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The atmosphere is matchless at London’s most vaunted and vaulted wine bar. It was established in 1890 (when Rudyard Kipling lived upstairs) and, thank goodness, hasn’t been refurbished since—look in the front display window and you’ll see some untouched champagne bottles that have intentionally grown furry with dust. These tight, craggy cellars beneath Villiers Street are wallpapered with important newspaper front pages from the 20th century—Thatcher’s resignation, the death of King George VI—while ceiling fans threaten to come loose from their screws. Everything is suffused in a mustardy ochre from more than 42,000 past evenings of indoor tobacco smoke (no longer legal). Tables are candlelit, music is not played—not that you could hear it over the din of conversation. Dozens of wines and sherries by the glass are around £5, you can select from a marble display of English and French cheeses or a steam table of hot food, and in good weather, the event expands outside along Embankment Gardens with casual al fresco meals such as stuffed peppers and marinated pork loin (the stone arch at the middle was built around 1625 as a palace gate on the Thames, but its mansion is long gone and the river moved 46m/150 ft. south). Come down well before offices let out to secure seating; it won’t accept bookings.