The Hotel Du Vin group has carved out a niche, designing boutique hotels with a difference. Luxurious and intimate, their decor and design imparts classic French style, as well as looking to their surrounding Anglo environment for inspiration. As such, Hotel Du Vin has gained a reputation as a hip hangout for locals as well as guests from afar. I have often enjoyed a glass of champagne or a hearty meal at the Brighton Hotel Du Vin, during a frosty weekend by the seaside. Last year, Hotel Du Vin realised they were onto something good and seized the opportunity to expand into stand-alone restaurants, under the brand name of Bistro du Vin. London has been the lucky recipient of both Bistros du Vin to date, situated on Clerkenwell's St John Street and Soho's Dean Street. Both equally charismatic locations with standout individual features, each brings the beloved French bistro (great food, wine and atmosphere) to our city. Similar to its parent hotel group, Bistro du Vin can be enjoyed in many ways: drop in for a drink, a wine tasting, some cheese or seafood, or a three course meal. A clever mix of English and French sensibilities, Bistro du Vin is not unlike an (upmarket) Parisian bistro, where you can watch the world go by with "une assiette de charcuterie", but you can also visit at the weekend for a scrumptious Sunday Roast.
|Bistro du Vin Clerkenwell - bar|
I was excited to taste Bistro du Vin's food, wine and ambience, after an invite to dinner at the Clerkenwell restaurant. It now holds particular resonance in my memory, being one of the last non-pregnancy-diet menus I relished, before discovering that I needed to tweak my tastes somewhat over the months ahead*. Arriving by the bar entrance, amidst homely yet sumptuously stylish interiors, I walked straight towards the bustling open kitchen and inviting restaurant before me. Smart yet soothingly informal and so fitting in its EC1 surroundings, I was pleased to recognise the Hotel du Vin 'stamp', yet this dining spot undoubtedly held a magic of its own.
|Bistro du Vin Clerkenwell - open kitchen|
Due to an early lunch sitting, the seats encircling the open plan kitchen were not yet fully taken, but very soon they would be. Next time, I look forward to taking up residence there for an hour (or few!), watching the skilled chefs at work and surveying the inviting foods adorning the sides:
|Bistro du Vin Clerkenwell|
|Bistro du Vin Clerkenwell|
Sitting at our cosy table, we were met by warm and knowledgeable serving staff (including, naturally, an expert sommelier), as we sampled the delicious bread basket and took our time over the menu. As someone who adores French cuisine, there were many possible options, from the more familiar to the more unique/authentic and typically, meat and fish were dominant. I began with salmon, horseradish cream and watercress: four thick, succulent slices of melt-in-your-mouth heaven. Like French fare at its best (and seemingly adhering to the Bistro du Vin model) this starter was an example of high-quality ingredients, prepared simply but with such panache.
|Bistro du Vin Clerkenwell - salmon with horseradish|
My husband's Selsey crab starter was equally graceful in preparation and delivery of crabmeat so fresh that visions of the French seaside came to mind with every bite.
|Bistro du Vin Clerkenwell - Selsey crab|
Accompanying these tastes of the sea with a refreshing San Pellegrino, we listened to the sommelier's advice for a bottle of red wine to accompany our upcoming meaty mains. We settled on a delightful Chateau Moulinet Pomerol 2004, offering a hearty blend of juicy fruits, hints of oak and balanced tannins, complementing both my lamb with puy lentils and my husband's fillet steak.
|Bistro du Vin Clerkenwell - Herdwick lamb rump with pancetta & lentils|
|Bistro du Vin Clerkenwell - Fillet steak with peppercorn sauce|
Both main courses were infused with flavour and cooked elegantly. Sides of 'carrolls heritage potatoes', pommes frites and buttered vegetables were delicious. I could have eaten a whole plate of the first, whose irresistibly fluffy insides were enveloped in crispy, slightly salty outer shells.
|Bistro du Vin Clerkenwell - side dishes|
I was highly satisfied, following our main courses, but couldn't resist the Valrhona chocolate and honeycomb tart. And what a sensible decision that was. Each powerfully rich cocoa-y taste was indulgent and just the right side of dense, although the combination of velvety chocolate paired with homemade, crunchy honeycomb and vanilla chantilly cream would always be worth a little discomfort, even if you can't possibly find any 'room'.
|Bistro du Vin Clerkenwell - Valrhona chocolate tart|
After lunch, we learned about the many ways in which you can enjoy Bistro du Vin Clerkenwell. Wine, as the website says, is their "lifeblood" and the wine list (and sommeliers) should be exploited as much as possible. If you wish to sample a special wine by the glass, their glass dispensing machine is worth getting to know (you can even get a 'wine by the glass card'), as is their diary of wine and cheese tasting events. Alternatively, if spirits are your preference, Bistro du Vin Clerkenwell's Whisky Snuggle seats up to 12 guests and there is also a cigar menu. Private dining is also available.
It is now my intention to try Bistro du Vin Soho, with its own unique menu and environment. True to it's on-trend location and vibe, Bistro du Vin Soho has introduced a non-alcoholic 'mocktail' called 'The Lemon Detox by Bistro du Vin Soho', in time for London Fashion Week. It claims to be 'cleansing, calming and detoxifying' and contains camomile tea, cranberry and lemon juices, cayenne pepper and 'Lemon Detox Madal Bal Natural Tree syrup', a favourite to stars like Naomi Campbell and Beyoncé. For those looking to avoid alcohol or get in shape for summer, 'The Lemon Detox by Bistro du Vin Soho' is available until May.
|The Lemon Detox by Bistro du Vin contains Madal Bal Tree Syrup|
Alternatively, Bistro du Vin Soho also offers a wonderful variety of wines and cocktails, which I'll be very keen to sample once I can enjoy a good glass again. What's next for Bistro du Vin?
*Apologies for posting this review belatedly. Menu items may have changed, but please find a Bistro du Vin Clerkenwell menu and Bistro du Vin Soho menu here. City Girl was a dinner guest of The Massey Partnership.