Review | Hotel du Vin
Hotel du Vin sits rather defiantly in its corner of Bristol. A Grade II listed 18th century warehouse building overshadowed by offices and student development. Although HDV has an established reputation both in Bristol and it’s 15 venues across the country, it has so far been out of my radar when it comes to choosing somewhere to eat or drink in Bristol. When Invited along to try a new menu then, it was a perfect excuse. Really, I can’t think of a better excuse. I also took my Dad along for the evening knowing he would ask all those left field questions that would never occur to me, “what if everyone in the bar ordered a port, could you accommodate that?” and “how often do you have to replace your chairs” among questions that I may or may not have just made up for comic effect.
Greeted by the General Manager and the Events Manager, we we’re joined for the evening by Vanesther from the blog Bangers and Mash. First impressions of the place were impressive. The character of the building had been preserved perfectly, the only other place I could really compare it to centrally would be The Rummer Hotel.
A few others invitees were absent, but their loss was our gain as it was a fascinating experience to really delve into the bistro and hotel as a business with the General Manager Grant and touch on a broad range of subjects including what the chefs actually have for lunch (beans on toast sometimes), confusion surrounding a shepherds pie that actually contained duck (essentially a duck pie) and the impact of review sites (people on the internet can be nasty fuckers).
Bon Anniversaire: Hotel du Vingt (GEDDIT?! It means 20 in French, because the bistro is.. ah forget it...)
The 20th anniversary menu that we tried included real classics such as bread and butter pudding (made with croissants naturally). We tasted a mixture of both this and the a la carte. Standout dishes from the latter included the Lemon Sole, lightly pan-fried to perfection, with a caper and brown shrimp beurre noisette.
There was also the enigma that is the Hotel du Vin beef bourguignon. A dish that is normally skimmed past faster that you can say ‘1980’s dinner party’, yet for me, the star of the show. Comprising of braised beef short ribs, Portobello mushrooms, shallots and smoked pancetta, the great hulk of meat on the bone is quite the looker. Tiptoeing tentatively into the dude food school of cuisine if I may, this really is ‘low and slow’ cooking. The meat (and plenty of it) prised away from the bone and tumbling into the rich sauce below.
Call me ignorant, but I just wouldn’t have ordered it without the full detail from the waiter or chef pointing me in the right direction. That’s the kind of service that you do get though from this outfit though, with both the head sommelier and head chef presenting each course to us with great knowledge and clear passion for their work.
The menu comprised more of traditional 'hearty' fare than I would have expected; a range of steaks, fish and chips etc, perhaps an evolution to match current tastes. For a ‘celebratory’ menu, Simple Lampoon Senior would have liked to have seen something associated with a celebration - cooked in champagne for example although he concluded that it was “better to do fewer dishes well, rather than many badly or averagely”.
New bar, new beginnings
Set menu prices (the anniversary menu) were good compared to similar offerings with 2 courses and a glass of wine for £16.95 and 3 courses, again with wine for £20. It's nice to know that you will get a decent glass of wine included in the price rather than a cheap little number to keep the cost down and is a touch that really makes a difference to other venues.
Finishing with the desserts, not my area of expertise, I skipped straight to the cheese board which was a treat and probably the most historically accurate cheeseboard experience in Bristol. Coupled with a selection of dessert wines and a port including a Tannat Dessert Wine, which came from Uruguay which was just a little bit special and almost worth the visit alone!
It’s a shame that the frontage of the hotel is so inconspicuous. I suppose that many businesses set back from high footfall areas do thrive. With earlier discussions surrounding online reviews I suppose I am part of a strategy to promote you to visit. If you haven’t been, I would definitely recommend a visit, even if to enjoy a drink and revel in the history of the building.
— Hotel du Vin Bristol (@hdv_bristol) November 5, 2014
In the months coming, the bar area will be completely renovated which could really bring an opportunity for Hotel du Vin. It would not take a huge jump for the bar to become popular in it’s own right. The walk in humidor has been taken over by a local tailor, so the cigars now sit in the main bar just round the corner from the wine cellar. Where else in Bristol can you say that.
Hotel du Vin are clearly aware of the competition and aim to compete, but will do so by promoting their own style and way of doing things to be distinctive and different. For that, they are commended. The main draw for new customers may well turn out to be the new bar when installed, but there's no reason not to stay for the delightful food.
For a most refined experience at the Sugar House, see the Hotel du Vin website.
I am delighted to announce that Hotel du Vin wins a much coveted Andy Star award.
Please note: this meal was received free of charge, but in no way impacted on our opinion. We were not obliged to write a positive review, and the venue did not see this review before it was put up on the site.