Chateau Thames Embankment*

*nickname for the cheap claret favoured by John Mortimer’s “Rumpole of the Bailey”.

Malcolm Moore wrote in the Financial Times of August 5, 2015:

“An era has ended for those who remember the heyday of Fleet Street: its most notorious wine bar, El Vino (47 Fleet Street), has been sold.

Davy’s, the family-owned wine merchant, has bought El Vino’s five outposts for an undisclosed sum.

Anthony Mitchell, a member of the fourth generation of the family that founded El Vino in 1879, said he was happy the bar would be in “such good hands” and “confident that our customers will enjoy a seamless transition”.

James Davy noted that his family and the Mitchells had spent a combined 281 years in the wine trade.

El Vino had an impressive pedigree. It was founded by Sir Alfred Bower, who eventually became Lord Mayor of London. Under the stewardship of his nephew, Frank Bower, it became a haunt for journalists and lawyers during the golden age of Fleet Street.

The management insisted on a strict dress code for men and banished women to a back room until a court case in 1982, brought by the journalist Anna Coote, succeeded in winning a discrimination case at the Appeal Court.

Lord Justice Griffiths said that by excluding female journalists from the bar, they might be prevented from “picking up the gossip of the day”, to the detriment of their careers.

Paul Bracken, the manager at the time, initially continued to refuse to serve Ms Coote and said it was a “very sad day” for El Vino’s “where old-fashioned ideals of chivalry still flourish”. The feminist protest against El Vino’s was mocked by many on Fleet Street as a “storm in a sherry glass”…

…Damien McCrystal, a former financial journalist, remembered that the bar was repainted for the first time in the 1990s. “The walls were a dark golden colour from 40 years of smoking. They were repainted white and the customers were so outraged that the Mitchells had a special paint made up to look like nicotine stains. The whole place was re-repainted the following week and the rebellion was quelled,” he said.

Mr McCrystal said the demise of Fleet Street had made El Vino’s an anachronism for “the past 15 or probably 20 years”, especially after the nearby legal community weaned itself off booze. “The staff fought bravely to save it, against greater and greater odds,” he said.

Mr Davy said of the deal: “We will get to know them now and then look to see where we can invest.

“The Fleet Street one will definitely remain El Vino,” he added, saying it would not be rebranded as a Davy’s.”

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