Darling Wine Bar

More entertainment than food

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 Suthep.

The 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.”

The “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 worlds.

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 quantities only.

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 well.

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.