Restaurant Review: Bistro du Vin at Hotel du Vin Bristol
The West Country’s most diverse city of Bristol offers a mix of cultural treats and celebrates its eclectic nature well, attracting visitors and pleasing residents alike. I spent a weekend there at the beginning of the year and enjoyed only a handful of what was on offer including Bistro du Vin at the grade II listed converted sugar warehouses at Hotel du Vin. The French style bistro offers romantic style dining with a clear French menu. The website describes the food as, “inspired by French home-style cooking with robust earthy dishes and slow cooked foods.” although it states that the Gallic influenced menu has an undeniably British flavour, I would say that the direction still points largely towards French cuisine.
My guest, Nick, and I enjoyed a glass of Champagne after being shown to our table in the large open plan restaurant. It was a Saturday evening and the room was full of happy diners and busy staff attending efficiently to their every need. Alongside our offerings of tasty rose Champagne, we nibbled on some light and airy sourdough baguette, which came with a delicious pesto butter.
For my first course I enjoyed the Shetland scallops with sauce vierge, consisting of a big portion of light and juicy scallops served on a salad of pickled red onion, red pepper and black olives. The sweet flavours on the plate really lifted the delicate scallops, while the black olives added a saltier element to balance out the dish. I am not a fan of olives usually but I enjoyed them with this dish. I hadn’t tried scallops with these accompaniments before and I enjoyed them a lot!
Nick’s starter of Hotel du Vin wine cured smoked salmon with horseradish crème fraiche was a generous portion size, as was my starter. The dish looked simple but Nick was ecstatic with the simplicity – he claimed it was the best smoked salmon he had ever eaten and the fewer elements highlighted the fine quality of the ingredients. He said the smooth crème fraiche was tangy with a nice bite and it complemented the melt-in-the-mouth salmon very well. A dash of lemon added “cleansing acidity,” making the dish, in his eyes, a match made in heaven.
For my main course I had opted for Beef Bourguignon on the bone, which consisted of braised beef short ribs, Portabello mushrooms, shallots and smoked pancetta. I also ordered a side of sautéed spinach with garlic but when the food arrived I almost wished I hadn’t as the portions were so big! There was a lot of beef on the plate, which was a little daunting but I got stuck in and very much enjoyed the delicate meat. The beef was very tender and fell of the bone so easily, while the rough texture was delicious soaked up with the lovely smelling, rich gravy. The salty pancetta was a good addition as it cut through the flavours of the dark sauce, while the shallots added a sweeter element to the dish, which calmed the richer flavours nicely. The spinach happened to be very nice and I was glad I added an extra vegetable to the plate. A lovely glass of red finished the food off nicely and, although it was delicious, I just couldn’t eat all the meat.
Nick’s main course of rack of lamb made him just as happy as his starter did. The prime cut of tender lamb was roasted and was accompanied by a mint sauce as well as an extra side of pomme frites. He described the meat as tender, juicy, succulent, mouth-watering, melt-in-the-mouth and he said it fell off the bone. He said the mint sauce was lovely and the chips were crispy and salty with a soft inner – just how he likes them! He also enjoyed a glass of smooth and velvety Argentinian Malbec and said it added an extra ingredient to the dish as it was perfectly paired.
Happily satisfied and full, we took a break before even attempting a glance at the dessert menu to soak up some of the buzzing atmosphere in the restaurant. Every table in the low lit room was full and the happy customers brought with them a nice vibe. The large dining space has high ceilings but maintains an intimate and elegant bistro feel with pillars, which break up the space, low lighting (a little too low for me – I could hardly see my food!) and artwork, which filled the walls. Wine bottles filled the windowsills and I truly felt as if I had stepped into a Parisian bistro for the evening.
To continue my foray into French food I completed my meal by choosing the crème brulee. The vanilla custard was deliciously creamy, cool and smooth, served in a shallow dish with the typically crispy top. It was identical to one I had sampled in Paris – it was simple and delicious with wonderfully contrasting textures and delicate sweet flavours.
Nick had opted for something he had never tried before – Iles Flottantes, consisting of crème anglais, caramel sauce and toasted almonds. The ‘floating islands’ were delicate and soft sitting in the sweet sauce, while plenty of nutty flavours came through, I was told. All in all it was an enjoyable evening of lovely wines and delightful foods, made all that much better by very friendly staff, who were knowledgable, efficient and attentive.
For something other than an evening meal try a Champagne afternoon tea or Sunday brunch consisting of a soup course followed by a self service French market table offering seafood, pates, charcuterie, salads, rilettes, vegetables and breads with traditional roasts available.
In a nutshell
From hearty, flavourful mains to delicate sweets and an array of dishes in between, visit Bistro du Vin if you are looking for simple French inspired dishes that consist of fewer ingredients cooked very well.
Address: The Sugar House, Narrow Lewins Mead, Bristol BS1 2NU
Natasha traveled to Bristol in January 2016 via CrossCountry Trains.