Bistro du Vin (CLOSED)
Time Out says
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Please note, Bistro du Vin has now closed. Time Out Food editors, February 2019.
The Hotel du Vin chain built its reputation in the late ’90s, and is acclaimed as a bijou collection of tasteful boutique hotels in prime locations. It combines comfortable rooms with the guarantee of good cooking and a great wine list – no mean feat in Tunbridge Wells, or even Brighton.
This Bistro du Vin in Clerkenwell is a spin-off of the ever-expanding company, sans the hotel rooms. Yet it’s still recognisably HdV: a British aesthetic with an Anglo-French menu that’s good but not too challenging.
The group’s wine list is now masterminded by Ronan Sayburn, one of the country’s top sommeliers, and both the price-conscious and the wine nerds will find much to enjoy on this list. There’s even a self-service wine dispenser in the bar area, a mini-version of those card-operated dispensers you now find in several London off-licences and wine bars.
Heavy investment has been made in kitchen equipment, such as the Josper grill which seared our small onglet steak. The accompanying fries were thin and crisp, everything present and correct.
Black bream was also nicely cooked, served with robust cuts of tender fennel bulb. Seafood and meat dominate the menu, with few choices if you’re vegetarian. Side orders include roasted beef bones, cleft to allow the perfectly gelatinous marrow to be scooped out with a spoon.
The main courses were better than the starters. A tough pastry base was topped with anchovies then large portions of sliced but almost raw and mealy-textured tomato. A dish to showcase these fruit would work better if the tomatoes were in their summer prime, which – it being spring – they were not.
A disc of Cornish crab was a better choice, moulded to resemble a rice cake at first glance, but tasting reassuringly fresh and of the sea.
Many aspects of the Bistro du Vin are impressive. The service was faultlessly efficient on our visit, the wine list excellent, and it’s a good-looking place which tries to cater
for a range of occasions, from the business meeting (there’s a private room styled as the ‘chef’s table’) to people just popping in for a glass of wine.
With a menu dominated by steaks, and safe options such as foie gras and liver parfait, lobster bisque or chopped chicken salad, it’s not exactly at the culinary cutting edge.
But Eastside Inn, the innovative, acclaimed but expensive restaurant that preceded it on this site, lasted barely 16 months. Bistro du Vin looks likely to be filling glasses for much longer.
38-42 St John Street
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