I first stayed in Birmingham’s Hotel du Vin on the day of my 21st, a decade and a bit ago, when an ex-girlfriend treated me ahead of what has gone down as one of the cities wankiest ever birthday parties. If memory serves me correct, I wore a white suit and vest, the only colour emanating from me being a deep orange fake tan that Trump would have been envious of. I got drunk, wasted the rooms intentions and woke up to the sound of her boffing into a bin in the morning. She was a class act, was Mel. Fast forward six months and she is driving out of Bristol’s Hotel du Vin alone, whilst I am in the bath unaware of the messages she has found on my phone. This would turn out to be a reoccurring theme in my adult life. I’ll never learn.
So, I guess that when I think about it I have always had a good relationship with the group. I’ve stayed in their hotels, I’ve drank their whisky, I’ve eaten their food. I’ve actually always been a fan of the grub here, it’s classic Gaelic stuff that goes so well with wine and big comfy beds. I’ve eaten wobbly terrines with pockets of jellified fat in between soft meat, coq-au-vin’s with the richest of wine sauces, and marbled steaks crusted by heat on the outside and blue in the centre. This is all from a panelled dining room rich with art, that feels like the home of somebody far wealthier than I will ever be. It is a very romantic place to eat dinner.
Tonight I am here in the company of other blaggers bloggers, including my new girlfriend, who will inevitably also go through my phone one day and depart quickly into the sunset. All of us are here to try the new Summer menu and to drink lots of wine. It was not a difficult invite to accept. The new menu sticks to what they do best, with a few surprises here and there. A charcuterie board is hard to get excited over, though the meat is of obvious quality and balanced well with the astringency of the lightly pickled veg. Much better is a scallop ceviche, generous in portion with three of the shellfish sliced thinly and returned back to their shells. I happen to love raw scallops like this, dressed in a little lime juice to break down the proteins, salt and sugar, with pops of sweet pomegranate seeds and the occasional tingle of chilli. It’s light and refined. I shoot the juices direct from the shell because it demands so.
I order porchetta because I am a man of taste. It transpires to be an inspired choice, a fat roundel of roast pig with a quenelle of apple sauce and a stick of crackling that my dental plan would not approve of. The best bit is the sticky glaze of reduced onions and stock around the edge that adds funk and definition. It is rustic in the best possible sense; a dish built around bold seasoning and big flavours. At £16 it is a bargain.
A lamb main was far more refined, which, at £27, it bloody should be. The French trimmed rack cooked to an accurate medium, with a salad of feta, charred baby gem, green beans and peas. There is punchy seasoning and everything is cooked well, but how keen you think the price is I will leave to your discretion.
Desserts saw theatre produced to a level that very few can accomplish in the city. Crepe Suzette is a staple of The Ritz with good reason, it has interaction and flames and is damn right bloody delicious. Here it is almost identical; pancakes, orange juice and zest, butter, and brandy flambéed as you watch tableside. Just order it and thank me afterwards. It makes the apple tart look ordinary. Spoiler alert: It is not. The pastry is delicate, the apples treated with respect and just cooked through. It is classic French patisserie work crafted in a hotel kitchen in Birmingham.
With this dinner we have lots of wine, which, this summer, is a celebration of Pinot, a grape I happen to have a lot of love for. Unsurprisingly, it is an extremely will curated list. Somewhat more surprisingly, it happens to be very affordable. Experience tells me that a meal here is going to creep over three figures, and if you want my opinion, I would tell you that is money well spent. Hotel du Vin isn’t going to rewrite the culinary recipe book, but it is going to feed you honest French inspired food for a fair price. And that happens to be perfectly fine with me.
I was invited to the launch of the summer menu at Hotel du Vin by Delicious PR