Friday, 13 February 2009

Hotel du Vin, Winchester

Yesterday, for May's birthday, we went to the Hotel du Vin in Winchester for dinner, taking advantage of their ridiculously good value "This 2009, think 2000 and wine" deal. The deal is on until the end of March at all Hotel du Vin, and offers 2 courses, a bottle of wine and coffee for 2 people for a jaw droppingly cheap £29. Hotel du Vin is owned by Malmaison (if you haven't stayed in one, make the effort, they're truly great hotels) and it's worth noting that Mal are running the same great deal.

As an ex-fussy eater, I'm still not a massive fan of overly complicated food, or overly formal dining and I'd always had the impression that I wouldn't enjoy eating at the Hotel du Vin as it's something of a Winchester institution, in an historic building and with formal and slightly imposing decor. My mind was put at rest when I discovered that they were owned by Mal, and I have to say that based on our recent experience my fears were totally unfounded.

The service was impeccable and effortless, without being formal, intimidating or intrusive. When I "gracefully" dropped a spoon, someone was on hand in about 5 seconds to pick it up, closely followed by someone else with a new spoon for me on a tray. Obviously I dropped the spoon because I was testing them, not at all through mal-coordination. On the waitress’s advice, we had a main each and a starter and dessert to share. We ordered one side dish and stuck to the house wine, but the sommelier did successfully upsell us two glasses of champagne otherwise we'd have paid just a little over £30 for the whole lot. 

We had gnocchi with provencal sauce to start, then I had confit duck and May had lamb neck plus our side of green beans with pine nuts, and we finished with an excellent crème brulée. The food was consistently excellent and the overall experience comes with a high recommend, especially on the current £29 deal – book your local HdV now!  We particularly enjoyed checking out our fellow diners in the Winchester bistro, who were mostly a bit stuffy and occasionally lolarious irritating, although I think that’s probably just Winchester for you.

The only two things that could have been done better were: 1) on arrival, the girl on the front desk was on the phone and remained so for about 5 minutes while we waited and no other member of staff took care of us. 2) the bill could have been brought quicker, I much prefer the American style of bringing the bill early and saying “take as long as you want”.

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