A dining outpost of the chic hotel chain Hotel Du Vin, this upmarket, wood-panelled French bistro is vast, but, as the evening rolls on, it fills with the chatter of diners. An army of unpretentious waiting staff, sommeliers and managers breezes between tables and the open kitchen. A friendly expert ushers us into a refrigerated, glass-walled recess for charcuterie and cheese and imparts some knowledge, adding a stroke of entertainment to our evening. Prices here are on the wrong side of affordable, but choose your dishes carefully and you can avoid a blowout.
My steak tartare is a piquant ball of mouth-watering meat, finely spiced and a little tart on the tongue. My friend is pleased with her slice of duck terrine. She’s delighted it tastes nothing like cat food – there’s always the risk, apparently. My main of halibut is beautifully cooked with a crisp skin, but is let down by a fatty layer. My pal is a more satisfied with her rabbit; the meat falls tenderly off the bone and its gamey flavour is tempered with a sweet marinade. We plump for a white chocolate cheesecake, but even the sweetest tooth might be turned off by the heavy slab of dark chocolate on top. Because it would be rude not to, we finish with a delectable selection of cheeses served on a rustic board. I want to know exactly what they are, but by this point we can’t pin down any waiting staff to tell us. A quick look at the menu reveals we have six seasonal, artisan cheeses from La Cave à Fromage, including goats cheese, stilton and the venue’s bespoke ‘De Vin’ style, a semi-soft cow’s cheese.
Behind the bar
A behind-the-glass dispenser allows us each to have a glass of wine, a bottle of which would have been beyond our means. I drink a bold, almost syrupy Brunello di Montalcino Riserva Sesti, while my friend sips on an complex Tuscan Sassicaia – heaven.
Starters £4.95-£20; mains £11.95-£60; wines by the glass £4-£85.
The waiters became slack and by the end of the evening, we felt invisible. A shame, since it could have ended so much better.
– REBECCA KENT