Bistro du Vin is (as far as we can tell) the only non-hotel restaurant in the UK-wide Hotel du Vin chain. Setting up shop near Smithfield Market where Eastside Inn once garnered critics' appreciation but apparently not enough custom to stay in the game, the French (with comfort food augments such as burgers) restaurant joins the Clerkenwell competition to try and steal a slice of the market share from nearby notables St John, Smiths of Smithfield, Hix etc (etc etc).
Indeed, with the addition of the bistro, this corner of EC1 is starting to have a particularly Gallic air with Club Gascon (their Cellar and Comptior too), Bleeding Heart, Cafe du Marche and more all Frenchifying the area, usually to delicious effect.
We've got to hand it to the du Vin folks for making the frontage a little more accessible than it was as Eastside and doing their best with the interior design to make for a comfy and accommodating vibe: there's a “Whisky Snuggle” meeting room, a windowed wall of marbled slabs to contemplate in the Butcher's Room private dining area and the bustle of an open kitchen adds a bit of theatre to any visit. Service is prompt and helpful (yes we were there upon invitation but we noticed how well paying guests were treated during our dine). And, most importantly, the food's great. We left Bistro du Vin with a strong feeling that we'd like to return soon and that the restaurant would be reliable enough to take just about anyone there for a solid meal in a pleasant atmosphere.
The menu might not be as inventive or inspired as its predecessor's, but that doesn't mean it's bad… and their commitment to “homegrown and local” suppliers is commendable. English asparagus (get while they're in season!) with sauce ravigote (£7.95) is delightful and crispy lamb's sweetbreads with sauce charcutiere (£8.75) a carnivorous joy. The steak tartare (£15.95 with pommes paille as a main or £7.50 as a starter) is perhaps the best we've had in London. Cornflake ice cream, sourdough bread and impressive cocktails such as the Deluxe Manhattan (Van Winkle's Special Reserve, Martini Rosso and Angostura bitters, £12.50) do not underwhelm. And of course with du Vin in the name, you'd be right to reckon they offer a wide selection of wine. Londonist was impressed with the knowledge shown - from the sommelier and servers alike - regarding the lengthy wine list and which quaff would go well with which dishes. We were certainly pleased with our bottle of Le Vieux Donjon, Chateauneuf-du-Pape (£73) which complemented both our meaty and veggie plates.
It ain't cheap but an affordable-ish splurge (especially compared to much of the St John Street lot) can be enjoyed here. We'd equate our experience at Bistro du Vin with those at a number of London restaurants charging far higher prices. Recommended!
Bistro du Vin is located at 38-42 St John Street, EC1M 4AY. Find out more at www.hotelduvin.com/bistros.
Disclaimer: Londonist visited Bistro du Vin upon invitation of the restaurant.