Birthday at the Bistro: Hotel du Vin
It’s my birthday this weekend and as all grown-up little girls know, ‘No fuss’ means, ‘Just a little bit of fuss. Nothing too demanding. A bunch of flowers. A bottle or two of fizz. A dressing gown made entirely of peacock feathers. Or, at the very least, a cake containing a Chippendale, or baby panda.’
So it’s testament to how well they know me that when I popped into Tunbridge Wells on Friday with a good friend and my sister-in-law to ‘grab a few bits’ they insisted on marking the occasion with a girlie lunch in town.
It was a beautiful sunny afternoon and having found someone kind (crazy) enough to have my kiddies for a few hours I thought we’d better make the most of it, so steered us towards the Bistro in Hotel du Vin – where I’d heard they were doing a decent Fixed Price Menu – two courses for £16.95 or three courses for £19.95, making this an affordable way to treat yourself when in town.
Most people that know the area know that the Tunbridge Wells Hotel du Vin was one of the chain’s first properties, a characterful 18 Century Grade II listed mansion and a bit of an institution locally. If you don’t know it you’ll probably be pleasantly surprised by the old world charm and period features of the hotel, sitting in the middle of the modern hustle and bustle of the high street.
And on a sunny day you can’t beat the calm elegance and happy atmosphere of the terrace, which is a surprising oasis – so far removed from the hectic whirl just beyond the lavender bushes (there was amazingly little to no sound of traffic during our lunch). Two of us went for the 3 course option but also couldn’t resist having a taste of the scallops in lime juice, pomegranate and chilli that my sister-in-law ordered. Light and refreshing on a hot day…
We also tried the Hotel du Vin Burger (with bacon and grilled cheese) that is part of the Fixed Menu. And Smoked Salmon Batonnets (seen above in batter) – which were basically the poshest fish fingers I’ve ever had! The Blood Mary chutney that accompanied them was so tasty I asked for an extra serving. I like my food simple and flavoursome and this definitely hit the spot. These are not big foodie fussy dishes, nor do I think they’re trying to be. The prices are comparable to a gastro pub, and not high end superior dining.
The only slight hiccup was that the scallops came a bit later than our other starters, after we reminded the waiter. I don’t mention this to criticise as it’s a little point and these things can easily happen in a busy kitchen – and it’s just as easily rectified. I mention it more because it’s how the staff deal with something like this when it does crop up that counts. They were wonderfully polite, hugely apologetic and super slick in remedying the delay. That’s the point of Hotel du Vin. It isn’t some trendy smooth new gastro pub. It’s old school charm all the way.
Our table was checked and serviced for any ‘wobbly’ legs before we sat down – just one example of how the staff were very pleasant and attentive. And, as if proving the point, although I’d made no mention of my birthday, except in a brief jokey exchange with a waitress, when my pudding came out they surprised me with the message and candle above – nice touch.
And of course that’s what Hotel du Vin knows so well – it’s the little touches that count. They also clearly know that no matter what we girls say, we do all like a little bit of fuss on our special day.
Hotel du Vin & Bistro, Crescent Rd, Tunbridge Wells TN1 2LY, Tel: hotelduvin.com