Hotel du Vin and Bistro, York – Hotel Review
By Laura O’Donnell
Owned by the company which also has the Malmaison brand, the Hotel du Vin chain of 14 boutique hotels claims to be ‘simple yet sophisticated’ and ‘elegant yet unpretentious’. On arrival at the York hotel it seems like HdV’s brand-speak isn’t just that. First impressions of the hotel are classy not fussy (wonder if they’ll start using that strapline?). It’s all dark wooden beams and friendly Yorkshire welcome.
The hotel is just a 10-15 minute walk from the train station on The Mount and, therefore, a great location for anyone wanting to explore this beautiful city. the hotel itself is a Grade II-listed building dating back to the early 19th century.
The ‘unpretentious’ part needs questioning a bit when it is apparent we are staying in ‘Pol Roger’, a brand of champagne and the name of our room. All 44 rooms have names not numbers, which could be pretentious or kinda cute, I suppose, depending on your inclination. But we needn’t worry too much. ‘Ol’ Rog’ himself is cosy and inviting and not pretentious at all. The room isn’t huge (although the hotel does have a number of luxurious-looking suites available). A lumbering sofa rests at the end of the bed making it feel quite short on space. But the bed is super-comfy, making up for the fact that the robes are not.
“Who isn’t a sucker for a heated floor?”
Rog leads out onto a small balcony, which unfortunately doesn’t have the best view of the back of the hotel, or the best smell (slightly offensive fumes from nearby takeaways and the hotel restaurant looms large). Rog’s faults are immediately forgiven though, when he reveals his fabulous bathroom. It comes complete with heated floor and monsoon shower. Yes Rog, we know we are fickle, but who isn’t a sucker for a heated floor? Particularly on a wet and miserable April evening in the north? The joy of this discovery is so great that cracking open the minibar beers (at nearly £5 each a pop) seems like the only thing to do given the circumstances.
So far, so good. Expensive beer but toasty feet. Once beer is drunk and feet are definitely on the warm side, it is time for dinner at the hotel’s Bistro. Now it could just have been the fact that it is a dreary midweek, but the atmosphere in the Bistro was staid to say the least. There are people in there, eating and chatting, but tones from the ‘mature’ clientele are hushed. The décor – now definitely bordering on the fussy side with an equestrian theme and the overall vibe of a stately home library – seems a bit stuffy.
“Looks good but leaves a bad taste”
If the quality of the food matchs the slightly stifling grandeur of the setting, then I won’t mind feeling like I’ve been invited for tea at an old and very rich relative’s house. As it is, the three-course meal is underwhelming. A starter of scallops and pea puree could be a hit but is overpowered by greasy pancetta. And while you can’t go too far wrong with asparagus, which is crunchy and fresh, the main courses are a let-down.
Mussels in a giant pot and a non-descript sauce (which I think is meant to be white wine and parsley) are tasteless. The accompanying frites are hard and overcooked. The salmon looks good but leaves a bad taste and is drenched in grease. On the plus side, the cheeseboard dessert – which has a selection of around ten to choose from, is an absolute dream for any cheese fiend. It is top-notch and the staff are fantastic; attentive and friendly without being over-the-top.
“Could be the perfect base for a romantic weekend break”
After a brilliant night’s sleep back in ‘Rog’, it is back down to the Bistro for breakfast. Given the disappointment of the previous night, there is some level of apprehension. But thankfully the HdV Bistro does breakfast a lot better than dinner. Or perhaps they just had a bad night. Fresh fruit and cereals, followed by a choice from the made-to-order menu. Eggs Benedict become Eggs Florentine on request. They are tasty with plenty of fresh spinach. Plus, the kippers and poached eggs are an old-school triumph.
It’s a shame that dinner didn’t live up to expectation as, all in all, a stay at the Hotel du Vin could be the perfect base for a romantic weekend break. If you’re under 40, it’s not a place you’d stay at for a weekend away with friends. But for an ultra-comfortable, relaxing break in a brilliant location, the HdV is hard to beat. Just consider your dinner options carefully.
Hotel du Vin, 89 The Mount, York YO24 1AX
Tel: 0844 748 9268