hotel duv vin

Bistro du Vin – Clerkenwell

Bistro du Vin is the firs standalone restaurant from the people behind Hotel du Vin, and wow, is it pretty. Located at the much-lauded and sadly closed Eastside Inn (rest in peace) on St John Street, they really outdid themselves. It’s sleek, still has that lovely open kitchen and has just enough French influence without being too ‘Cafe Rouge‘. I was invited to come try it out after hearing quite a bit of fuss over its opening.

We got there a bit early and decided to sit at the bar for a quick drink – the Marmalade Martini (£10). It was the perfect aperitif, crisp light and just enough to dazzle the taste buds. It was also served with bar snacks, which generally scores big points in my book.

Sitting down, we took a look at the expansive menu. For the vibe of the place, I’d call it competitively priced. Most starters were around the £7-£10 range, while most mains were around £15 (steaks and lobster obviously quite a bit more). After going back and forth, I decided on the Cornish crab, toasted sourdough (£9.50) for a starter.

Our server told us it was the most popular on the menu, which I’m guessing is more because it’s crab, rather than because it’s a showstopper. It was alright (a bit too cold and bland, it needed quite a bit of lemon to jazz it up), but I wouldn’t repeat the order. The Crispy lambs sweetbreads with sauce charcuterie (£8.75) were a much nicer choice.

Besides being much more pleasing to the eye, these were quite moreish, but then again they were fried, so really, what’s not to love?

Things changed for me when I got my main course, the Scallops and prawns with sauce vierge (£22) with a ‘mixed salad’ and new potatoes on the side for the table (both £3.50), because for all of the nicely priced parts of the menu and the lovely interior, it’s clear that Bistro du Vin need to make a profit. This is the only reason I can see to charge an outrageous £3.50 for a bowl of lettuce (no other ingredients and oddly washed in salt water) and call it a side salad. Even more infuriating was charging a ludicrous £22 for the main, which consisted of exactly three small prawns and three average-sized scallops:

That’s it.

Doing the math(s), it works out to a whopping £3.66 per shrimp and scallop. Outrageous highway robbery. Full stop. To add insult to injury, the prawns were overcooked and the scallops inconsistently cooked. And have I mentioned how difficult it is to cut through something when it’s sitting on a perforated concave shell?! I don’t know what they were thinking. Disappointment incarnate.

Thank god the Saucisson à la lyonnaise, ratte potatoes and Dijon (£15.50) was better.

A much more generous portion, lovely little potatoes and sausage that almost had the distinct flavouring of chorizo. It was a man’s meal, and this pleased DQ (I’m playing around with an alias for the boyfriend. Bear with me) greatly.

Desserts are where Bistro du Vin really shined. We ordered the Chocolate Pave and Strawberry Sundae (both £5.50).

The chocolate was rich, but the portion size helped it be not over the top. Bonus points for the sprinkling of pistachios on top. The sundae reminded me of back home, but Brits would probably call it more of a Knickerbocker Glory as it was dotted with meringues throughout.

I didn’t see what the final bill would be (I was a guest of Bistro du Vin), but we estimated it out at around £120 with water and wine. The wine, by the way, was excellent. They have this clever little top up card that allows you to try some really fantastic wines by the glass that in normal restaurants would only be served by the bottle.

I’ll admit it was a mixed bag. A bit on the pricey side for just a normal meal out, but good for a slightly more special occasion. If you order smart, and stay away from the ludicrous scallops, you should be fine.

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