With the Bistro Du Vin celebrating some changes, Jenny Ardagh reviews the dining experience and Hotel Du Vin facilities for a short break in the historic Brighton lanes
The Hotel Du Vin & Bistro has always been somewhere I’ve walked past and thought ‘I’d like to stay there one night’ – of course, with the job I have it’s a wonder why I haven’t taken action on this thought before. When I received my invite to an evening celebrating the changes that have been made within the Bistro, I was very glad to accept and go just that little bit further: to book a review of the hotel.
The website boasts of the hotel’s position on the seafront in Brighton: ‘Take a pebble. Throw it. That’s how close you are to the seafront,’ which is exactly true. Tucked away in the oldest part of the city, in the South Lanes, the charming, gothic-style exterior immediately brings some character to the hotel and to the surrounding alleyway (which, admittedly, doesn’t hold much to boast about itself). First built by a wine merchant in 1695, it has appropriately kept to its roots, offering al fresco dining under vine-covered beams, rustic, almost ‘steam-punk’ style light hanging exposed to create a very cosy and protected atmosphere. My guest and I walked into the courtyard, met by a crowd of people all enjoying the al fresco fish stand, packed with fresh lobster claws, crab, prawns, shrimp, smoked mackerel, smoked salmon, salmon fillet and oysters. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to try an oyster but the rest was divinely fresh-tasting and delicious.
I was just off to get another serving when the food opportunities indoors caught my eye – a huge buffet filled with Sunday Roast. There were Yorkshire puddings the size of an adult hand, beautifully succulent fillet of beef, chicken, pork, rack of lamb, roast potatoes, glazed carrots and a range of sauces to accompany it all. And if you weren’t full enough after all this, there was a surplus of cheeses awaiting you upstairs, with crackers and chutney, plus profiterole or apple pie ice cream for dessert, cocktails flowing and champagne and ales to taste. Suffice to say, I was very satisfied by the end of the evening, and I truly felt like I had tasted the entire Bistro menu. As such, I am happy to say that everything was absolutely delectable and I will be going back to the Bistro Du Vin with friends, colleagues or whoever will agree to a lunch with me.
I spent some time admiring the interior of the bar area before heading to my room. The overall feel was as if you’d stepped into a gothic-turned-modern wine cellar, combined with a shabby-chic barn renovation. Wooden beams protruded from ceilings and walls, the furniture was sophisticated, laid back and comfortable; velvet and dark studded leather chairs with antique style coffee tables were dotted around the room next to the very inviting and modern-looking bar.
Upstairs hosted more armchairs reminiscent of a traditional coffee house, facing double French doors that opened out onto a terrace overlooking the courtyard below. Everything had a very circular flow feel to it; you could walk from the courtyard through the bar area, up the stairs and back down to the courtyard again very easily, which was perfect for a do like this.
There are 49 rooms at the Hotel Du Vin – something you wouldn’t think possible on first looks, but there is in fact a huge amount of space surrounding the main area. Here the hotel promises super-soft Egyptian cotton linen, big fluffy towels, roll top baths and drenching monsoon showers. Our room was a Standard Double – although there is a choice of Standard Twin, Superior Double, Junior Suite, Sea View Suite and Cristal Suite – just off of the courtyard itself. The room was well-sized for a one night stay, with a very modern and pristine bathroom including a monsoon shower. The only slightly disappointing thing was the lack of light – because we were in a room essentially enclosed between two buildings, we only had the one very tiny window out to the world on the door itself. This proved to be quite disorientating in the morning, waking up to a pitch-black room and having to use artificial light much more than is necessary in the midst of British summer. Luckily though, there was good air conditioning, which I was thankful for on a hot night. We had a plasma TV, a sound system with iPod connection facility, a Queen-sized (and very comfortable) bed, a set of armchairs and table and all the trimmings you usually find in a hotel room.
So, my sleep was a sound one, and I looked forward to trying the breakfast the next morning. Up bright and early to get back to work at a vaguely acceptable hour, I headed to the dining room and chose my usual – which as some of the more astute readers may have noticed is an Eggs Benedict. I like to think it’s so I can get a fair comparison, but truth be told, I’m simply a creature of habit. The menu had the usuals, with a few wild cards thrown in, such as a healthy full English with carrot and ginger sausage, tomato and spinach. I must admit, I found the prices a little more than I am used to for a breakfast, in particular the ‘country table’, which seemed a tad too much for a fairly simple collection of croissants and yogurts. Nonetheless, my breakfast was perfect.
The stay had all the character of a night away in Brighton, and I certainly wasn’t disappointed. The Bistro and dining options overall at the Hotel Du Vin are fantastic for a client lunch or dinner, or even celebratory drinks after work. I have had a few meetings here myself and have always felt it to be an ideal combination of relaxing and sophisticated. My stay was perfectly enjoyable for one night, but I would recommend a Superior Double or Suite for two people if you’re staying for a longer period of time, just for that added comfort.
Hotel Du Vin
2 Ship Street, Brighton, EN1 1AD