Hotel du Vin is nestled away on Lewins Mead: if you blink you might miss it as you hurtle past towards the Bear Pit. However, if you look out for the slim chap on the horse, you’re in the right area.
Sadly, it was another unbearably muggy day in Bristol but I soldiered through with my dining partner, entering the bar through the surprisingly quiet courtyard near the entrance. After a bit of a frosty reception we were taken through to the beautiful dining room that felt incredibly, unapologetically French. Our server Phil was a lot warmer in his reception and set us up with some water, bread and the menus. We were then visited by the resident sommelier who looked at our order and recommended an organic Bianco Terre Siciliane. It was wonderfully drinkable, light and fresh and very fruity.
For starters my partner went for the roast prawns (£7.95) and I decided to try the beef carpaccio (£8.95), something I hadn’t had before. The prawns arrived with heads and tails on in a fantastic spicy butter that was a real slow burner. The prawns were generous in size, sweet and we both enjoyed pulling them apart with our fingers. The carpaccio again was generous and was served with mini white sausage scotch eggs, roast garlic and edible flowers. The beef was tender and the scotch eggs were delightful, I could have had eaten a bucket of them! The roast garlic really lifted the beef, which benefitted from a generous coating of sea salt.
For mains my partner went for the steamed mussels and fries (£15.50) and I opted for a firm favourite, pork belly (£15.50) partnered with mash and a wonderfully thick, sweet and rich jus. From the sides I was encouraged to pick the green beans which were served with boiled quails eggs, olives and sun dried tomatoes which was an excellent recommendation from Phil.
The mussels had been steamed in a large pot with white wine, vinegar and garlic butter, and were served in their cooking vessel. The portion was plentiful and I don’t think there was a bad mussel in the bunch. The fries came skin on and were very well seasoned and crispy. The sauce was rich and garlicky as you would expect and was perfectly balanced.
The pork was a huge portion but was absolutely cracking: soft meat, melt in the mouth fat and crackling that threatened to break a tooth before transcending into a lovely, chewy morsel. The mash was smooth but firm, the beans were a great addition, fresh and al dente they really complimented the rest of the heavy dish.
As this is a food review I felt I had to try and force a dessert down me, going retro with the pineapple upside down cake (£6.50) with a toasted coconut sorbet. He had a salted caramel fondant (£6.50) which requires a 15 minute wait. Both desserts were fantastic: the cake was not at all dry, the pineapple was sweet and full of flavour and even came with a glacé cherry! The sorbet had coconut shavings inside and was a nice, light addition. The fondant was devilishly rich with oozing salted caramel sauce, and the creme anglaise with which it was served just took everything up another decadent notch.
All in all we could not fault the meal at all: the service was impeccable once we got into the restaurant and the food was completely on point. It rarely occurs to me to dine at a hotel but i would absolutely come back again.
Please note: our meal was received free of charge, but this in no way impacted on our opinion. We were not obliged to write a positive review, and the venue did not see this review before it was put up on the site.