DAWN, GORDON & JOE: THREE SUNDAY COMPANIONS
Different cities look better in different lights. Paris in the Spring, Madrid in the bright sun of Summer, New York in the fading light of Autumn and London, ah London. It is never better than in the weak, watery sunlight of early winter. I think it is to do with the stone from which so much of the city’s buildings are hewn. Whatever it is, there is no time better in which to marvel at the greatest city on earth.
Today, I was joined by my newest chum, Dawn as I perambulated around the city on what soon became a route march from East to West End.
First, of course, Brick Lane and Choc Star where the lovely Petra was sitting shivering in her mobile box of delights. Splendid as usual and the spicy shot of Venezuelan hot chocolate was just enough to take the edge of the memories of last night’s parties.
Then a long walk down through Spitalfields, to London Bridge and along the South Bank. The Frost Fair was in full effect and, a walk that normally would have taken about 20 minutes took nearly an hour. By the time we crossed over towards Embankment tube, I was ready for a drink.
Fortunately, the bridge deposits you right by Gordon’s Wine Bar on Villiers St. One of the great treasures of London and yet one of those places that so many people I know have never encountered. I think it opened in the late 1800’s and has remained pretty much the same ever since. In many ways the London cousin to La Venecia in Madrid, it is famous for its barrels of sherry and its impressive list of wines. By 1.30pm it was filling up with people wanting, for some reason, to eat the grim food, but we found a spare table and sat nursing a couple of drinks while we decided what we wanted for lunch.
For reasons I cannot explain, I suddenly thought of Joe Allen’s. It has to be nearly five years since I set foot in the place, but it inhabits a fond section of my memories as I used to be a regular there with friends and potential girlfriends when I first came down to London in the 80’s. They were always capable of making a decent Martini and the food, while not breaking any new ground was pretty consistent. What’s more the burger ( not on the menu but always available to those who ask ) was one of the better ones in town.
Although the place was packed and buzzing and we had no reservation, they found a small table into which they squeezed us while we perused the menu and took in the theatrical posters from ages past.
Joe Allen is not somewhere to try and finesse the menu and much of the list is to be avoided. But, stick to the basics and it does the job. A Caesar salad was well made and blunted what was, now, a sharp appetite. The burgers were as good as anything you are going to get in the city. Served with some bacon, some sharp cheese and crunchy chips, it is decent value. As indeed is the offer of wines by the 25cl pot from which I chose a fruity Zinfandel.
Stuffed and unable to face pudding, they aced the mint tea test and brought me the bill which was £60 inc service which was amiable if harried.
Nothing in either place that would find itself on a “ best of “ list, but it was nice to find myself visiting a couple of this city’s institutions on a day when the blue Winter sky ensured London has never looked more lovely.