In early April Hotel du Vin opened its first standalone restaurant, called Bistro du Vin.
The lively and bustling bistro was packed with happy clientele being served by upbeat and courteous waiters. Wine bottle after wine bottle was swiftly carried and poured with precision by sommeliers. Here you know you will get sage advice to truly experience food and wine pairing heaven.
In good weather there is outdoor seating available on the sidewalk. In contrast, the inside is slightly cramped, dark but intimate. Very fashionable in restaurants these days are open kitchens where eaters can avidly watch their meals being prepared for them in front of their own eyes – a bit like watching a live food show instead of slouching on the sofa in front of the TV. All dishes were quality assured by the watchful eye of head chef Andy Holmes.
The Crispy Lamb Sweetbreads with Charcuterie Sauce (£8.75) is proof that offal can be sexy. There was a nice contrast between the crispy layer and the delicately, creamy meat – all balanced with the piquant sauce. Topped with tiny salad leaves the plate was a pretty picture.
A standard menu item the Cornish Crab and Sourdough Toast (£9.50) may be, but when it is expertly prepared there is definitely nothing to complain about! Sourced from Cornwall, the portion was very generous.
Considering that this stylish Onglet Steak is the cheapest meat option on the menu for only £12.95, this is really good value and it looks as good as a £30 steak. Dipped in decadent béarnaise sauce it ticked all my boxes.
Coming from South Africa, I’ve been scarred by British seafood platters. The lowest point was when I ordered one in the wilderness of Scotland, only to watch how they dished up cold smoked salmon, bottled clams and frozen shrimps for £15! For a country surrounded by the cold, blue sea it’s a mystery why it’s not served more often in restaurants.
The impressive platter of Hot Roasted Shells (£28.00) was served on a wire-framed pedestal in front of me, which in total reached nose-height – highly impractical for eating purposes. Pedestal removed I could now admire the half a crayfish, one oyster, three langoustines, two razor clams, five mussels, two tiny scallops and one large one in front of me. The rubbery, tough clams disappointed. From a completely mercenary point of view it would have been better to replace the pretty, but puny langoustines with king prawns – more meat you see. All in all I was sad as I gazed at the mauled, empty shells, wondering when would be the next time I’ll come across a decent plate of seafood like this.
The frites were awesome. I just wished they were served with dipping sauces on the side!
Lastly, the lemon tart’s filling was lovely and light, just a shame the base was slightly burnt and bitter.
Drink-wise, if you have a sweet tooth like me, don’t miss the Bellini and Kir Royale cocktails and there is a decent range of dessert wines too.
8/10: A somewhat limited and simple menu but most of the dishes couldn’t be faulted.
7/10: For an upmarket restaurant it’s standard.
6/10: At times I waited a bit long for my drinks.
8/10: All good.
8/10: Whether it’s for business or social affairs, it fits the bill.
8/10: A few niggles here and there but overall an enjoyable experience. Great place for a night out and enjoy some fine wine.
P.S. A special thanks to Bistro du Vin for having me as a guest that night.
Bistro du Vin
38-42 St. John Street