‘Over 50 Vintage Years’
The Ebury Wine Bar and Restaurant – a history
The Ebury Wine Bar was opened in 1959 by Jim Callingham and his cousin Clifford Martin who both had the distinction of winning The Military Cross for bravery in the Second World War. Before the premises were converted in to a Wine Bar there was a Furriers Shop on the ground floor and on the three floors above accommodated a ‘house of ill repute’!
The wine bar was first managed by Mr and Mrs Tanner who lived on the premises with their only daughter. Mrs Tanner was a tall, good looking woman who the customers nicknamed ‘The Duchess’ because she appeared in television commercials advertising Hush Puppy shoes wearing a robe and coronet, as well as in the famous ‘After Eights’ ads. During his ownership of the wine bar Mr Callingham, whose family owned and operated Henekey’s Wine Lodges in London, exercised his privilege as a member of The Vintner’s Company, by selling wine and fortified wines under his unique Vintner’s Licence.
The Ebury Wine Bar has wrongly been described as the first wine bar in London. In fact, this accolade goes to ‘The Boot & Flogger’ opened and run by John Davey in 1964 However, it is fair to say The Ebury Wine Bar, affectionately known as ‘The Ebury’ by the ‘punters’, can rightfully claim to be one of the first and still surviving wine bars outside The City of London and West End.
When Mr and Mrs Tanner retired in 1973 the business was purchased from Messrs Callingham and Martin by Richard Exham, Nigel Pullan, Alexander Shihwarg and the present owner Nigel Windridge, a quartet with connections in the wine trade. They paid £24,000 for the wine bar and then spent an additional £7,000 refurbishing it before opening the doors. Their version of a wine bar caught on immediately.
Initially, the new business was managed by Nigel Windridge, with assistance from his co-directors. In those days the wine bar had just the front and middle sections. It was not until 1991 that the directors acquired 32 Elizabeth Street, which had been a gentlemen’s outfitters, and this is now the back part of the restaurant. The first wine list featured a bottle of Bollinger at £5.10 (today‘s price £75) and a fillet steak cost £1.65 (£27.50 at today’s prices).
When Nigel Windridge became the manger he asked Yvonne Ottet, who many customers thought was the owner, if she would like to continue working with him. Her response was ‘No, no my darleeing (which was her customary way of greeting the ‘punters’), I couldn’t possibly work for you, you’re much too young and inexperienced. But, I’ll work for one week to help you out.’ In 1998, after 38 years of loyal and dedicated service at the young age of 78 years, Nigel asked her to take early retirement!
The current proprietors, Nigel and Elizabeth Windridge, first met at the wine bar in 1977 when Elizabeth, who had recently left her home country Holland, was working as a waitress to supplement her income as a full time florist. Nigel proposed to Elizabeth after six weeks and they married in 1978. They have two grown-up children and became the joint proprietors of The Ebury Wine Bar & Restaurant in October 2004.
Over the years the restaurant expanded and now represents a greater part of the total turnover. Windridge’s motto and formula for success – ‘good food at wine bar prices’. It has worked admirably for half a century.
In 2011, the Ebury changed its name to the Ebury Restaurant & Wine Bar, to make it more competitive with other establishments in the area.