Can You Keep a Secret?

I would like, if I may, to share a secret with you, after all I am sure you can all keep a confidence.

As I have mentioned before I have been travelling to Central Europe on business for at least a week a month for the last 15 years. One of my regular locations is Vilnius in Lithuania; indeed, I once wrote an article about Vilnius here.

The thing is that once you have made more than 150 trips somewhere things can become a little usual and jaded and that is how this article came about. For most of this time I used one boutique hotel in Vilnius (I dislike chains) although I have stayed in many of the others. During the last five years my usual hotel has changed ownership a couple of times, become ‘tired’ and when linked to rising room costs, I have started to use other options. A Booking-type site will show Vilnius boasts around 100 hotels and 100s or even 1000s of apartments but my needs are best served by a centrally located four or five-star hotel.

This has led to me using another hotel that is only about 350 yards from the Old Town Hall (Rotuse) called the Grotthuss Boutique Hotel on Ligonines Str. The location means that I can walk anywhere in central Vilnius inside 20 minutes and the railway station is only a seven/eight-minute walk. The Grotthuss has been recently extended and refurbished and has an indoor courtyard which is perfect in the summer.

The hotel building has an interesting history as during WW2 it lay within the northern extremity of the large Ghetto; there were two Jewish Ghettos the large and small separated by Vokiečių St. After the war there were many derelict buildings in the large ghetto area, some were demolished and others became run-down apartments; that was the fate of the building which became the Grotthuss Hotel. Around the time of Independence from the Soviets (1991) a German lady (Elizabeth von Grotthuss) started buying up the apartments as they became available and from this established her hotel.

But dear reader this is not the secret that I wish to impart indeed the hotel background is merely a ‘wrapper’ for the secret I am about to disclose.

I first stayed at the Grotthuss when my usual hotel was unavailable on a trip some six years ago and over time it started to grow on me. The only annoying thing was that the bar was not good and no one wants to walk even 100 yards to get a drink when it is minus 10C and the pavements are covered in ice and snow. However, more recently on a summer evening, I entered the courtyard and found it full of people enjoying wine. There were many wine bottles placed in large wooden buckets around the courtyard and it was most informal. A young lady (Olga) informed me it was a regular event during the spring/summer/autumn; I was intrigued but tired so I went to bed.

Novak and Goode, Going Postal
A sante window.
© Novak and Goode 2023, Going Postal

The next evening the same thing happened again but I already had an appointment to attend. The following evening, I came down to the reception area and found the door to what had once been the bar was open, but it was evident that it was not the bar I had previously used. There was now a very softly lit room and a small bar with tables and chairs and various racks of wine; Olga greeted me warmly and I asked to see the drinks menu, once I reviewed this, I realised I had found something a bit special. There was a phase in the mid-2010s when drinks bars were a thing in Vilnius but these have mostly disappeared to be replaced by more hard-nosed establishments.

The bar itself was quiet, there were only four or five people there as it was early evening and Olga started to tell me about the bar. The bar was no longer part of the hotel, it is rented from von Grotthuss by Olga and her business partner Patrick; a Frenchman from the Saumur in the Loire region of France. The bar is open Tuesday to Saturday inclusive from about 17.00 until the last customer, and on a couple of nights a week offers an informal cooked menu typically with a French flavour (although tables can be booked for groups if there is a reasonable size party). However, regardless of the day, plates of cheese and charcuterie are available to accompany the wine for just a few Euros a plate. The name of the bar is À ta santé or ‘cheers’ in French.

But here’s the thing, Patrick and Olga have taken considerable time to assemble a wine menu that comprises, fine but often little-known French wines with a good percentage being natural or organic. Patrick obtains these wines directly from France and can sometimes only acquire half a dozen cases or so but these are sold despite their potential investment value. However, you are only looking at around six to seven Euros a glass for the great majority (or 25 to 35 Euros for a bottle) of outstanding French wines from minor to top-quality vineyards not available anywhere else in Vilnius or even in most of France for that matter.

The bar has a small clientele, there is no name sign outside, to all intents it looks like part of the hotel but it is not; if you did not know it was there you would not see it from the outside hence the secret.

The clientele is eclectic and encompasses, surgeons, restaurateurs and everyday folk including occasional guests from the hotel. However, the atmosphere is far different from other Vilnius drinks bars and is most welcoming, all nationalities and languages are tolerated.

However, if you were to ask anyone in Vilnius about this bar, they would not know what you were talking about or even be able to tell you such a place is there; but it is just about the best place to spend an evening in Vilnius, the wine menu and the welcome you receive is one of the nicest you will find anywhere in Europe.

However dear reader please do not tell anyone about this; let us keep it between ourselves.

Novak and Goode, Going Postal
A sante wine rack.
© Novak and Goode 2023, Going Postal


© Novak and Goode 2023