Darling Wine Bar: By Neil Robinson
A friendly place for fine wines and tasty food
The first time I went to Darling Wine Bar, more than a year
ago, I was struck by the friendly, welcoming atmosphere. The
name “Darling” might make you think that the welcoming would
be done by skimpily clad hostesses, but this is not that
sort of bar at all. Instead, the welcome comes from the
owners, Gill and Trevor Dobson, and their staff. The second
thing I noticed was the absence of obtrusive background
music - this bar is about conversation, (and wine, of
Gill and Trevor came here from Britain about two years ago.
Gill used to work in corporate banking and Trevor worked for
Mercedes Benz in the UK. Trevor’s hobby was wine. When they
grew tired of the rat race they looked at various possible
countries to move to. They told me that Chiang Mai felt
right the first time they came here. They purchased
Wineways, which is a wine wholesaler, and the bar came with
the purchase as a subsidiary, so they decided to keep it on.
Unless wine is stored correctly, it will deteriorate. Wine
storage here is in a room with impressively thick insulated
walls, kept at a constant 18 degrees C. Before serving,
white wine is cooled further, to 9 degrees. Having seen the
wine store, now was the time to try some wines, to see if
all this care had paid off. There are 50 wines on the list,
from around the world, including almost 20 wines by the
glass, so I was spoilt for choice and could only sample a
few. Note that the prices quoted below include tax, but that
a 5% service charge is added for wine served in the bar.
The bar offers one of my favourite reasonably priced wines,
Wally’s Hut Chardonnay 2005, at 270 baht a glass. This is a
very drinkable wine with a nice straw yellow colour, fruity
aromas, a crisp chardonnay flavour, less sweet than some
Australian chardonnays, and with medium body and a nice
touch of oak. Staying with Australian white wines, I tasted
Cookoothama Sauvignon Blanc 2005 (315 baht a glass). This
had a clear sauvignon blanc flavour, dry but with a creamy
fruit flavour and noticeable acid. I found that this wine
really mellowed nicely after being in my glass for a while
and warming a bit.
Staying with white, I moved to Italy for Villa Martina Pinot
Grigio 2005 (270 baht a glass). This is a classic pinot
grigio, light, dry and crisp, with overtones of citrus.
Moving to Spain and changing to red wine, I tried the Ramon
Bilbao Rioja 2004 at 940 baht a bottle. This wine has an
intense colour and a lovely fruity aroma. It is not heavy
bodied, but has a satisfyingly full, rather fruity flavour,
with a little acid to finish for character.
One advantage of trying a wine at the bar is that, if you
like it, you can then buy the same wine by the bottle or
case to take home, directly from Wineways. Prices are
reasonable, (for Thailand). For example, Wally’s Hut
Chardonnay is 590 baht a bottle and the Ramon Bilbao Rioja
is 770 baht a bottle, (no service charge is applied to
Wineways prices). Not only are the wines served in the bar
available from Wineways, but many others - more than 400 in
While sampling these wines, I had also been trying a couple
of items from the food menu. This is short, but includes a
number of dishes that go well with wine. I tried the quiche
lorraine (130 baht) and the prosciutto ham and cheese
platter (195 baht). Both the quiche and the accompanying
onion focaccia were freshly baked to order. The onion
focaccia was substantial, nearly like a pizza, and almost a
meal in itself. The savory, hot bacon quiche was delicious
with the rioja. The prosciutto, sliced very thin, and
fortina cheese plate was also served with freshly baked
bread. The plate was very prettily presented, as I hope you
can see from the photograph. I found it an excellent
accompaniment to the white wines I sampled.
Overall, Darling Wine Bar is a very pleasant place, not only
to drink fine wines, but also to accompany them with tasty
food. The address is 49/21 Huay Kaew Rd., Chiang Mai 50300.
Tel: 053 227 427. It is on your right just past the Rincome
junction with the Superhighway if you are coming from the
city centre. There is parking behind. Please let me know
your experience at: [email protected]
I have enjoyed writing these reviews over the last few
months and hope they have been useful to you. Next week, our
regular restaurant reviewer, Brian Baxter, will be back in
Chiang Mai. Welcome back, Brian!
Tom Yum Goong - the dish, not the movie
Tom Yum Goong was a Thai movie released last
year, but tom yum goong is a classic Thai dish. It is a simple recipe to make in
the traditional manner. The Thai recipe calls for the heads to be left on the
prawns, but if cooking for predominantly non-Thai friends, remove the heads (and
the shell) before cooking. This recipe also shows you when to intervene in
checking the seasoning. The final taste should be spicy-sour and a little salty.
In a saucepan boil the chicken stock, then add the
lemongrass, lime leaves and mushrooms. Add the prawns and cook for around 5
minutes. Remove from the heat and add the chillies, coriander, lime juice and
fish sauce and allow to stand for five minutes. Now check the seasoning, adding
more lime juice or fish sauce, or breaking up the green chillies if more
spiciness is required. If required, place over the heat for one minute before
serving with steamed rice to eat this in Thai style.
Prawns, shelled 12 medium
Mushrooms, halved 150 gms
Kaffir lime leaves
Lemongrass chopped 3 stalks
Chillies, small green
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