In Martićeva Street, near Draškovićeva Street, by advent time a rather serious wine bar is due to be opened, under construction for nearly a year. Several hundred metres away in Vlaška Street, a new and very ambitious bar is due also by advent time, with a strong wine and champagne programme. Pupitres, opened in the beginning of autumn, immediately grew into one of the most popular places to go out in the centre of Zagreb.
Do we live in, finally, in the season of wine bars, a catering format which has so far regularly failed in Zagreb? The history of Zagreb wine bars begins with a cellar in Smičiklasova Street, across from the current Importanne Galerija, where in the distant 1990 a bar existed with thirty or forty wines per glass. As far as we can recall, the bar, whose name we forgot as it didn’t stick around for long, offered bottles of all the Croatia and Slovenian private producers from that time (albeit, not too many then).
From the early 1990s we must certainly single out the Champagne Bar by late Zlatko Kolman in Mesnička Street, which offered interesting food and was among the first in Croatia to pour champagnes by glass, but as with all other businesses of this peculiar entrepreneur, had no chance of surviving. In the past decade, by far the most ambitiously envisioned Zagreb wine bar was Dubravkin Put. Sounds unusual, since Dubravkin Put before the wine period, and after it was known only as a restaurant. But, at some point the owners agreed to a concept of a wine bar, where the menu would be adapted to the offer of wine. Such a concept, naturally, could not survive, as firstly a wine bar cannot look like a restaurant, and secondly it must be in a frequented location.
At the end of the last and beginning of this decade, several bars were opened in Zagreb calling themselves wine bars, which almost regularly went under for two main reasons: frivolity of the very project and lack of expertise in wine sales. Until this year the wine bar scene in Zagreb was quite poor.
Now the situation is significantly better. Pupitres in Frankopanska Street is without a doubt the leading wine bar in Zagreb. Its waiters are oenologists, the choice of wine by glass changes each day and skilfully combines commercial favourites with more original winemakers, while the offer of snacks is more than decent for Zagreb criteria of a wine bar format. Bastion in Masarykova Street grew into a cult place for natural wine lovers, offering magnificent surprises each day. Julien Courtois’ Gamay 2014 from the Loire Valley is certainly one of the most interesting red wines we’ve tasted lately.
The Cheese Bar in Cesarčeva Street is a bastion of Croatian wines, with a slightly boring list of almost always the same producers. On the other hand, the Cheese Bar regularly offers some of the best domestic wines such as Kozlović’s Santa Lucia. Cheese Bar needs to be recognised also for successfully promoting oysters as street food each Saturday, which they truly are.
Basement in Tomićeva Street is an older general wine bar, which may need a more precise direction, while Bornstein on Kaptol Street has one of the loveliest catering spaces in Zagreb. In the end, we don’t want to skip Vino in Malešnica near the O’Hara pizzeria, which began as a local bar and gained a metropolitan reputation. The opening of a serious wine bar in Martićeva next month could confirm that the Zagreb market has for the first time accepted wine bars as one of their favourite formats.
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