You know you're in a safe pair of hands at Hotel du Vin Bristol, says Emma Dance
It was a typical British summer evening when I arrived Bristol’s Bistro du Vin – damp, dingy and unseasonably chilly. But fortunately it’s exactly the sort of place you want to be on such a night – warm, welcoming and with a fantastic wine list.
I’d arrived early for our 8pm reservation so settled into a comfy seat in the adjoining Sugar Bar and armed myself with a glass of a rather lovely Portuguese Muscat and some plump, juicy olives to nibble on while I waited for my husband to arrive.
Hotel du Vin is a brand that just oozes simple, classical elegance and the Bristol property is no exception. Tucked away on a side-street just off the busy thoroughfare of Colston Avenue it’s an oasis of calm in one of the city’s busiest areas. Housed in a terrace of Grade II listed sugar warehouses dating from the 18th century, much of the buildings’ industrial character has been retained – from exposed brick walls to original cast-iron pillars. The decor in the bar and restaurant falls somewhere between French bistro and English gentlemen’s club, with wooden panelling, eclectic artwork and window sills crammed with bottles.
This franco-anglo melange continues in the bistro menu which has its roots very firmly in France but with influences from across the Channel.
We were presented with three menus to choose from – the prix fixe, a la carte and a tapas-style menu. With so much choice we ordered a garlic fougasse (£4.75) to munch while we decided.
Choosing our starters was easy – the scallops ceviche with a lime, pomegranate and chilli marinade (£13.95) instantly appealed to me while my husband was drawn to the Limousin beef carpaccio with boudin blanc Scotch egg (£8.95).
My dish was beautifully presented and the scallops were wonderfully soft and tender. There was a good zing to the marinade but it was a little sweet for my taste and I wondered if the addition of pomegranate might just have been an ingredient too far. The beef was lightly seared at the edges and meltingly soft, while the Scotch egg added some richness and substance.
My main course was the Hotel du Vin burger (£15.95) which features on both the prix fixe and a la carte menus. It was a more than decent burger, with a lovely, barbecue-esque char and importantly, the brioche bun was up to the task and kept it all together right up to the last bite.
My husband decided to choose a main from the tapas-style menu and went for a large portion of picante chorizo corn dogs (£11.50) with a side of fries (£3.95). The batter was crisp and the chorizo soft and smoky with paprika – a lovely, fun dish on a miserable evening.
Dessert was rather slow to arrive, but we were so full that the break was actually quite welcome.
My sea salt caramel fondant with crème anglaise (£6.50) was lighter than it sounded and was just the sugar kick I was looking for, while husband’s affogato (£4.50) turned out to be a tower of creamy ice cream (rather than the anticipated single scoop) with a healthy amount of coffee to keep him awake for the drive home.
It’s not a revolutionary menu, but just like the rest of Hotel du Vin, it’s simple, classical and elegant and most of the time that’s all you really want.