Denver’s noble march towards cosmopolitan refinement continues with the impending opening of the alluring new bar and lounge, Bar Helix. Opening next Tuesday, October 3, the venue will specialize in wine, beer, cocktails (negronis in particular) and upscale bar snacks.
Owner Kendra Anderson has clearly devoted enormous time and energy towards making the place what it is — everything about the cozy interior fits a very intimate and personal aesthetic. Influenced by 70s glamour, the tasteful layout is anything but retro. Anderson said she was inspired by the sophisticated sexuality of the late Hugh Hefner — and while the venue’s originality proves it is hardly an homage — Helix’s provocative essence manages to be naughty but never nasty. Set up to encourage a dialectic about masculinity and femininity, strength and modesty and sophistication and fun the new bar proves that the best of times often exist in a space between.
The Food & Drinks
Expressed both explicitly through suggestive menu titles and more subtly through an intimate layout and low lighting, the risque dynamics of Helix are just one of its appeals. Cocktail items are presented as gendered — though the implicit designation is not listed — guests are invited to discuss. The wine menu is set up in an equally creative fashion. Carefully organized by price-point and listed to encourage exploration, the wines are categorized to encourage patrons to deviate from their norm. Anderson — an accomplished sommelier — has outfitted the place with an accessible and advanced selection that fits the established elegance. While the menu is polished, it couldn’t be further from stuffy. If that weren’t enough, any bottle-only item can be opened just so long as patrons are willing to commit to a mere two glasses.
Beer, wine and spirits are all attended with equal care. The Bar Helix Negroni ($14) is Bar Hill Old Tom gin, 6 p.m. aperitivo and Carpana Antica formula vermouth. The result is a slightly toned-down version of the original, maintaining much of the quality of the flavor while greatly scaling back the bitterness. As for beer, the bar is stocked exclusively with bottles and cans that come outside the state of Colorado. Figuring that the market had become saturated, Anderson decided a rotating roster of interesting brews that may be hard to find elsewhere would be a good way to spice it up.
With top-notch drink aplenty, a competing show arises in the small, open kitchen at the back of the restaurant. The dirty popcorn ($5) is huitlacoche-jalapeno butter. Placed in a bowl with a drizzle of squid ink, the messy affair is dark and decadent. The naughty waffles with house-smoked salmon ($16) are served with an everything-seeded cream cheese and hash brown waffles. All of this is then sprinkled with caviar, just for good measure.
The crispy creamy balls ($10) can be a difficult order to say out loud, but mustering the strength to maintain eye contact with your server and request the dish is well worth it. Porcini mushroom arancini — an Italian fried dumpling of rice, bread crumbs, cheese and whatever other fillings — are served with herb-smoked sweet romesco. Reminiscent of more straightforward bar food, the arancini satisfy all the more base needs that arise from a night out — fried finger food elevated to the realm of fine dining. The menu is small plates and snacks only, but assembling a meal from the many available items is easy. Oysters and caviar accentuate the posh atmosphere, and champagne is always encouraged. Opening for dinner next week, Helix plans to expand into brunch at the start of 2018.
Bar Helix is located at 3440 Larimer St., Denver. It is open Tuesday – Saturday 4 p.m. – 12 a.m.
All photography courtesy of Shannan Reese.