Well, you couldn’t really stay just off Fleet Street and not step back in time to a world of gossip, intrigue, scoops and plotting that was (still is?) the culture of the English Press. Although most of the papers are long gone and the presses moved out, their ghosts still haunt Fleet Street, the shadows of signage on the grand buildings, faded painted titles on the walls, the pubs and bars that hosted the press barons and hacks, and of course the eponymous Street remains short-hand for our newspaper industry even though most of it is long gone and much of it is dying on its feet.
Ever read Rumpole of the Bailey? or Private Eye? You’ll recognise this place. The “Pomeroys” of the books – El Vino. It reeks (only figuratively of course) of a culture of portly, red-faced men, polishing off a bottle of decent red from about 11 in the morning bemoaning the world and putting it to rights, or those leaving the (truly astonishing) St Bride’s Church, the “journalist’s” Church to raise a memorial glass or two.
I was slightly alarmed as to how much my Husband loved this place and felt at home. Left to his own devices, he would still be sat there now, summoning the serving staff to refill his glass and pontificating about politics.
Wind back to 1982 and I would not have been allowed in. El Vino, founded in 1897, would not allow women in the bar, effectively excluding them – not only from having an equal right to destroy their livers, but also denying them the Journalists “gossip” that helped shape careers. Three Appeal Judges agreed and El Vino was forced to lift its ban.
We enjoyed a very decent glass of red, a beer and a platter of cheese, pickles, veg and flatbreads and soaked up the atmosphere which is still just about there (I was the only woman present and I swear I felt a couple of the barrister-types flinch slightly as I took my seat).
Got to love London.