Twenty years young | Hotel du Vin & Bistro Henley-on-Thames, New Street, Henley-On-Thames, RG9 2BP
Hotel du Vin for me always reminds me of Brighton – the only branch I knew of and the place everyone wanted to stay. Little did I know there’s actually 15 of them, soon to be 16 as the first outpost in London is set to open in Wimbledon next year. But did you know the original Hotel du Vin opened in Winchester two decades ago?
They’re currently celebrating their 20th anniversary with a great value menu inspired by dishes served way back in 1994, so expect a touch of nostalgia. We headed to HDV Henley, not too far from the lovely Sanctum on the Green. The Henley building was once a former brewery, the rooms are housed in a cluster of historic listed buildings with original beams, metal girders and brickwork, cosy, quaint and very English.
As per usual after any car journey of considerable length, we arrived weary and in need of a drink – a hotel named after wine couldn’t have been more appropriate. Smiles all round from every member of staff that we encountered, from the poor guy who vallet parked our car in the rain to the barman who knocked up a couple of great cocktails. We were well and truly enveloped in good hospitality.
Our room was named Brakspears Brewery and was up a fair few flights of stairs – there’s no lift here purely because it’s a listed building. Hotel du Vin is famed for roll top baths, ours was backed by a huge walk in shower with an odd metal tray, I felt like I was about to be slaughtered.
Our bed was comfy with good TV positioning – so often this can be an afterthought. We don’t have a TV in our bedroom at home so I always relish snuggling up in bed watching a film (or the X Factor in this case) when we’re away. There’s a well stocked mini bar and Nespresso machine, we had all the essentials apart from firm pillows – luckily I always bring my own due to having a bad neck, I think Ade will be following suit. I’m sure that, if we were staying another night, the hotel would have sorted it out.
The cosy snug was out of action for refurbishment so we sipped our pre-dinner drinks in the Champagne Bar that glistened by candlelight. Outside looked pretty, more twinkly lights and a cute cigar hut that made us almost wish we still smoked. The 20th anniversary menu finishes at 7pm which allowed us to be back up in our room for the X Factor live show – perfect. Slight problem was that we were still full from a late lunch due to being stuck in traffic.
The bistro at Hotel du Vin is the heart of the hotel, so much so you even have to trapse though it to get to your room which is quite weird but also makes it more homely. A sizeable room with an almost colonial feel, leaves surround the window frames, wine memorabilia and oil paintings of nudes adorned the walls. The sommelier pointed us in the direction of the pricier wines and when I say pricier, I mean over £100 a bottle. We edged him towards the more reasonable choices and he selected a light Valdivieso Single Valley Lot Pinot Noir 2012 £31.
To start, I predicted Ade would go for the Caeser salad with anchovy toast and I was right. It was a sizeable portion, the kind that would normally delight, typical! The toast had a subtle anchovy taste, nothing overwhelming and the nutty cheese was of good quality, plenty of it too. My Bresaola, lemon and rocket salad was certainly a lighter option, delicate slithers of sweet air-cured beef, pepper rocket dressed in a lightly scented oil.
I lost the prediction game with Ade’s choice of main course – he opted for a hearty bowl of Risotto Primavera. Creamy with just the right amount of bite and more than enough peas. I had what I thought he’d go for – Pan-fried chicken breast with chorizo, thyme, garlic and orange lentils. I guess the last word put him off, I’ve been plying him with cholesterol-reducing beans and pulses for too long now, he’s had enough. I don’t normally order chicken breast in a restaurant as it can be disappointingly dry and boring. Not the case here, it came on the bone and was juicy with a crunchy skin, it just needed a touch more seasoning.
Dessert options were all pretty rich, I went for the lightest sounding option – Chargrilled bananas, toffee sauce and ice cream. Plus it had the added bonus of being a little like a banana split which is a pudding that I’ve been hankering over lately. Ade had the Bread and butter pudding with rum and raisin ice cream, he said the addition of chocolate inside ruinied the pudding for him, sounds like an improvement to me! I think he expected the same bread and butter pudding that his nan used to make but it’s virtually imposible to replicate nostalgia.
After a good night’s sleep (well, for me as I wasn’t taking any chances and bought my own pillow) it was time to eat again, breakfast was back down in the bistro and is considerately served until 11am at the weekends. The ‘Country Table’ – a pleasing spread of cereals, pastries, freshly squeezed juice etc awaited us, along with an additional cooked breakfast menu (£16.95 including anything from the ‘Country Table’.)
I took a chance on the Healthy breakfast – spinach and egg white omelette, carrot and ginger sausage, confit tomatoes and grilled mushrooms. Ginger and carrot sausages could have been a disaster but luckily weren’t, I loved them and the omelette was perfect, almost as good as the ones Ade cooks (it’s all he cooks). Ade was continuing to enjoy his ‘treat’ non-diet days and had the indulgent Brioche French toast served with smoked bacon and maple syrup. I appreciated the fact that there was music playing in the bistro in the morning, all too often breakfast is a quiet sombre affair, a soundtrack got us off to a good start to the day. We headed off home via a wander through the town and a pit-stop in Bray, now this is what lazy weekends are all about.
Hotel du Vin & Bistro Henley-on-Thames,
New Street, Henley-On-Thames, RG9 2BP
Telephone: 08447 364 258
Opening hours: Breakfast – Mon – Fri: 7am – 10am
Sat – Sun: 8am -11am Bank Holidays: 8am – 11am
Lunch: Mon – Sat: 12pm – 2.30pm Sunday Brunch: 12pm – 4pm
Dinner: Mon – Thu: 5.30pm – 10pm Fri – Sat: 5.30pm – 10.30pm Sun: 6pm – 9.30pm
Nearest station: Henley-On-Thames (9 mins walk)
We stayed as guests of Hotel du Vin, this does not affect our review in any way.
We always write with complete honesty.
For more details about the 20th anniversary menu, click here
2 COURSES with a glass of house wine £16.95.
3 COURSES with a glass of house wine £20.00. Available at Birmingham, Brighton, Bristol, Cambridge, Cheltenham, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Harrogate, Henley-on-Thames, Newcastle, Poole, St Andrews, Tunbridge Wells and York.
TERMS AND CONDITIONS: Excluding Hotel du Vin Glasgow. Available for lunch Monday to Saturday and for Dinner Monday to Friday pre 7pm. The offer cannot be used for private dining. One glass of wine per person when dining from the menu on 2 or 3 courses.
Book the 20 Days to Celebrate’ package! Enjoy a bottle of fizz and toast to 20 great years. Overnight accommodation, breakfast and a complimentary bottle of Champagne is available at all Hotel du Vins for reservations in Superior rooms for stays from 20th November to 10th December 2014.