It’s no secret that I love dining out, especially when it comes to afternoon tea and other such sweet treats, so when I was recently invited to try out something a little different to my usual mealtimes, I simply couldn’t resist.
I’m no stranger to Hotel Du Vin in Cambridge, having hosted some of my dining and etiquette workshops (such as “Dine Like Downton” with my co-host, William Hanson) in the past and this venue always lends itself well to an afternoon of indulgence.
Hotel Du Vin is an elegant chain of boutique-style hotels in locations such as Brighton, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Harrogate, Newcastle & York, amongst others – 15 others in fact.
Each hotel has its own unique character, styled around the architecture, history and location of the building itself. Each hotel hosts their trademark bistros, of which serve French classics with a British twist and their bars serve the world’s best wines, spirits and even cocktails to add to the glamour of their surroundings.
I’m yet to stay overnight with Hotel Du Vin, but from the look of their stunning bedrooms and suites, this is a brand to connect with in 2015 for a stay to add to my “Around The World In 80 Stays” challenge…
The reason for my visit on this occasion was to sample their brunch menu, one of which I’ve heard fantastic reviews on in past months, but hadn’t yet had the chance to try out for myself.
I was also enjoying a lazy weekend with a new bearded friend, so it felt right to show him the sights and sounds of Cambridge, my home city, offering him some of the more famous views of Cambridge as we passed them in my car. I had originally planned for us to hop on a bus from home so that we could take a romantic walk around the colleges and across the river, however, the driving rain & howling wind scuppered any such plans – it was a grim day.
In fact, this was the least glamorous walk from Newnham Park over to Trumpington Street you ever did see… I was wearing my Sunday best (aka the girliest dress in the world) combined with my neon pink summer shoes & a thin pair of tights – not the best idea when negotiating deep, murky puddles between cow pats en route.
By the time we arrived, we were soaked to the bone and I had hair to rival Bridget Jones after her epic open-topped car adventure with Hugh Grant. Oh dear. Never mind.
The welcome we received was the warmest around, with a lady opening the door to us offering to take our umbrellas & coats before we made it to the Bistro door… she had spotted us outside and met us before we even reached for the door handle – now, that’s service.
We were seated in the window at a cosy table for two where we could watch the (miserable, cold & wet!) world go by under our noses and were handed a large menu to peruse whilst we discussed wine choices with our sommelier. She offered to match our wine to the dishes we chose as we tucked into the menu, which I thought was a great touch, as we hadn’t yet decided on our mains or puddings… or if we would even have enough room for all of the courses!
The Hotel Du Vin Gastronomique Brunch consists of four courses, with the first course being The French Market Table. This is the most heavenly brunch table you’ll ever see, it’s full, of fresh breads, croissants, fish, grilled vegetables, charcuterie, mustards and cheeses.
I enjoyed quite the selection including chicken liver pate, mussels, potted shrimp, dressed crab, smoked salmon, chorizo and a side salad – not forgetting the warm ciabatta and salted butter to nibble on as we nattered.
This was a course in itself, however there was much more to come, with the second course being a carrot & coriander soup. As delicious as this was, I felt this might not be necessary, or at least an option within the brunch table. We both agreed that we would have gone back for a second helping at the French Market table in place of the soup du jour, ahem. The soup was carrot & coriander and served in a fairly small bowl, much to our relief – it was just enough if you wanted to eat the entire contents (I managed to save myself for my next courses, so didn’t finish the bowl).
For the third course, there was quite the menu to pick from, everything from a HDV burger & pommes frites or a steak with béarnaise or peppercorn sauce, through to a goat’s cheese, sun blushed tomato & spinach roulade with beetroot relish.
I went for the “Roast Du Vin”, going for the rib of Aberdeenshire beef with all the trimmings, incuding one large and fluffy Yorkshire pudding, which certainly didn’t disappoint the “Yorkie” fan in me, it was perfect.
My bearded friend chose the Severn & Wye smoked haddock, served with a mustard butter, hash brown and a runny poached egg, sharing my seasonal vegetable side to add a splash of colour to the dish.
Both were cooked beautifully, however by this point we were admittedly rather full, so we slowed right down and enjoyed sampling the glasses of wine that had been matched to our food.
We spent hours here, but it didn’t feel that way at all, we weren’t rushed as we chatted away, the plates were cleared and our food was served without us having to even think about it. In fact, as I write up to review I remain stupidly impressed at how relaxed and professional the service was in this respect, I don’t think I can even recall one plate or wine glass being taken away – super sneaky service, I can’t fault it.
After a lot of
salivating deliberation, we both decided it would be rude not to see it to the end, ordering our fourth course, along with some dessert wines.
Because I can never turn down a good French pudding, I had the Apple Tarte Tatin with Creme Normande – it was the best version of my fave warm pudding I’ve ever had, the pastry was buttery and the apple was just sweet enough, but not too sweet. I hadn’t planned to demolish the entire plate, but before I knew it… well…
My companion continued the savoury fix with a mighty fine Artisan cheese board, of which hosted a selection of British & French cheeses with dainty biscuits, walnut bread and chutney… served with a port for this course, he was in cheese heaven.
After our meal, we sat for some time, letting it rest before even considering a soggy stroll into town to walk off some of the treats. Although it was still raining, we enjoyed the fresh air & some festive lights as we strolled through the market square that afternoon – Xmas is coming!
At £24.95 per person for this four course brunch, it’s superb value for money and I would most certainly suggest that you visit this hotel only when prepared to take your time – it’s not a meal you’d want to rush.
The Little Niggles:
I would say the soup course isn’t really necessary (and I love my food, so this it’s usually unlike me to turn away food!) – we would have happily gone back to The French Market Table for a second round in place of the soup, but we were polite and didn’t do this to make room for the soup. It wasn’t amazing, it was a carrot soup… perhaps as a selection at the Market Table would be a better idea, but a very tiny niggle really!
The bistro was very busy, so I would also highly suggest booking your table to avoid disappointment.
It’s a great option to go for a relaxed & fairly formal meal with friends or family, as a couple, perhaps even as a date (now that I’m back on the dating scene, I’m allowed to say this!) as it lends itself well to a chilled out and lazy Sunday afternoon. Pair your visit with a leg-stretch along the college backs or a spot of shopping and you’ve found yourself a perfect weekend in Cambridge.
Here’s a list of the wine choices we had throughout our meal, in order of course to help you, should you want to know what we sipped on to get squiffy that afternoon… Please don’t judge me on the spelling if I’ve got these wrong, I don’t usually “speak” wine.
Albariño, Condes de Alberei – Rias Baixes Spain 2012
Riesling Trocken, DOM, Bischöfliche
Weinguter – Masel – Germany 2012
Rioja, Reserve 2008, La Choza – Spain
Pinot Noir Byron 2012 – Sta Barbara, California, USA
Muscat de Riversalots – Jean Mare La Sage
Quinta de Nouel single vineyard 2007
Hotel Du Vin often have special offers and packages on their rooms and dining, so check out their website and social media pages for more info for 2015.
Please note – This stay was complimentary, following a visit to view this venue and meet the team. I am in no means obliged to blog or write about their offerings, but I simply choose to share their offerings with my readers, should I enjoy the experience. The service team that work on the day or duration of my visit are not aware of my reasons for visiting, to enable a fair review.
All images © 2014 Miss Sue Flay, these may not be used or reproduced without written permission from the owner, many thanks in advance.