Champagne Charlie’s, Villiers Street, WC2N 6NG

It conjures up a 1920’s decadence, top hat and tails and the car outside. Monocles and flappers and just off to dance the night away.

Before Charing Cross Station was built it was the site of Hungerford Market and below the market were Hungerford Stairs and Warren’s Blacking Factory where a 12 year old Charles Dickens was sent to work – it was a “crazy, tumbledown house with rotten floors and a staircase.”

Now below the station are the Arches, dark bricked railway arches, a series of arches running parallel with The Strand all the way down to the river. Walking down from The Strand turn right in to the first Arch and Champagne Charlie’s is on the left.

What lies downstairs, what kind of den is this, where am I taking you and why CC?

The pubs outside are heaving but down the stairs it is a little oasis of calm, a noisy calm but not pushy, grab a table and talk about the walk.

I like this place, I always have. There have been changes over the years but the changes have been subtle.

There are ‘suits’, both men and women, alcoves and wooden benches for discreet discussions. Food and after work ‘dos’, quiz nights and party nights and private dining rooms.

Plates of little hot sausages and platters of cheese and meat, all to savour at the table, bring the conversation alive or is it the bottles of Davey’s claret that litter the top – how long have they been talking?

Business discussed over flutes of champagne, the ice bucket stands on the table, assignations and missed trains – there’s no mobile signal here, who is to know.

Must rush, the 6.10 is due, it’s only upstairs and there’s an escalator too.

But there amongst the suits is a jumper, walking trousers and shoes, day sacks on the floor – just one or two pints s before the train home – good walk wasn’t it. 1066 can breathe again, walkers are welcome in this subterranean den.

Served in tankards, the pints of hand pumped Old Wallop (nee Courage Directors) slip down a treat, you don’t need a sparkler to bring this beer to life. Something new are the Meantime Brewery pumps, London Pale Ale and Lager served under pressure but I’ll leave the Meantime for Greenwich at the end of the walk.

They do breakfast too, served from 8am. Enjoy a full English before 1066 Harold’s Way, only £8.95. Only a short walk to the start at Westminster Abbey.

They are closed on Sundays though and only open from 5 pm on Saturdays so be warned, best during the week when they are open all day.

Oh and a final note, the house champagne is £41.50 a bottle!


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