Wine bar review: Monvinic, Barcelona

Monvinic is a lovely wine bar located in the Eixample neighborhood in Barcelona. It looks really sleek and classy from the outside and the feeling is the same when entering. The entire place is designed by interior designer Alfons Tost and it does feel like it is a fitting design for an upscale wine bar. I must however say that while it looks nice the chairs at the tables are not very comfortable so I always prefer squeezing together in the sofa instead.

There is an extensive wine library along one of the walls and it is from what I understand fine to browse the books. I have never really found a reason to do it as I have most of the wine books I want at home. While the books are impressive the reason to come here is the wine list. The wine list by the glass is constantly changing. Most of the time there are around 30 wines available by the glass and several hundred more by the bottle.

The list by the glass is a nice mix of both Spanish and International wines. There is usually three different sparkling wines, around 10-15 reds and whites respectively and then some sweet wines as well. The wine list is presented on tablets (not iPads but some other brand) and that is of course nice but I do wish they would have made better use of the technology. There is very limited information on the wines and the producers and it would be so easy to have something more there when they have the tablets. The use of tablets does however make it very easy to change and update the wine list and that means that they sometimes change the wine list by the glass during the evening.

All the waiters serving are also trained sommeliers so it is always possible to get knowledgeable service. Or I would rather say that it should be. At times Monvinic gets very busy and it is then sometimes not possible to really get the attention of the staff. It did not really use to be like that but since the Wall Street Journal piece on Monvinic it does seem like the place also draws in more people (and to some extent more the people that want to appear to be interested in wine). I would recommend coming either a bit earlier (before 19) or a bit later (after 21.30) to get the best service. The wines are usually interesting and the prices by the glass are decent. What i really like is that it is possible to order half-glasses. It gives a good chance to sample more wines and since many of the half-glasses are around €3 it does not have to be very expensive.

Recently I sampled some interesting wines from South African Mullineux (the white Kloof Street as well as the red Mullineux) as well as some great sparklings. Amongst them an Italian sparkling, Faccoli from Francacortia (if this was a blind tasting I would have picked it as a Champagne) alongside some, while not bad, more disappointing champagne from Pehu Simonet and cava from Albet i Noya. The international selection is pretty impressive but I would actually have expected more from the Spanish wines. There are however some interesting local wines there and I have on previous visits sampled lovely wines from Castell D’Encus (they make some lovely unusual Spanish wines in the Pyreenes, their Acusp is 100% Pinot Noir and the Ekam is a 100% Riseling).

Monvinic also serves food and while the quality is pretty good I must say that prices are rather steep for it. The food is a mix of set tapas menus and some larger dishes. I often struggle to find any set menus I like (as they usually contain something I do not want/like) and as I have come with the purpose to sample some wine I do not want a full main course so prefer to eat elsewhere. All in all I do however love popping into Monvinic for a few half-glasses, some wine talk with the sommeliers and then head elsewhere for dinner. It is without a doubt one of the best wine bars in Barcelona. I may not agree with the Wall Street Journal that it is the best in the world but it is clearly a good place for a glass or two.

Coffee Bar review: Casa Lapin (Bangkok)

Casa Lapin is clearly part of the ongoing coffee revolution in Bangkok. They have now have four locations in their mini empire, all in carefully selected areas in Bangkok where their style fits. This review is of the the x26 location (that is on Sukhumvit 26) but they also have locations on Sukhumvit 49, Thonglor 17-19 and Phahon Yothin (next to Ari BTS station).

The space is really nicely designed and I like the look of it. When looking around the cool cafe I am however struck by that this easily could have been a cafe in NYC, London, Melbourne, Stockholm or Berlin. The hip design and the coffee, beer (they serve BrewDog on tap) and the food (a mix of brunch/breakfast favorites and pasta and steaks) does not in any way really give away that this is in Bangkok. While I like what they made of it I am missing the connection to the local. The crowd it attracts is also a mix of international travelers (myself included), what appears like affluent young Thais and groups of Japanese women (appearing to be at least somewhat local in that I get the impression they live in Bangkok). Even if I am somewhat disappointed at the lack of bringing out the specific Thai influences it is still a great design and atmosphere here and free wifi makes it easy to just spend a few hours hanging around here.

Service is however another matter, while friendly it brings the word slow to a new level. They serve their hand brewed coffees from what they call a slow bar. I thought they called it slow bar because they hand brew the coffees but maybe it was an idnication that they try to make sloths looking like they are faster than light. The speed of it actually brought new meaning to the word slow. We ordered two hand brewed coffees and there was no one else being served at that time and we still had to wait over 30 minutes for the coffees. No apologies for it taking long or anything and it was not a lack of staff (four people behind the counter doing nothing).

Coffee wise they had four different beans to select from. We tried one Honduras from a local roaster and one Brazilian from another local roaster. Neither was spectacular. They were fairly well made but the beans did not really excite. The Brazilian also suffered from a hint of bitterness, possibly due to over-extraction. Other coffee based drinks were dedent as wel but this is in no way a place that anyone interested in specialty coffee really needs to seek out but if you want a nice place to hang out that can also serve a good cup of coffee it is an option.

Food looked fairly decent but it felt very western inspired but large variety of dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner so no one would need to go hungry here. They serve up some very nice cold beverages as well. It seemed like a place where people really lounge for a long time. It is also connected to a florist, a trendier hostel and office hotel of sorts/share work space (one can rent a desk for a few hours, a day or longer term) as well as a flower shop. All of these are designed in a similar way so seamlessly blend into each other and strengthening the feel of being in a modern urban metropolis that could be anywhere and is being populated by hipsters.

So how does it rate:
Coffee quality: 2.5
Ambiance and Service: 3 (Service 2 and Ambiance 4)
Food: 4
Vs Local Average Competition: 3.5