29 Tue 01 Mar 2011
by JacobH
El Vino’s is a City-based wine merchant and wine-bar owner which dates from 1879. Their main branch is on Fleet Street and was once the venue of choice for Fleet Street’s journalists. Today, with the press exiled to Wapping, most of the clientèle seems to be members of the Bar where it a particularly popular choice for lunch during the middle of a hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice, just along the street. Former clients are honoured with named seats and one can also ponder the days when women sued for the right to be served at the bar.

What particularly appeals today about El Vino’s is that it still operates as an old-fashioned wine merchant with a wine-bar business attached. Wines are available on an ‟off” basis at good prices and those available to buy in the bar (from a huge weighty tome of a wine-list) are noticeably a cut above the stuff that gets served at other places in the locality.

In terms of Port, their house brands are all decent, and served by the glass (I think the ‟fine tawny”--possibly a 10-year-old--made by Churchill is the best) but, of course, the ultimate is their Fonseca 1977 lunch...

A decent selection of cigars are also available, if you are that way inclined, and the chips are often thought to be the best in London.

Re: Port in London

Posted: 14:04 Wed 02 Mar 2011
by AHB
JacobH wrote:El Vino’s ...and the chips are often thought to be the best in London.
I must admit, I was extremely impresed by the chips and may visit again just to sample another bowlful.

Re: Port in London

Posted: 14:05 Mon 19 Mar 2012
by AHB
In a post on ftlop I said the following:
Al B. wrote:Perhaps we're spoiled in London, but there are a number of places which offer port by the glass or bottle and which sell enough of it to make it worth their while.

The perrenial haunt of the London Port Lovers is the Davy's Wine Bar chain. These places are by no means high end restaurants, yet the food they serve and the ambience they create is excellent and most branches of the chain know how to welcome a port lover. Certain branches where port is a feature will have the standard Davy wine bar offerings (currently by the dock (small glass), glass or bottle are Delaforce White, Skeffington Finest Reserve, Warre Otima 10yo and Churchill 1991) but will also have 2-3 other mature vintage ports that are offered for sale by the bottle. Last time I noticed these were Taylor 1980, Gould Campbell 1997 and Offley 1983. Prices are reasonable, with a relatively small 20%ish premium charged compared to retail. You can also pre-order from the Davy's retail wine list if you give 2-3 days notice and this includes wines back to the Taylor 1966. Food is simple, but well prepared and with carefully chosen ingredients. If pre-arranged, you can also BYO for a £10-15 corkage fee.

Another favourite is the El Vino chain. Again these are wine bars which also serve decent food. Until recently, my favourite branch had Fonseca 1970 on offer (by the bottle) but it seems we drank out our supply so now the oldest port on offer is the Fonseca 1977. By the glass is the usual range of Tawny Reserve or Ruby Reserve plus (currently) Smith Woodhouse 1997. Again prices are reasonable with Graham 1991 being £75 in the restaurant.

There are also 2-3 restaurants that I would recommend in London for a port lover, but these are moving up a notch in cost. The first is Portal in St John's Street in Clerkenwell (yes, there is a loose family connection with Quinta do Portal). Portal offers quite a range of port by the glass including 2003, 2000 and 1997 Portal vintage ports. By the bottle, the range is not much bigger than the glass range but does include the 1963 Noval Nacional - at an eye watering £2,800! The Portuguese wine list is excellent and the cuisine is superb. It's also one of the few restaurants in London where you can get mature Serra d'Estrella.

Second recommendation is The Don. The bistro is perfectly reasonably priced (and I have been known to wash down a burger at lunchtime with a shared half bottle of Sandeman Vau 1999) but the restaurant is expensive. However, they have the best port list in London and always have a freshly decanted bottle of something nice (like Taylor 1970) to serve by the glass - often having to decant fresh bottles through the evening as they run out. There are 80 ports on the wine list by the bottle, half bottle or magnum and some of these go back to the early 20th century. Last time I was there, Croft 1927 was on the wine list - but you will certainly pay to be able to drink such a rare bottle. The location is also fabulous as the restaurant is based in Sandeman's old London bottling plant and makes the most of its heritage.

And my last recommendation is a sister restaurant to the Don - The Bleeding Heart in Hatton Garden. Again, excellent food and a terrific wine list, but check out prices before you decide to eat here.

Re: Port in London

Posted: 14:18 Mon 19 Mar 2012
by AHB
Not in London, but not far from London either, yesterday I had a very pleasant visit to Tylney Hall Hotel in Rotherwick, near Hook in Hampshire. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality and pricing of the port on the wine list. Offered by the glass was Niepoort White, Niepoort Ruby Dum, Niepoort Tawny Dee, Taylor 2005 LBV, Dow 1994 (£15) and Churchill 1982 (£18 for a 50ml pour). The latter three were all sitting in decanters on the bar with labels on them saying when the port had been decanted. The ports on the wine list available by the bottle went from Noval 1963 (the oldest) to Dow 1994 (the youngest). Specifically I also recall Noval 1966, Warre 1977 and Nacional 1978. In total there were about 10 to choose from. Prices went from £100 per bottle to £350.

This is not the cheapest of places to stay or eat, but I love visiting and always feel I get excellent value for money!

Re: Port in London

Posted: 14:09 Wed 18 Sep 2013
by JB vintage
This is a great thread with a lot of good recommendations. I presume all are still relevant but if anyone has any updates or additional recommendations I would appreciate that as we are visiting London in December. I am particularly interested in places with a good selection of Vintage port available by the glass.

Re: Port in London

Posted: 23:41 Wed 18 Sep 2013
by AHB
The best advice I can give is to post a date in the Organising Offlines forum for when you might be able to visit the Bunghole (now known by its corporate name of Davy's Bar and Grill Holborn). You might find your choice of ports by the glass grows miraculously!