Restaurant: Hotel du Vin
Address: The Mount
Average Meal Price: £20-40
Rating: * * * * *
I think. Therefore I du Vin. No, that is not mine – it’s the hotel’s motto. Well, I think, and I would ‘du Vin’ more often if I could afford it, but this bistro is the best in York with prices to match. So start saving. Give up as many things as you can for lent, because the five stars are no joke.
Hotel du Vin is in the area of York known as the Mount, a place students rarely venture, largely because there is nothing there save a pub called the Bay Horse and enough Chinese takeaways to feed an army.
The Hotel has a clear aim: to attract a rich clientele coming to York for the racing season, which kicks off in May. So you would expect it to be reasonably quiet on a Sunday evening in February when I ate there with four friends. It wasn’t – a reflection of how popular the restaurant has become since its November opening.
We were shown to the lounge on arrival and seated on squeaky leather sofas that threatened to bounce you off, such was their cushion overload. Quickly, we were bought the wine-list, a heavy, biblical document which the Sommelier said had over 10,000 wines, although he was probably lying.
The house Chardonnay looked inevitable – it’s not like we could afford anything else – but even that presented us with a choice; “Monsieur…indecipherable French…oaky and not so oaky.” The not-so-oaky (£14.50) turned out well – sweet and persistent, a good start.
Led through to the Bistro itself, we could not help but be impressed by the sheer effort (and expense) that had gone into the interior design. It’s stylish, uncluttered and sharp, with jockey and racehorse wall frescoes that could look clumsy in another environment. Odd to think it was once an orphanage.
To start, I had the pan-fried French quail breast, cauliflower puree and sautéed green grapes (£8.95). The sourness of the grapes balanced the quail perfectly, with the lightness of the cauliflower suiting the course. The artichoke soup (£4.95) was “as you’d expect”, while the “unconventional” smoked haddock chowder had a pastry- top that, mushroom-like, overflowed the bowl.
For the main course I had pan-fried swordfish on a tomato fondue with basmati rice (£14.95). The first mouthful was fine – not-too-oily, almost flaking fish. The second, after dipping the swordfish in the fondue paste, produced this sound: “mmmnnumng”. Incredible. The pork cutlet was accompanied by an excessively large cleaver.
We ordered another bottle of white, a £19 Côtes de Saint Mont at the Sommelier’s recommendation. It was sharper than the not-so-oaky and went ideally with the fish.
The deserts (£6.75) were squeezed in gluttonously. My chocolate and ginger pudding with butterscotch sauce and clotted cream was good, but the cream was disappointingly double – in a jug and pourable.
We returned to the lounge with a bottle of port, our choice, a 10 yr-old Fonseca, annoying the Sommelier who thought we needed blue cheese to counterbalance its strength. The evening was expensive (around £40 each including service), and I will go hungry this week. But go on, save up and, importantly, book early.