FOOD | Small, simple plates to pair with wine.
WINE | Glass-pour list is always evolving. Open your mind and listen to your server.
DECOR | Funky European minimalist.
VIBE | It’s a tiny joint with a buzzy, convival atmosphere.
TIP | Reservations are taken only between 5 p.m. and 10 p.m.
There are some don’ts at Bar Von Der Fels (BVDF). For starters, don’t order a glass of malbec. There isn’t any. It says so, right on the door: “No malbec, no minors.” Secondly, don’t turn over the menu looking for a longer list of meal options (take a look at the pocket-size kitchen; you will understand). Lastly, please kindly refrain from asking the proprietors, as so many do upon first entering this remarkably small establishment, when they are planning to expand. The answer is: “We are not.” (Although, soon you will be able to get more of Hendry’s dishes at the caf he is opening with Gareth Lukes in the New Central Library.)
Happily, there are far more yesses in the BVDF universe than there are nos. For instance, can broccoli succeed as a tantalizing main dish? Yes. Can one find happiness in a glass of wine from a hitherto unknown region adventurously suggested by one of two full-time sommeliers? (In a 24-seat wine bar!) Also, yes. Can Calgary be convinced that it’s time to toss weary ideas of what fine dining is supposed to look like?
We think so. And so, clearly, do BVDF’s owners, who were recently delighted to have their young Beltline spot named in the top three on EnRoute magazine’s influential list of Best New Restaurants in Canada. “I think Calgary is growing tired of faux opulence,” says chef Eric Hendry, who shares ownership with Will Trow and Thomas Dahlgren. “I know I am. Real comfort doesn’t come from spending a ton of money on surroundings, but from the service and the food and one’s ability to relax and enjoy the wine.”
Hendry believes the 100-plus-seat dining rooms that once dominated the local dining scene are becoming “dinosaurs.”
“We’re kidding ourselves if we think there’s not a future for small restaurants – I think the size of this place is the best thing about it,” says Hendry. (We think it’s the wagyu beef paired with a Sicilian red, but whatever.)
With a now international reputation for punchy, sophisticated food and unique, unpredictable wines-by-the-glass, the wine bar’s only troublesome “no” is the one you may face when trying to book a last-minute table.
1005A 1 St. S.W., 587-349-2656, barvonderfels.com