Please note: our stay and all food and drink at Hotel du Vin & Bistro Bristol were received free of charge, but this in no way impacted on our opinion. We were not obliged to write a positive review, and the venue did not see this review before it was put up on the site.
Hotel du Vin Bristol, on Narrow Lewins Mead, is a building steeped in history. There’s a plaque in the courtyard detailing the history of the building, and it’s well worth a read. The first sugar house on the site was built back in 1728, and closed as a refinery in 1831. After lying empty for 11 years, it was reconstructed by The Alternative Hotel Company (the company from which Hotel du Vin stemmed), and reopened as the Grade II listed Hotel du Vin Bristol in late 1999.
It’s a beautiful courtyard, too – set back from the main road, a little oasis of calm. After the small amount of parking out the front (bookable on a first-come, first-served basis), it’s the first introduction you get to the hotel premises, walking through to the far end to the reception desk.
While the glass door directly in front of the front desk isn’t accessible, there is a step-free entrance through the door to the bar and round (and a lift to the upper floors, too). The guy on the front desk when I arrived was smiling and friendly, interacting with the baby, and double-checking the timing of our reservation for dinner when he noticed it on the system.
He asked if I’d stayed before – and when I said no, he asked if I wanted help with the pushchair or our bags (Chris wouldn’t join us till later on), walked us to the lift and showed us directly to our room.
That room was Laroche – named after the Domaine Laroche in the Chablis region of France. Every single room is named after a wine producer, with a bottle of that vineyard’s wine in a lit, glass-fronted shelf just outside. It was lovely to see a framed letter on the wall inside the room from the vineyard owner too – a nice touch. It’s one of 40 rooms in the hotel, ranging from standard doubles to suites, and huge split-level rooms with open plan bathrooms on a mezzanine floor.
That framed letter was just one of the many lovely touches we’d experience throughout our stay. The HdV staff member opened the door and talked me through where everything was, explaining that the bottled water (both still and sparkling), the fresh milk in the mini bar, the tea, coffee and biscuits and the pods for the Nespresso machine were all complimentary. And on a hot day, it was great to walk into a room where the air conditioning had already been turned on ready for us.
There were a few little extras that we could have paid for if we wanted: a basket of sweet and savoury snacks, the contents of the mini bar, a half bottle of wine – and the option of 24-hour room service.
It’s a truly beautiful, spacious room, with multiple wardrobes featuring an iron, hairdryer, trouser press and extra towels and slippers (as well as the aforementioned mini bar plus cups, kettle and glasses) by the door. The sofa with plump cushions and a sizeable coffee table gave us somewhere to sit and relax, a desk by the window housed the Nespresso machine, and the huge bed with its handsprung mattress and fine Egyptian cotton linen was definitely the focal point, backing onto a feature papered wall.
We’d asked for a cot for the baby, and a travel cot with bedding was already there when we arrived – along with extra blankets if needed, plus a towel for him. We peeked through the window and the views was of neighbouring rooves – not the most impressive sight visually, but a glimpse of Bristol’s architectural history.
The layout of the room seemed a little odd…neither the sofa nor the bed was in the ideal position for watching the plasma TV, while the design of the bed – with its chunky wooden frame – seemed incongruous with the rest of the room. The baby loved it, though…
The bathroom was incredible. Double doors opposite the bed opened out to a stunning rolltop clawfoot bath, while behind it was hidden a shower that can be accessed from both sides of the room, which could easily fit ten people. It was powerful, too – and along with the fluffy robes and L’Occitane toiletries, it’s clear that the bathrooms at Hotel du Vin Bristol are designed with relaxation and luxury in mind.
Our first customer service challenge came when Chris arrived and discovered that the beds featured feather pillows (he’s allergic) – but a quick call to reception and equally comfortable and supportive synthetic replacements were brought up super-promptly.
