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City Connect’s wine critic Tom Lewis – the Cambridge Wine Blogger – shares his experience of a lunchtime visit to Hotel Du Vin & Bistro in Cambridge.
Central Cambridge is a beautiful place and a regular feature on the tourist circuit, but rather as a result of this, the quality of restaurants in the centre of town is not generally that great.
However, in recent years, the city has smartened its act up a little and with ever more London commuters living in and around the city, demand for decent restaurants has increased.
A few years ago, hoardings went up in front of a row of late-Victorian townhouses on Trumpington Street just opposite the Fitzwilliam Museum. What emerged shortly afterwards was Cambridge’s newest sophisticated bistro and luxury hotel, the Hotel Du Vin.
Hotel Du Vin is an upmarket chain of over a dozen hotels owned by the Massey Partnership which oddly claims to be a PR firm, albeit specialising in luxury travel and luxury goods. The Hotel Du Vin website talks of ”quintessential British style. Elegant and unpretentious. Combine this with great spirit, wit, an unquestionable devotion to wine, and you have captured the essence of Hotel du Vin”.
I had popped in there a few months ago for a quick, informal business meeting with a contact after work and was very impressed by the quirky and sensitive use of space and the cosy, yet modern and unpretentious feel.
For this visit to the bistro, I was attracted by the homegrown and local menu on offer and wondered what seasonal east Anglian produce might be on offer in late autumn.
One of my principles of eating out is to try something different from what we might normally have at home and more or less as a result of this, our choices for all three courses were made for us. Eschewing the sausages (a staple of CWB dinners), we went for pork pie followed by pollock.
The pork pie was dense and meaty, with a satisfying pastry crust; it was served with garnished leaves and a delicious plum chutney with just the right amount of spice and a great balance between sweet and sharp.
The pollock came with chorizo and a gently spiced tomato sauce with again, a noticeable-but-restrained flavour of cumin, and sat on a small bed of wilted dark green leaves.
As it was lunchtime and we had two small and demanding children to get back home to, we limited ourselves to a couple of glasses of Manzanilla sherry; salty, dry and pungently yeasty, it was also superbly well-balanced with great length and depth of flavour.
When the dessert menu came round, we had already decided and ordered the sticky toffee pudding and chantilly cream without hesitation. Like the rest of the meal, it was simple yet full of delicious flavour and excellently made – the pudding light, just the right amount of rich toffee sauce not to be too cloying and the sweet chantilly cream balancing it all out perfectly.
And thinking back, that balance was the theme of the meal – nothing too flashy or obviously crowd-pleasing, but really well-cooked and well-balanced food kept simple yet sophisticated.
In a city like Cambridge with so much passing trade, it takes a certain degree of confidence, if not bravery, to serve food which impresses not with immediate flashiness but with quiet, understated confidence. As a Cambridge resident – and not a tourist - it’s a decision I appreciate.
A lunchtime meal for two from the Homegrown and Local menu with drinks, service and charitable donation cost £60. Click here to see a sample menu.
Hotel du Vin & Bistro Cambridge
15-19 Trumpington Street
Tel: 01223 227 330
Image reproduced from travelinsider.qantas.com.au
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About the Author: Tom Lewis is a wine writer and educator from Cambridge with a particular interest in Austria and France. His comments have been published on JancisRobinson.com, Local Wine Events, as well as in the local press in his hometown of Cambridge, UK. When it comes to buying wine, Tom’s philosophy is to buy as close as possible to where it comes from. He writes a regular blog, the Cambridge Wine Blogger which launched in 2009 and is a presenter for the Cambridge Food and Wine Society. To read more of Tom’s work, please check out cambridgewineblogger.blogspot.com