Lisbon nightlife is full of surprises, especially in Bairro Alto. Here, the ambiance is flirty and frivolous and full of fun. Indeed, the bars and clubs in this bohemian enclave are known for their offbeat character and chill out vibe. The Old Pharmacy Wine Inn is no exception.
In fact, the latest bar to open in Bairro Alto was once a pharmacy. The hundred-year-old dispensary closed three years ago but two enterprising brothers, Ajay and Vijay Diwan, decided to refurbish the abandoned premises and open a wine bar.
The Old Pharmacy Wine Inn's wonderfully lit interior — Photo courtesy of Paul Bernhardt
The pharmacy’s original glass-fronted medicine cabinets have been preserved and now display bottles of wine. The Inn’s wine list numbers over 200 different labels, reds and whites from all over Portugal, plus vinho verde (green wine), espumante (sparkling wine), Madeira, Port and Muscatel. Expert wine consultant Sérgio Antunes designed the list, and connoisseurs will note the likes of Quinta do Perdigão 2009 from the Dão region of northern Portugal, and Pó de Poeira 2010 from the Douro, also in the north. Helping customers choose their tipple is Jorge Rodrigues, the Inn’s resident “sommelier”.
The pharmacy is listed as a building of cultural significance and the interior looks pretty much as it appeared a century ago. The original wall clock still works and antique items such as ointment jars, pipettes and even an early cash register are proudly on show in the windows for posterity.
A contemporary flourish is the imaginative use of fade-in fade-out mood lighting that bathes the cabinets in three different waves of colour – an arty visual component that lends the Inn a cool, funky edge.
Around 40 of the wines are available by the glass; ordering a bottle works wonders with a plate of petiscos – tasty snacks of hams, cheeses and crunchy fresh bread.