This week’s review is more of a “Wining Out” than a
“Dining Out” but the team, in the interests of true investigative
journalism, put on our drinking bibs and headed to Darling.
Darling Wine Bar has actually been around for four years, but
changed location in the past few weeks. Now on Huay Kaew Road, it is about 500
metres from the Nimmanhaemin intersection, on the right side heading towards Doi
location may have changed, but mein hosts have not. The brains behind the
enterprise and its guiding light is a Swiss, Lucas Villiger, and the
‘beauty’ the irrepressible and outrageous Daeng, who on our evening was
fetchingly got up in a shimmery red creation, complete with tiara and false
eyelashes (and goodness knows what else)!
Lucas has a wine importing company, Wineways, and the wine
bar was to be merely an extension of that - a place where you could sample some
of his merchandise. However, Darling became almost an instant hit with the wine
buffs, and its popularity as a meeting place just grew. Lucas even calls it “A
great place for great people.”
“place” is in a single shophouse, with a small terrace outside holding four
tables and wicker chairs. Inside is another table and chairs and then along one
wall is a sit-up bar, and on the other the ‘dispensing’ bar with fridges and
all the other accoutrements needed to get recalcitrant corks out of bottles of
nectar. (If you are starting to get the opinion that I was warming to this
place, then you are totally correct. After the second glass of Barramundi Brut,
Australian Methode Champenoise I was certainly warming!)
While for most people, Darling is a refined, up-market
imbibery, there is a semi-serious side to it too (although you cannot help
getting the feeling that Lucas is never totally serious). For those people who
would like to have a dedicated wine tasting evening, this is very possible, with
Lucas to lead you through the intricacies of wines, both from the new and old
While many dedicated wine establishments begin to believe
their own press releases and stock wines with alarming price tags which for me
spoils the simple appreciation of wines, this is not the case at Darling. The
vast majority of wines are under 1,500 baht per bottle, and quite a few are even
under 1,000 baht. Most of the well known wine producing terroirs are
represented, including France, Chile, Italy, South Africa, Australia, Germany
and even Switzerland (a country I was not aware produced wine). Wines are also
kept in Lucas’ temperature controlled wine cellars and brought out in small
On the upstairs levels, Lucas is making a gallery for
‘quality’ repro art and may even hold the wine tastings there, rather than
in the street level bar area. By the way, Lucas also does some finger-style food
for those who need something to nibble before going home. Cheese plates and
quiche are already available and fondues in a couple of months.
On our evening we tried the aforementioned Barramundi Brut
(B. 1180) a nice refreshing drop, a Moscato Grecale 2001 (B. 1,450), a sweeter,
almost dessert wine that goes wonderfully with cheese, and ended up with large
Bohemia crystal glasses of Shottesbrooke McLaren Vale Australian Shiraz (B.
1,350), which was a well-rounded red with very little tannin, and very much to
my taste (after the aforementioned Barra Brut, of which I managed to slip
another glass down at the end of the evening).
We certainly did enjoy our evening at Darling. Lucas is a
polished host, while Daeng - well he’s just Daeng - is the perfect foil.
Darling stocks some very drinkable and interesting wines at very affordable
prices, and appears to have very generous measures. It is the place for a
nightcap or several, or for a ‘serious’ evening of wine appreciation for
small groups. Lots of fun, take it as it comes, and try some different wines as
Darling Wine Bar, 49/21 Huay Kaew Road, Chiang Mai, telephone
053 227 427 or 01 724 6601/02. Street parking. Open from 5 p.m. till late.
Closed on Mondays.