Guest blogger Alix King indulges in a bit of informal luxury at Hotel du Vin…
Poole Quay is popular all year round. In summer it’s a bustling area that plays host to folk and rock bands, firework nights and classic car and vintage motorbike meets, while in the winter a collection of cosy pubs and bars, all with roaring fires and fabulous views across the waters to Brownsea Island and beyond, provide shelter from the cold. Just a stone’s throw from the quay, hidden among the Old Town’s cobbled streets, sits Hotel du Vin. The beauty of the place took my breath away as I walked up the grand steps of this wonderful historical Georgian building.
Feeling like a princess reclining in one of the bar’s elegant armchairs, I ordered a simple, refreshing Tom Collins, accompanied by the best selection of plump, juicy olives I think I have ever tasted. I sat back to take in my surroundings. Stylish yet understated, this place certainly has the wow factor. Attention-grabbing features such as the open kitchen, the wine bottles lined up along the walls of the restaurant, and the buttoned banquette seating have all been artfully put together. The overall look reminded me of an elegant ship’s galley and dining room.
The extremely attentive staff talk about the menu and specials board with pride, and it didn’t take me long to see why. I opted for the chicken liver parfait with sourdough toast and raisin chutney to start. What a wonderful mix of flavours! The parfait was creamy, and the chutney created a pleasing zing on my tongue. My partner chose the prawn cocktail – we weren’t sure how this simple starter could be jazzed up, but it truly was. From the tangy cocktail sauce, to the crisp iceberg lettuce and home-baked brown bread and butter, it was a prawn cocktail like no other.
After ordering a glass of the recommended Kendall-Jackson, a Californian chardonnay (well the establishment is called Hotel du Vin, after all) I chose a main that would not only complement this fabulously fruity wine, but one that seemed apt given the hotel’s location on the quay. The house special, moules frites du Vin marinières, was simply a joy; I am a huge fan of shellfish and seafood, and usually wish the portion was bigger, but the quantity of mussels in the presentation pot was just right. My partner tucked into oven-roast pork belly with meaux mustard Dauphinoise and Agen prune sauce. The different flavours married perfectly; the pork was delicately cooked, and the slab of crackling just divine. I thought my mother produced perfect crackling – I’m going to have to let her down gently.
I have a bit of a creme brulée obsession, and, after squealing with delight at the sight of one on menu (quietly, of course, so as not to disrupt the mellow ambience) and telling my partner that he just had to choose the warm chocolate fondant (as long as I could try some) we were soon in dessert heaven.
After dinner, resident sommelier and duty manager for the evening, Chad, gave us the grand tour of the hotel. Beautiful rooms with wine-themed names, exquisite meeting rooms with impressive oak boardroom tables, and extra-friendly reception staff make this a special place to stay indeed. Most impressive was the wine cellar and tasting room. Beautifully refurbished, with glass viewing walls into the bar area, this is a popular space for private and corporate wine-tasting events.
Everything about Hotel du Vin & Bistro made me want to return, but the excellent service we received was the icing on the cake. Or, indeed, the sugar on the creme brulée (I told you I had an obsession!).
Alix King is a freelance journalist, copywriter and food lover based in Bournemouth. Find out more about her at www.alixking.com.