We arrived in Cheltenham quite fittingly on Grand National Day – as the town basked in the sunshine we reflected on its horse racing history. We came to review Hotel du Vin, Cheltenham, one of a small chain of boutique hotels situated in historic locations across the UK.
Hotel du Vin promises something special – ‘luxury chic hotels that are unique spaces but also recognisable in the classic du Vin style’. We have to say that Cheltenham`s du Vin reflects this promise. Located in the fashionable Montpellier district in a beautiful 100 year old building, the reception area emulates a Georgian drawing room with heavy wooden furniture and framed prints.
Check-in staff were courteous and escorted us to our room. The bedroom was extremely well thought out, offering both cosy and luxury ambience. A bare brick feature wall, wooden beam and sloped ceilings created a rustic feel enhanced by soft furnishings in beiges and warm reds. A sumptuous bed with Egyptian cotton linen was welcome after a long journey. In contrast the bathroom had a contemporary minimalist décor. Designers had concentrated on offering a superb finish and top range fixtures and fittings, including a walk-in monsoon shower and free standing claw-foot bath.
After relaxing in the room we made our way downstairs for dinner. The décor in the lounge and bar reflected the hotel`s location and its passion for wine and horses, with equine paintings and bottle themed art work adorning the walls. Comfortable sofas and soft lamplight enhanced the feeling of being in an exclusive gentleman`s club, circa 1900.
Making our way downstairs to the bistro, we took in the impressive spiral stair case and showpiece chandelier suspended from the high ceiling. Hundreds of crystal-cut wine glasses formed the chandelier and an interesting talking point. Opulent touches such as these added to the experience.
The bistro impressed immediately, a warm atmosphere was created thanks to ambient lighting and great attentio to detail. Dried hops adorned the window frames, candlelit wooden tables sat upon stripped wooden floorboards, and hundreds of wine bottles lined the shelves. The ambience was reminiscent of a French bistro and this was further enhanced by French waiting staff.
Service was attentive without being obtrusive, and a knowledgeable wine waiter evidence that the hotel`s promise of quality wine is taken seriously. We picked a faultless Merlot from the expansive wine list, no easy choice with over 400 bottles on offer. My partner opted for a light starter of pear, beetroot and mozzarella salad- this was beautifully presented but lacked depth of flavour. My choice of Moules Mariniere was better- tender and well seasoned and complimented by rustic breads. For main course, my partner chose a char-grilled rib eye steak with pepper sauce and pomme frites. This was simply presented in a French style with accompanying sauce in a small copper pan, a lovely touch. The steak was expertly cooked and portion size was perfect. My own choice was of boat-caught cod fillet of the day with new potatoes on a bed of French peas. It looked fantastic but lacked seasoning. Our dessert was a banana and toffee cheesecake with a caramel sauce. Its richness and delicious flavour was complemented by good espresso coffee.
After dinner we spent some time in the lounge admiring the artwork. Photos of race day at Cheltenham added to the local character and tied in with the racehorse theme of the paintings. The hotel sits well in its historic location, and if it was a racehorse it would surely be a thoroughbred that would do extremely well in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
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