Hotel du Vin & Bistro has recently launched its new Spring Fixed Price menu, serving up a bloomin’ exciting crop of dishes. Eye-catching dishes such as a creamy butternut squash soup with nasturtium ice cream and a light peanut butter mousse topped with candied maple bacon. This colourful gastronomic innovation is paired with the bistro’s exceptionally high standard of service for a wonderful dining experience we highly recommend.
We started off with the aforementioned butternut squash soup with and nasturtium ice cream – and it was a dream. The soup comes in a small jug and is poured over the ice cream, rather than having a dollop of ice cream added to the top of the soup as we’d expected. This was a nice touch, and really makes the ice cream the focus. Once the soup is poured over, it starts to melt, leaving enticing runny ribbons of green in the velvety soup. It’s a lovely combination of hot and cold, with a delicately subtle hint of nasturtium and plenty of creaminess.
We also tried the potted ox tongue with pickle, toasted sourdough and homemade salad cream. I’m a huge fan of salad cream, which perhaps tells you a little about my Leeds roots, but that was what drew me to this dish. The ox tongue was almost an afterthought. When it came, however, the ox tongue stole the show. Tender and succulent, but also packed full of flavour, it was an original serve and made a nice change to the usual liver or ham.
First up among the mains, we tried the slightly smoky duck and prosciutto ragout rigatoni bake. With fluffy mozzarella, soft and lean duck, and gorgeously melty prosciutto, this was another triumph of texture, colour and flavour.
The short horn brisket and onion pudding was basically an upside down pie. It burst with lovely, thick gravy at the merest touch of cutlery. Absolutely delicious. It can be served with an oyster, oddly enough, which is an American trend – the oyster used as a palate cleanser. This was the most traditional dish of the night, which would appeal to those with less flamboyant tastes, but is worth a try even if you enjoy the menu theatrics.
Onto dessert, then, we tried the chocolate pudding and peanut butter mousse with maple candied bacon bits n top. This was a complex yet satisfying blend with whipped up, thick and smooth, and then crispy elements. Sweet and savoury, salt and cream, the components were married perfectly.
This banana bread perdu with salted caramel was so good I ignored my lactose intolerance for the evening and just waded in – although I asked, as you can see, for the ice cream on the side. I had intended to only add a small amount to the top of the banana bread to taste the dish in all its glory, but ended up eating the whole lot. The bananas were caramelised on top for a wonderful creme brulee effect. The ice cream was amazingly good against this, turning to a slick river which moistened the fruity bread.
Clearly, texture is one of the strong-points here, but the sense of style really adds to the enjoyment too. Every dish looked great and, as they say, the first taste is with the eye, but the flavours carry the dishes either way. This is a novel and exciting menu, and one that has much to offer, including a couple of more restrained offerings for those put off by the more exotic plates.
Hotel du Vin is an elegant collection of 17 town house and city centre properties with a particular emphasis on food and drink. Each boasts its own individuality and personality, resonating from the character of the historic buildings that have been sensitively converted into stylish boutique hotels. The essence of the brand lies in its unyielding commitment to doing the simple things well. A love of wine resonates with substantial wine menu that features many of the world’s best and often relatively unknown wine producers. The substance and style of the bedrooms are completed with attentive touches including Egyptian cotton bedding, monsoon power showers and roll-top baths.
The full fixed price menu is as follows:
Caesar Salad Croquettes
with crisp baby gem lettuce
Butternut Squash Soup
with pumpkin seeds and nasturtium ice cream
Potted Ox Tongue
with pickle, toasted sourdough and home-made salad cream
Seaweed Cured Salmon
with oatcake and ice plant
Duck and Proscuitto Ragout Rigatoni Bake
Short Horn Brisket and Onion Pudding
(add a West Mersea rock oyster for £2.50)
Moules A La Biere
with roast potatoes
Aubergine and Tomato Gratin
with mint yoghurt and pomegranate
Banana Bread Pain Perdu
with salted caramel ice cream
Chocolate Pudding and Peanut Butter Mousse
with maple candied bacon
Tarte Aux Pruneaux
with crème fraiche
Lancashire Bomb Cheese and Eccles Cake
Prices start from £17.95 for two courses and £20.95 for three. Available at Birmingham, Brighton, Bristol, Cambridge, Cheltenham, Edinburgh, Exeter, Glasgow, Harrogate, Henley-on-Thames, Newcastle, Poole, St Andrews, Tunbridge Wells, Wimbledon, Winchester and York
For bookings, visit hotelduvin.com.