If you're a lawyer based around the Inner Temple, don't bother reading on. You know this place, you frequent it in your droves and - well, you're probably in there right now, reading this on your Blackberry whilst you sip a much needed pint of port in between meetings.
For everyone else, welcome to El Vino. Founded in 1879 on Mark Lane, El Vino was originally an import business called Bower & Co, whose eponymous owner took a break from expanding into a chain of wine bars (only two of which survive today) in order to become Mayor of London in 1924, something he could only do by ceasing to trade under his own name. We visited the Fleet Street branch, which used to be a hall of mirrors and is now a slightly antiquated, cosy location in which to while away a couple of boozy hours. As you may have guessed, the bar is mostly populated by workers from the local area: a generally pleasant bunch of people who lend the place a studious, genteel atmosphere.
Disdaining the popular commercial labels and resolving to only serve wines that the staff themselves believe to be drinkable, El Vino offers up a comprehensive selection on its standard bar menu that should keep most people happy. It's when you ask for the big green cellar book or quiz the exceedingly knowledgeable employees about their stock, however, that El Vino really comes into its own. Not only does it serve a fair few good examples of hard-to-find varieties, but also acts as an off-license should you wish to take some away. (Over 200 wines can also be ordered from their website.) If you’d like to be more informed before you splash out on a case, you can pop along to one of their regular tasting sessions, or organise your own in the privacy of their basement restaurant.
In terms of food, the bar caters for most appetites, offering everything from sandwiches to full meals via an excellent range of tapas which is perfect for sharing. Befitting a place which offers a great range of dessert wine, it also has some tasty puddings, and we can reliably report that their moist Dundee cake does go down swimmingly with a glass (or indeed bottle) of port.
El Vino is located at 47 Fleet Street, as well as other locations around Zone 1. See www.elvino.co.uk for details.