47 Villiers St, Embankment, London

The view:

Depends where you sit. If you're outside, you'll be surrounded by the pristine greenery of the Victoria Embankment Gardens, which makes it a favourite spot in summer. But head inside and you'll be greeted by the damp, vaulted ceilings of a 19th century wine cellar.

The vibe: Reportedly London's oldest wine bar, Gordon's attracts a diverse mix of tourists - who want to experience a taste of Dickensian London – and the local corporate set, for whom this is a favourite after-five spot.

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The chat: Was disappointing. We were served by one of the surliest bartenders I've ever encountered. He offered no guidance on the extensive wine list and when a transmission error voided our payment, he heaved and sighed and insisted it was a problem with our card. It wasn't.

The menu: Features an expertly curated selection of wines from around the world. Check the blackboards for their weekly and monthly specials, which offer particularly good value. The week of our visit, there was St Emilion Grand Cru on offer for £42, with several other quality bottles starting from £20.

The blackboard shows their weekly and monthly specials, which are of very good value. Photo / Gordons Wine Bar
The blackboard shows their weekly and monthly specials, which are of very good value. Photo / Gordons Wine Bar

The expectation:

A friend had recommended the spot as it was just around the corner from my hotel in Westminster – but gave no indication of what we were about to enter. Stepping down the rickety steps into the underground bar is like entering a time machine to another world.

The reality: It's damp, cramped and utterly charming. Make sure you do a full circuit of the caves when searching for a table as there are several hidden away in nooks and crannies. And take time to peruse the gallery of old newspaper clippings papering the walls. The service may be terrible, but Gordon's is thoroughly worth a visit.