That is the premise behind this NYC-style speakeasy-type venue in the heart of Kyiv. And so, one Friday evening on the second day of spring, I take on the falling snow to meet a girlfriend and do just that.
Not far from Lva Tolstoho metro on the street of the same name is a tiny little venue you might miss if you weren’t actually looking for it – Like a Local’s wine bar. I pass a few people smoking outside before going down the stairs and open the door to a darkened hole-in-the-ground, where there is not an available seat in the place, save two for us (I called ahead, and suggest you do likewise).
Ready For Wine
My date for the evening arrives “ready for a glass of wine”, she says, so we waste no time. She wants red, something bold; I want bubbles. Our server Maksym brings a Shabo Cabernet Reserve for her and the Shabo Extra Brut Classic for me, both of which do the trick. We toast to finally getting together, and the night begins.
Menus lay to the side for now as we catch up and take in the place. It is dark, but not in a macabre way, more sombre, with candles and small flickering lights that add to the intimacy. There is a blackboard on the wall by the door that features a map of Ukraine and points from the different vineyards of wines they feature, with the text Звідки п’єм? (where are we drinking from?). There is another black board by the bar featuring local wines by the glass: tonight there are 12 options. By the bottle is also available at prices that start at less than $10.
Tables for two line the small room, while stools are currently being warmed around the bar. Twenty-five people will fit snugly, after that it’s standing room only. People come in and are turned away often – in it’s few short months (this second venue opened in December 2017; the first in Podil a year earlier), it has not just settled into its name – Like a Local’s, but is actually liked by the locals.
More wine is necessary – we both opt for the Kolonist Odesa Black, which is light, yet jammy with hints of berry. Feeling little pain thanks to the grapes, food is also a must. The menu is light but has the necessary items for pairing: tapas, a cheese and meat plate, pate, and various bread options, along with a couple of surprises: snails and fresh oysters.
We opt for the cheese plate which features three local variants, all good options with various tastes for different palettes. Pate I would never normally go for, but it is an earthy surprise made all the better for the fresh bread and wine sauce it comes coupled with. There is also a set of six tapas: tapenade, forshmak, basil cream, horsemeat and berry, pumpkin and crème fraiche, and pate; all locally sourced and each generously smothered on six cuts of fresh bread. It is homemade goodness, and there is little wanting.
As the night dwindles and people start to move on, at least one more glass gets ordered: I have yet to try the Shabo Cabernet Reserve, which is not terribly full-bodied, but dry and very drinkable; especially in this atmosphere where time sort of stands still.
While Ukrainian wines have yet to earn a reputation comparable to wines of other countries that doesn’t mean you can’t find a good vintage here. “Wine is subjective”, we both agree, like art, time, or love. Perhaps the trick, at least as far as wine is concerned, is to follow the advice on Maksym’s Tshirt: Я не п’ю, я дегустую (I don’t drink, I degust).
Like a Locals Wine Bar
(Lva Tolstoho 5)
Open: Sunday-Thursday 12.00-23.00, Friday-Saturday 12.00-01.00
+380 93 682 2626
The What’s On Check List
English Menu> + English-speaking staff + Wifi + Price $ WO Rating 4.5
Make sure you try…]
All the wines; Ukraine has some not-so-good, some good, and some great ones. The latter options can be found here
Shabo Extra Brut Classic 70 UAH Shabo Cabernet Reserve 3* 60 UAH Kolonist Odesa Black 4* 70 UAH Pate 60 UAH Set of 6 Tapas 90 UAH Cheese Plate 129 UAH TOTAL 809 UAH