I do like a female entrepreneur – and in today’s guest blog we have two of them: Sophie (28) and Rose Gordon (24), the sisters behind Villiers, the new coffee company and all-day dining room, which opened yesterday, 1st July at 31a Villiers Street, the street that runs from The Strand down the side of Charing Cross to the Embankment.
Sophie and Rose are the younger scions of the Gordon family, which has been feeding and watering Londoners for decades at the legendary Gordon’s Wine Bar, also located on this historic street between Embankment and the Strand.
Sophie Gordon has devised the menus and is overseeing the kitchen, and Rose assists front of house. Their father, Tom Gordon, an artist and illustrator, is working closely with them on all aspects of the business, particularly decor and design. Tom is the son of Wendy Gordon, the current owner of Gordon’s Wine Bar, who took over from her late husband Luis Gordon.
I’m thrilled that the girls have written a post for LLG on how Villiers came into being.
Over to you:
“We found a premises almost immediately and, purely by coincidence, on Villiers Street. I was walking to meet Rose at Gordon’s Wine Bar for a drink, I saw an empty restaurant, made a call to the agents and we signed the lease. Minus a few legal hurdles it was relatively straight forward, and it was only after the lease was signed that the delays began.
We wanted Villiers to be flexible and relaxed, to enjoy from sunrise to sunset. A place you can pop in for an early morning coffee and pastry, grab a take away sandwich at lunch, unwind after work with a drink or enjoy a leisurely supper with friends. The idea was born from a mutual love and passion of food, drink and hospitality.
We designed the interior together and got an architect on board to help with planning permissions and structural drawings. We knew we never wanted Villiers to feel new and shiny so have been careful where we’ve sourced things, scouring antique markets and salvage yards.
Our wine rack behind the bar was found on eBay and the china from a potters near where I grew up. My father, Tom, made the tables, shelving and the large wooden bar that runs down the first half of the restaurant.
It will be piled high with pastries, cakes sandwiches and salads during the day, then laid with linen napkins, cutlery and candles in the evening- perfect to enjoy a cocktail and a bar snack (I suggest the anchovy tin with goats curd!).
Since we started the design process I have become obsessed with paint finishes, table sizes, light fittings and bar heights Finding inspiration wherever I go: holidays, magazines, restaurants, walks.
My desk is piled high with colour charts, paint samples, china, cutlery, cookery books, menu ideas, scraps of material and tear outs. I walk past a beautiful blue front door every day, the colour I wanted Villiers to be. The gentleman behind the door had mixed up several paints to get the right one but couldn’t remember the concoction. After mixing, testing and repeating, I found it.
Villers’ design delpoys original Victorian floorboards and geometric encaustic tiles in shades of pale blue and grey, vintage mirrors and articulated wall lamps. The long oak-topped bar down the left-hand side of the room, overhung with prismatic glass pendant lights, will be laid out with takeaway pastries and cakes during the afternoon, then prepared with napkins and cutlery for drinking and dining as the evening wears on. Shelves behind the bar will be stacked with Villiers coffee, Seville marmalade, and rhubarb and raspberry jam for sale, and a huge sash window will open up onto Villiers street.
The food we are making is thoughtful but not overly complicated. Simple and straight forward is what we wanted. There is a short seasonal menu that you will find changes regularly. We spent weeks recipe testing. Coming up with lists and lists of options, putting together menu after menu that would be discarded, until we found a balance. There was one particular dish, The Truffle Baked Duck Egg, I was determined to have on the menu but we couldn’t get right. When we finally cracked it, I was thrilled.
It has only been these last couple of weeks that Villiers has started coming together. Even with a year and a half of delays I don’t feel totally prepared for what’s to come.
As you step over the threshold we hope you relax, enjoy the atmosphere and let us entertain you. Start with one of our signature Sherry Based Cocktails, The refreshing Tommy Guns Collins or a short and brave La Gina, whilst you browse the menu and soak up the atmosphere.
Villiers will serve breakfast, sandwiches, salads, cakes and pastries from 7.30am Monday to Saturday until 5pm, followed by Sophie’s seasonal, easy-going dinner menu from 6pm through until 11.30pm.
On Saturdays between 10am and 5pm there will be an all day brunch menu available featuring avocado on toast, fried eggs with corn bread and guacamole, and baked eggs with tomato and pepper stew.
Opening on the 1st July 2014
31a Villiers Street, WC2N 6ND