Davy’s Wine Vaults
161 Greenwich High Road, SE10
Tucked away the “wrong” side of the station, I bet this little gem gets missed by the majority of tourists. The snob in me avoided it for a while because it was a chain (albeit one that’s been going since 1870) but it seems I’ve been missing out.
It looks so olde-worlde-cute that I had to ask if the decor was actually genuine. Apparently it is – and if it has been ‘enhanced,’ I buy it. The lady behind the bar told me that it was originally a wholesalers and the sloping floor (which is still sprinkled with sawdust – don’t let your coat touch the floor or you’ll have some very interesting ‘dandruff’ when you leave) was so that the barrels could be rolled around more easily. The floor’s rakish stance does mean that some of the simple candlelit tables and Windsor chairs are at an interesting angle – but you could always put it down to the number of pints of Davy’s Old Wallop, served in pewter tankards, you’ve had…
To one side of the main bar, there’s an old booth, that would have been used for making tallies and taking orders – there appears to be a little office in there now. Barrels are strategically placed, and there is a display of old bottles lit with a low light. It’s all very Dickensian – though more Mr Micawber than Bill Sykes, judging from the prices these days…
What’s really lovely about this place are all the nooks and crannies – little private areas and odd corners, often very dimly lit indeed. There are several tables just for a very few people, allowing private tete-a-tetes and intimate groups, as well as bigger tables in an adjoining room. Outside there is a yard with some old barrels and seating, which is good for a sunny day, but, considering the weather that’s just arrived, will soon only be fit for the most hardened smoker.
You have to step down into the bar, so I was surprised when the lady told me there was a series of function rooms underneath it, which can be hired. They have a separate entrance, so it’s not just like hiring the back room of a pub – and you get the whole floor to yourself.
Being underground, there’s no natural light of course, but the plan follows a similar pattern to upstairs so are several small/medium/largish labyrinthine rooms which open into each other. They are dimly lit which makes it all very mysterious, and you can decorate them as you wish (nothing permanent, ok?) and there is a funky sound system which will take your ipod. There are also some simple conference facilities – when I sneaked a peek there was a screen and projector set up in one of the rooms, with a flip chart and desks.
If your party’s quite small, you can choose to just use one or two of the rooms, though the price is the same however much you use. It’s £ 200 per night, which includes staff and the opening of the fully-stocked bar downstairs (the bar itself is fab – looking like a merchant’s chest, with dozens of wooden drawers built into it.) There are various menus – from canape to buffet – obviously at extra cost.
I think it would be best for winter celebrations (Christmas would be ideal) as it is very dark and cosy – I’d miss the sun in summer. The only celebrations they’re not too keen on are 18th and 21st birthdays as they’ve had trouble in the past and there can be problems with underage drinking.
But back to the wine bar. They have a large wine list, but I confess I must have chosen poorly. I had a glass of White Burgundy (with which I generally can’t go wrong) which was the ‘best’ of the wines by the glass. Writing now, almost a week later, I can’t actually remember anything at all about it – it had very little aroma – or even taste. It wasn’t awful – but I would have expected better for £ 5.95.
Davy’s do wine tastings on an occasional basis. I will endeavour to visit one (the things I go through for this blog, eh. Darling, it’s hell - but someone has to do it…) and report back. The other thing that requires an entry by itself is the separate Davy’s Wine Shop just round the corner – but that’s also for another day.