Grand Cru Wine Gallery, Bratislava – living up to the Tripadvisor ranking

Grand Cru Wine Gallery, Bratislava – living up to the Tripadvisor ranking

With an impending visit to Bratislava, I had a look at Tripadvisor to see if there was anything that would appeal to us. The number one place for eating and drinking was the rather impressively titled Grand Cru Wine Club and Gallery.

Grand Cru Wine Gallery

More often than not the place at the very top of the rankings also requires the bank balance of small country. But with Grand Cru that didn’t seem the case. The vast majority of reviews (there are always some idiots who look to pick fault with the most irrelevant, minor details) told the same story; laid back, unpretentious, inexpensive and most of all…fun.

Just our sort of place.

A brilliant anniversary present to each other

This trip was to celebrate our 17th wedding anniversary. After a couple of fabulous days in Budapest, Bratislava was a definite change of pace, but certainly no-less enjoyable. We walked past Grand Cru just after it opened at 5pm on our first day in the city. We resisted the temptation to enter. After all, today was a beer day. Now, I can mix and match my drinks like licorice allsorts, but Mrs L is a ‘wine day’ or ‘beer day’ person. Otherwise the results can be catastrophic!

But that meant that we could plan the following day to be a ‘wine day’ for Mrs L and a ‘both day’ for me. Following a post-breakfast walk around the beautiful castle (more Bratislava blogs coming) we managed to take in a refreshing glass of Prosecco on tap at around 10.40am. That’s what you might call an early start…and a very good one.

Early Prosecco

I could then talk about one of the most majestic burgers I’ve ever had the pleasure of devouring. That was lunch, courtesy of BeAbout (number 2 in Bratislava on Tripadvisor) but again, it’s another tale that can wait for another day.

BeAbout

After walking off lunch and a short rest at the Mercure Hotel, we took a tram back towards the cobbles of Bratislava old town. We strolled through St Michael’s Gate and veered off the beaten track onto Zámočnícka, the home of Grand Cru. We heard warm conversation through the large open windows and climbed the steps rather nervously, hoping that there would be room to accommodate us.

St Michaels Gate

While three of the tables were taken, host Martin showed us to the remaining window-table. His welcoming smile took me back to the reviews I had read and I knew that we were in for a special night. We could look out of the window and watch locals and tourists alike amble along the street. The breeze was pleasant and cooling after another hot summer’s day.

As countless others have done before us, we arrived just after 6pm for a few glasses of wine. We left almost four hours later, smiling, with an evening of memories that will stay with us for many years.

Martin has that rare quality of combining knowledge, passion and a sense of fun. He gave each party in the room just enough attention without being overbearing. But equally he seemed genuinely happy to stop and chat in the way that lifelong friends do.

Introducing the wine menu, Martin explained that the first few pages were by the bottle, the last couple were available by the glass but, hey, whatever you wanted, he could do with the glass. The first rule of Grand Cru…there are no rules!

Red or white?

“So, what type of wine do you like?” he asked with a certain twinkle in his eye. When Mrs L replied that she liked light, smooth reds, he smiled, saying, “you can’t start with red!” That’s when we knew we were in for a long evening.

And so we both started with whites. Martin asked a couple of questions to try and get an appreciation of our varying palettes and presented us with local offerings that didn’t disappoint.

First whites

More white soon arrived for to tempt my taste-buds while Mrs L was ‘allowed’ to move along the colour scale to rose. With the presentation of each bottle, Martin took the time to explain, where it was from, the blend of grapes and what to expect on the palette – more about that later. Each bottle had been carefully selected and was usually from small-scale, regional Slovakian wine-makers. Like our experience at Bornstein Wine Bar in Zagreb earlier this year, the passion and support for local producers was both strong and a refreshing change from the constant push of global brands.

Grand Cru bottles

An hour or so and three glasses later, Mrs L was feeling a little peckish. With Martin being on his own and no food at any of the other tables, we were a touch anxious that we might have to leave this corner of paradise and think about somewhere to eat. She had also read the reviews and when asked whether we would like another drink (was this number four?) she fluttered her eyelashes and asked if there was anything to eat.

Mrs L

“I can make you a snack,” smiled Martin. “Is a meat and cheese platter okay?”

Naturally we agreed, and gave our host permission to pour yet another glass.

Ten minutes later, the platter arrived and needless to say, we were most impressed with our ‘little’ snack.

Grand Cru Snacks

Snacks

By now, we had both progressed on to reds. Martin arrived with another two varieties and explained that the one he was giving to Mrs L had a scent of rhubarb. He had never eaten rhubarb and therefore couldn’t confirm the fact. But we could. In a way, it reminded me of the wines my dad used to make from any fruit he could get hold of. For a couple of years back in the 80s, our living room TV viewing each evening was accompanied by the sound of fizzing bubbles from a collection of demijohns behind the sofa, fermenting their way to maturity and beyond! Anyway, as we only live a few miles from the famous ‘rhubarb triangle’ of West Yorkshire, we promised to send some to Martin. We thought it prudent not to send fresh stalks and so had to settle for a tin of Asda rhubarb in light syrup. We really hope he enjoys it!

Yet more wine followed and to be honest I can’t tell you how many glasses we ended up knocking back.

Red wine

Yet more wine

The beginning of the end…almost

We had enjoyed a thoroughly entertaining and pleasurable evening but got to the point where we knew we would finally have to move on and request the bill. We genuinely had no idea what size tab we had run up. At the start of the evening we gave the wine menu little more than a cursory glance and I was expecting to see most of the euros in my wallet for the last time. But it would have been worth it.

However, in advance of the bill, Martin fetched over a couple of liquers as a bit of a night-cap. One was berry-fruit based while the other was a local speciality made from honey and herbs, served over ice.

Liqueurs

A couple more measures and the bill was ready.

Wait for it.

Just a touch over €40 for all those glasses of wine and the food. To say we were gobsmacked was an understatement.

This anniversary break had been special throughout, but the evening in Grand Cru was the icing on our cake. We can’t thank Martin enough for making our final night, THE night.

When I explained before leaving that I liked to blog about our trips, he invited us downstairs to show the cellars where the wine is kept…and parties are held.

Wine Cellar

So, how would I describe Grand Cru? It’s like a Venus Fly Trap for wine lovers. You will be enticed and seduced by it and then you will find it almost impossible to leave.

We left…just…but we will be back. Please don’t change a thing. You’re just about perfect!

Na zdravie!

Grand Cru

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5 Replies to “Grand Cru Wine Gallery, Bratislava – living up to the Tripadvisor ranking”

  1. Great article. We sat at that same table on New Years Eve. Martin is an amazing host, and the wine is really excellent. grand cru fully deserves to be no1 on tripadvisor.

  2. Hi, myself and my girlfriend visited Grand Cru a couple of months ago. Your experience exactly mirrored ours. We had such a good night we returned the following evening and on the Sunday Martin invited us to a local market and wine tasting just outside the city.
    The Slovakian wines were stunning and Martin is a wonderful host.

  3. Excellent review! As an (irregular) customer, I can vouch for every good point you mention. You’ve done a great job of capturing and conveying the things that make Martin’s place unique in Bratislava (and to be honest pretty rare in plenty of other places!)

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