Ahead of Valentine’s Day Mrs Bite thought she would scope out a suitable recommendation, and the classic French Bistro du Vin fits the bill.
I invite my (half-French) friend Simone and her response after our meal was “ a proper French bistro.”
The bistro is part of the Hotel du Vin and Malmaison family. The former was founded in 1994 by Gerard Basset and Robin Hutson and the name referred to Basset’s credentials as a sommelier. Malmaision was formed by Scots hotel entrepeneur Ken McCulloch. Despite being sold on a couple of times to larger companies the chain retains a boutique feel and unique character. Every aspect of the business feels bespoke and polished be it the fixtures and fittings or customer service.
The bistro exudes a casual atmosphere, offering a menu featuring French classics. Think Steak Tartare and Beef Cheek Bourguignon, Pot au Chocolate, and Crème Brûlée. Patrons can select from a variety of menus, such as the tasting menu with wine pairings, Prix Fixe, and Afternoon Tea, or take advantage of the Chateaubriand with a bottle of Malbec deal which would be perfect for a Valentine’s treat.
During our January visit, Simone and I are mindful of our calorie intake, and we appreciate the convenience of having the calorie count displayed alongside each dish on the A La Carte menu. I indulge in the Coquilles a la Lyonnaise, scallops with pancetta elegantly presented in their shells, while Simone savours deliciously creamy Sautéed Mushrooms on Sourdough
For the main course, I relish the whole roast Sea Bream, accompanied by the classic French side of Haricots Vert, served on a bed of tender fennel, lemon, and olives. Meanwhile, Simone has delicate and fresh Trout Grenoblaise, complemented by brioche croutons, fine beans, lemon, capers, and beurre noisette. She appreciates the sauce's light touch that enhances the fish's natural flavor as opposed to overwhelming it.
Desserts captivate our palates in a manner only achievable by the French. My caramelized Basque cheesecake, with its delightful unctuous texture, is served alongside half a poached pear, a drunken fig, and an apricot, creating a truly sublime experience. Simone indulges in Black Forest Chocolate mousse, accompanied by Griottine Cherries and a Black Cherry Coulis, and praises its full-on cacao-y decadence.
Wine is in Bistro du Vin's DNA and the list is described as "passionate, but not pretentious; excited, but not elitist". Simone and I choose a glass of Champagne each but all regions are represented and there are plenty of menu items for ideal old-school food and wine pairings; fish with Muscadet, Bordeaux with cheese, and Goat's Cheese with Provence Rosé.
Bistro du Vin is a haven in the old town comprising outdoor seating with a heated area, a whisky lounge, private tasting spaces for food and wine, and the bistro so it's ideal for any occasion, not just Valentine's Day. (S. Wilson)