We’d booked an early dinner in for 6.30 (the Hotel du Vin Bristol restaurant opens at 5.30pm during the week) to fit in with the small person – and while the bar was quiet, we weren’t the only ones in the relaxed yet formal-looking restaurant at that time. We asked for a highchair on arrival, and it was brought over and set up for us straight away.
We dined from Hotel du Vin Bristol’s new prix fixe menu, attractively priced at £24.95 for 3 courses. I started with a tomato and watermelon gazpacho – mainly tomato but with added freshness from the watermelon, smooth in texture and unexpectedly spicy. The chunky croutons were sprinkled with Wyfe of Bath cheese, but in all honesty, the flavour was a little lost.
Chris’ beetroot and gin-cured salmon was more the latter than the former, its cure very delicate. Thickly sliced and quite floral, it was served with a well-balanced horseradish cream that gave a great kick.
I went veggie for my main: a firm-fleshed courgette stuffed with cherry tomatoes and finely chopped carrot and onion, with plenty of soft cheese bubbling away on top (including the rind, for added flavour). The accompanying herby couscous was very oily and pesto-like in flavour, with various diced veggies flecked throughout.
Chris’ char-grilled poussin was coated in a sticky, sweet Bristol Beer Factory BBQ glaze: he could taste the beer, but said it would be enjoyed by non-beer drinkers too. The skin was crisp, not overly oily and the meat fell off the bone…perfect! He wasn’t too impressed by the pommes pailles, though: while they looked pretty and were nicely seasoned, they were quite hard to eat and he’d have preferred French fries instead.
The desserts were amazing. My Bristol Mess, topped with half a huge fresh strawberry, included airy and lightly sweetened cream, incredible melt-in-the-mouth meringue pieces and strawberries macerated in a Bristol Syrup Company concoction of strawberries, cider and balsamic vinegars and a touch of black pepper giving a lovely tang.
On the other side of the table, the lemon posset was velvety smooth and tangy, served with a lavender “shortbread” that was more of a thin, very crunchy caramelised biscuit, the two flavours pairing in perfect harmony.
Service throughout was a bit hit and miss. The highchair was set up for us and the team interacted with the baby…but we weren’t asked if we wanted to see the drinks menu, we weren’t offered a second round of drinks, and my dessert dish was nearly whisked away while I was still eating.
We retreated back to the room to find it lovely and dark – they’ve clearly invested in decent curtains. And it was a great night’s sleep with no interruptions: the firm mattress surprisingly comfortable, the pillows offering a decent amount of neck support. After a coffee in our room from the Nespresso machine, we headed down to check out Hotel du Vin Bristol’s breakfast offering.
Guests have three options to choose from: cereal or toast, juice and hot drinks for £8.95, served to the table; the Country Table with toast and tea or coffee for £13.95, or the second offering plus one hot breakfast choice for £16.95. Of course, we went for the third choice, starting with being able to fill up on juices (including some in cute little glass bottles), natural or flavoured yoghurt and various toppings, mini boxes of cereal, fruit, cheeses, meats, toast, bircher pots and plenty of pastries.
On the other side of the table, the choice was thickly sliced sweet and sticky brioche French toast, complemented by salty bacon which could have done with being a tad crispier. For me, the galette complète: a thin crêpe topped with a sprinkling of thick, juicy ham chunks and bubbling melted Gruyère, topped with a runny yolked-fried egg.
We were impressed that check-out time at HdV Bristol isn’t until 11am – so while Chris headed off to work, the boy and I lingered a little longer, taking advantage of having some time to let our food settle before packing up to leave. And leave we did, with a smile and greetings for the day from the lovely people on the front desk, who had been nothing but helpful throughout.
Hotel du Vin Bristol is a beautiful historic building with stunningly designed rooms, accommodating and charming hotel staff and a restaurant and bar whose style match the place’s look and feel beautifully. Room prices start from £109 per night, and there are always special offers to be had. Well worth considering if you’re looking for a centrally located Bristol hotel that’s relaxing, steeped in history and suitable for anything from a family break to a special occasion.