Situated in Montpellier and open all week, Bistro du Vin is at the heart of Hotel du Vin Cheltenham.
Under the tutelage of head chef Paul Mottram, the classic, French-styled Cheltenham restaurant provides an informal setting for lunch, dinner, to meet, celebrate or simply pass the time.
Serving simple classic dishes in generous portions, as part of its ‘Homegrown & Local’ philosophy, the elegant bistro offers the chance to dine on the finest produce that Gloucestershire has to offer from a range of local food heroes.
An extensive and eclectic wine list from around the world is a key Hotel du Vin feature. An impressive array is available by the glass or bottle, and expert sommeliers are always happy to give friendly and knowledgeable advice.
Four years since opening, SoGlos.com sees whether Hotel du Vin Cheltenham Bistro has lost any of its youthful vigour.
When Hotel du Vin Cheltenham opened in the height of the summer in 2007, its arrival created quite a stir – with the restaurant quickly gaining notoriety as one of the town’s most stylish venues for leisurely dining, not to mention its crowning wine list.
Since though, some shiny new restaurants have competed for Cheltenham diners’ affections, and more than two years after SoGlos.com originally reviewed the Montpellier venue, we returned to discover whether Hotel du Vin Cheltenham Bistro has aged gracefully or perhaps lost its sparkle.
Evidently some things at the Bistro have remained untouched – the sweeping spiral staircase still makes for a rather grand entrance – posing challenges for maxi dress and platform-wearers, I’ve found from personal experience! The dramatic chandelier constructed of wine glasses is still a novel talking point – with the question of ‘who dusts it?’ overheard with frequency. The wine cellar is still more than enough to impress a vintner. And the welcome is as warm and professional as ever.
The tobacco martini, created in Cheltenham to complement the hotel’s notable cigar menu, was a new addition to the pre-dinner routine however, proving a distinctly masculine aperitif with spicy, grown-up aromas and a subtle smokiness – all of which was a strongly approved start by my dining companion, while I stuck with a Diet Coke.
The Bistro has also always prided itself on its informal nature, and once seated at our table for two on an unexpectedly busy Sunday evening, we found ourselves surrounded by a mix of supremely smartly turned-out 60-something socialites – complete with strings of pearls and expensive handbags, and American tourists – in shorts and baseball caps.
The lofty beef burger being served to one of the gents in shorts must have made him feel at home, and I was not the only diner to have noticed the dish of gargantuan proportions – with several orders greedily being put in for the same around the restaurant.
And soon the jealous glances were pointed in my direction as the precarious tower of juicy Donald Russell beef, melted cheese and thick slab of tomato, topped with a toasted bun, all held in place by a substantial skewer, was placed in front of me. Accompanied by a substantial serving of chips and homemade thousand island dressing, it was too generous a serving for most, but a challenge tackled head-on and a resounding hit.
Another populist main course choice from our table was the rib eye steak from the Bistro’s grill selection. The steak had left an indelible impression when first sampled years ago, and was one my dining companion needed no nudges to try again. The bloody 28-day char grilled slab of beef left little room for disappointment, arriving on a manly wooden slab with a shiny copper cone of buttery chips and lashings of calorific café de Paris butter. It certainly wouldn’t be two years before this carnivorous accomplishment is sampled again, my partner commented.
The starters were more representative of the Bistro’s European influences, perhaps – with a melt-in-the-mouth ballotine of salmon with tangy herb fromage blanc proving a luxurious start to the evening. And moreish fried fishy delights in the form of the fritto misto also getting the thumbs up, transporting my companion from Cheltenham to the shores of Italy with its combination of squid, cod and juicy prawns.
By jumping around from fish to red meat, we tested the sommelier’s savvy, and his suggestion of a bottle of Australian Mitchelton Airstrip – a rich, complex and fruity white – was thoroughly enjoyed on one side of the table.
Our waitress also warmly imparted her professional wisdom when invited to, suggesting we try the dacquoise for afters – and we are glad we did. Layers of light meringue, sweet lemon cream and soft, ripe raspberries were combined with dexterity to create one delicious dessert, which alone was enough to make our Sunday visit a roaring success. The pastry chef receives our compliments, and is no doubt used to such praise.
While Hotel du Vin Cheltenham may no longer be the latest topic of conversation, it remains a consistent favourite with Gloucestershire restaurant-goers and the SoGlos.com team alike. The reliable combination of warm hospitality, laid-back atmosphere and quality cuisine has seen the Bistro become somewhat of a Cheltenham institution, and not only can it compete with the newest launches, but its hard-won reputation continues to grow by the day.
By Michelle Fyrne
Monday 30 January 2012
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