Hotel du Vin: lacking a little joie de vivre

When an old chum lets you down, it hurts.

Thus my latest visit to the bistro at Hotel du Vin – a place where I’d previously enjoyed the smooth and friendly service and simple but refined cooking – was painful.
Service was haphazard and slow and the food was dull. It all felt a touch tired.

The service

The staff were a friendly bunch, but we waited ages for our food and drink orders to be taken, then ages longer for wine to arrive.
So much so that we seemed to be in Attendez pour le Vin rather than Hotel du Vin.
Different staff appeared at our table in succession to ask the same questions.

The food and drink

The chicken liver parfait with which I began was pleasant enough – a smooth, gently flavoured thing.
The toasted hazelnut brioche with which it came was too crumbly properly to spread with the paste.
And the tomato chutney was rather watery and contained chunks of tomato too large easily to eat.
Worse: both the parfait and the chutney arrived in silly little jars that were awkward to access.
Across the table, a bowl of Provençal fish soup was a beautifully deep amber colour.
But, again, there were presentational issues for the rouillé-topped crouton came as a long thin baton rather than something simple to eat.
There was also a feeling that the soup itself lacked fishy depth.
The braised lamb breast to which I progressed was good sticky, sweet and succulent meat, with a good balance between fat ad lean.
Peas were nicely firm and white heritage carrots had good earthy notes.
I was less convinced by the mint jelly, which was a touch too sweet. The gravy was fine.
Opposite was a very ordinary – and, at £15.50, very overpriced – salad Niçoise.
There were the key components – flaked tinned tuna, a soft egg, green beans, new spuds, tomatoes and lots and lots of leaves.
But it was all rather dull and predictable and remained largely uneaten.
We drank before our meal a glass each of pink Crémant d’Alsace vibrant with pinot noir red fruits and with our food a carafe of beautifully structured and refreshing grüner veltliner and another of the German red spätburgunder, light and fruity and well-suited to the rich lamb.

The decor

The shabby chic faux French interior, with its posters and empty wine bottles, needs updating. Maybe just a lick of paint here and there. New bric-a-brac, perhaps.
Whatever. Like the menu, it needs an injection of energy.
Nor was I convinced that the door to the corridor leading to the kitchen was left open, giving a less-than-charming outlook from the table at which I sat.

Need to know

We spent £128, including a glass of fizz each and two carafes of wine.
Cut costs with the fixed priced menu – £16.95 for two courses, £19.95 for three.
There are vegetarian options.

Hotel du Vin & Bistro
25 Church St, Birmingham B3 2NR. 0844 567 2346.

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