The last time I ate at Hotel Du Vin (or One Devonshire Gardens as it used to be called) was at least 6 years ago. The restaurant at the time was, I think, called Room and I remember it being one of my first fine dining experiences! Being the poor student that I was, I was very impressed and felt extremely grown up sitting in the fancy restaurant, with the impeccably-presented plates of food placed before my lit-up eyes! Nowadays, I’m a little more used to dining out but the Bistro at Hotel Du Vin still had a very posh feel to me.
Surprise surprise, we were armed with a special deals voucher which only set us back £39.50 (instead of up to £79) for the Hubby and I to have a 4-course champagne lunch. The price did seem steeper than what we would normally pay for a discounted deal but I had a feeling that it would be worth it. And what do you know – it was well worth it! The food was absolutely fantastic. (And to my delight, 5pm are running this deal again today, which I quickly snatched up within 2 minutes of receiving the email!)
It is generally very common for there to be complimentary bread on offer so I don’t tend to bother writing about it in my posts all the time… BUT the focaccia we were given was amazing! Just the right balance of softness and chewiness, but what made it was the crust! That heavenly herby and salty crust! I could have eaten the entire basket of bread, but then the other diners might not have been too pleased with me and I would have been too full to eat my actual meal… first world problem…! I really hope they have the same bread on our next visit…
The Hubby started with the rabbit – very nicely presented with the “steps” and tasted delicious. You can see from the photo that the ballotine had both a coarse and smooth texture. The sharp, grainy mustard dressing did a really good job of bringing out the sweet flavour of the rabbit.
My starter tasted so good – rich and crumbly black pudding (love love love black pudding!), perfectly poached egg and a very nicely cooked buttery potato fondant, all balanced nicely with a slightly tangy Dijon foam.
The Hubby’s pork dish was not what we had expected! The “oriental style” description on the menu made me think of a Chinese roast pork with a sticky glaze… I must admit that I didn’t know the exact meaning of “assiette”, and having it looked it up now (a prepared dish of food, French for “plate, course of a meal”), it seems like a pretty pointless, fancy word to me. The different cuts of pork (belly, ribs and something else…) were cooked very well, and the addition of slithers of crispy crackling was a nice touch, but I could see that the Hubby was struggling a little to eat his slippery noodles with his fork and spoon. The broth, if I recall correctly, had some Thai flavours going on.
The lamb was outstanding. I think it was the best lamb I have ever had – really succulent, well-seasoned and almost melt-in-your-mouth tender. I almost chose the fish dish (chargrilled plaice with brown butter sauce and steamed potatoes) because I’m generally not a huge fans of beans, but the coco bean ragout actually turned out to be delicious and complimented the lamb really well. The bits of olive added a nice contrasting slight bitterness and saltiness, but I’m not sure that the 8 (!!) pinenuts contributed very much! There was a puree of some sort on the plate, and at the time, I remember tasting it, saying to the Hubby, “Ah, that’s [insert vegetable]” and thinking to myself, “How impressive are my tastebuds?” Well… now I cannot remember what it was! It was quite sweet, but it definitely wasn’t artichoke… it might have been parsnip but for some reason, I’m thinking that it might have been something less common… yes, this is incredibly useful information which you will not get anywhere else…
The third course came in the form of a palate-cleansing lemon sorbet. Very refreshing, with a citrussy punch.
For dessert, the Hubby chose the sticky toffee pudding which was good but it didn’t stand out as being the best that I’ve tasted. The sponge was bordering on the firm side (which I don’t mind) and the sauce was not too sickly.
The other two options were the cheese board or raspberry ripple cream, so I went for the latter. I do like cheese but I always feel that a meal should be finished off with something sweet. The raspberry dessert was simple, but at the same time, quite indulgent. Creamy, fruity… what else do you want on a summer’s day?
We were also told that there was a selection of ice creams on offer, including vanilla, strawberry, pistachio and bacon. Bacon?! I had to try it! The only other time I have heard of this crazy combination is from Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck menu which at one point included a bacon and egg ice cream. I have not been lucky enough to dine at the Fat Duck so I couldn’t let this opportunity of tasting bacon ice cream slip away! I am glad that we decided to try it, but it is not something that I would have again. I have had my fair share of interesting ice cream flavours, but for me, bacon does not work. Strangely, it tasted like cheese – a cold, smokey, sweet and creamy cheese. It just tasted wrong.
We actually ended up with not three, but four desserts! Just before our waitress set down our desserts at our table, she told us that the kitchen had made an extra dessert by mistake and asked us if we would like to have it (at no additional charge, of course). This was not on the lunch menu we ordered from, but if it had been, I have no doubt that I would have went for it as I tend to be very drawn to dishes involving green tea. Having said that though, I actually preferred the raspberry dessert so I’m glad that I wasn’t given the option of being able to order the green tea one. The sponge was uninspriring, but the jasmine tea sorbet is something I’d definitely have again – refreshing with a subtle floral hint in the background.
The service was very good to begin with and our server was attentive and friendly. Disappointingly, we struggled to get her attention to ask for the bill. Nothing major enough to ruin our experience or to stop us from going back, but it was a shame that our lunch didn’t end on a high.