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Widely touted as one of Cheltenham’s best-loved destinations, Holly Aurelius-Haddock discovers why a visit to Hotel du Vin is a dead cert…
There’s something about the bold Hotel du Vin aesthetic that you can’t help but admire. In the world of the modern hotel where light, space and clean lines reign supreme, its dark colours, gilt edges and heavy upholstery stand out in stark contrast. It’s a style of décor that’s unflinchingly confident, seemingly uninterested in seeking the approval of its audience.
Despite a loosely unified look and feel throughout the various venues across the UK, each retains something quite individual worth experiencing in its own right. This is partly down to the buildings themselves, all of them interesting conversions, whether it be a Georgian townhouse, a warehouse, a hospital or a brewery.
Formerly the Carlton Hotel and located in the chic Montpellier district, the Cheltenham hotel offers 49 bedrooms and suites, all decorated in the inimitable Hotel du Vin style. Think roll top-baths, Venetian blinds and well, the kind of fixtures and fittings you’d expect to see by spying through the keyhole of Daniel Craig’s house. That’s when he’s playing a current-day James Bond, that is.
Visitors will also discover various nods to the spa town’s world-famous horse races dotted around the place, including a playful rocking horse and mesmerising equine portraiture in the reception area.
A showpiece spiral staircase complete with a stunning wine glass chandelier promises to turn heads, creating an effortless sense of occasion and luxury to those who bask in its warm glow. And in case you want even more reasons to drop by, the hotel also features a trademark bistro, Health du Vin spa treatment rooms, extensive al fresco and private dining, bar and cigar shack.
Under the tutelage of Head Chef, Paul Mottram, Bistro du Vin lies at the heart of the hotel, boasting a French-inspired, elegant and informal setting for anything from a light bite to a truly opulent feast. As part of a ‘homegrown and local’ philosophy, diners can experience some of the finest produce that the region has to offer with local delights from Madgett’s Farm Poultry, Gloucester Old Spot pigs, Herefordshire veggies and Cornish seafood.
Add to this an extensive and eclectic wine list carefully selected by Head Sommelier Roberto Zanca, and it’s not hard to see why the hotel’s winning formula saw them awarded AA Four Star status shortly after opening back in 2007.
The evening got off to a strong start with a pork and pistachio terrine with pickles, a deliciously rustic offering which required an extra basket of homemade bread to accommodate such a hearty serving. My guest opted for oysters Rockefeller, a Franco-American creation made up of 19 ingredients, including Absinthe. The dish allegedly takes its name from one of the first diners to try it back in late 1800s, who upon first taste, declared: “Why, this is as rich as Rockefeller!” My guest’s lightly- cooked and intensely aromatic starter certainly paid fitting tribute to this New-Orleans masterpiece.
Next on the agenda was a confit duck leg, sausage and white bean cassoulet for me and a classic roast partridge with game chips and break sauce for my guest. The former dish was France itself: full of flavour, the best quality ingredients and delightfully simple in essence. The latter far more British in composition, but no less wonderful for being so. The earthy flavours of the game were expertly played off against the rich bread sauce, the game chips flagging up an evolutionary kitchen capable of pleasing the discerning palette.
According to Paul: “I fervently believe this to be the best menu we have ever produced, due in no small part to our homegrown heroes…Think of it as a celebration of all that’s great about the Cotswold region and its amazing people.”
A tempting invitation to judge for yourself if ever I heard it.