Review: Hotel du Vin, Church Street, Birmingham

Posted on 16 December 2011
By Angela Johnson
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Arriving in the mouth of Christmas in a large city always has an extra special edge, but Birmingham’s city centre felt alive with anticipation of festive fun as we wended our way through the crowds outside New Street Station.

The city is hosting The Frankfurt Christmas Market, which the biggest in Europe outside Germany, and stretches a kilometre across Victoria Square and the length of New Street itself.

With so many Yuletide log huts huddled together, and an abundance of exuberant blue Christmas lights twinkling above the streets, the UK’s Second City certainly rivals even the capital for conjuring-up the Christmas spirit.

A weekend getaway to Birmingham saw my boyfriend and I book into the largest Hotel du Vin venue in the country, a haven for businessmen and tourists alike, it is housed in an ornate Victorian red brick building, formerly an Eye Hospital.

It may sound an unusual venue, and one might assume an eery atmosphere but, situated neatly inside the revitalised Jewellery Quarter, the building has been transformed with staggering attention to detail throughout its 66 individually styled bedrooms. There’s an overriding feel of exclusivity, sharing only one doorway with the adjacent room rather than trawling endless corridors to locate your boudoir.

The Hotel du Vin welcome is warm and pleasant, with each member of staff’s easy manner encouraging guests to indulge and relax for the duration of your stay. Courteous and genuinely friendly, without being too familiar, it is the opposite experience to engaging with a stuffy concierge or overbearingly friendly receptionist.

Each room is named after a famous wine merchant, we discovered, as we were handed a large leather keyring – a touch of finesse when so many hotels have opted for infuriating swipe key-cards – which bore the name of the late Robert Mondavi, a Californian vineyard operator.

High ceilings, with smooth black, grey and white furnishings create an elegantly understated feel to the room with ample space to spread out on the huge king-size bed covered in Egyptian cotton sheets. With a DVD player and plasma TV in each room, a bottle of red wine ready to share should you so wish, mini bar and nibbles within easy reach (all extras to the bill aside tea or coffee, mind), the ease in which we settled into our surroundings was staggering.

But I always judge a hotel for its bathroom, and given that cleanliness is next to Godliness, this bathroom was Heavenly. A deep free-standing bath and giant monsoon shower (large enough for an entire football team to crowd into, should the mood take you!) are engulfed by crisp, clean white tiles off-set by stainless steel and dark wooden surfaces. Such a huge space, it was hard to believe it was all ours to enjoy, a world away from the cramped bath/shower combo found in rooms of equal cost in rival establishments. By no means were we staying in one of the pricey suites, with the Robert Mondavi room available at £150 a night, the Hotel du Vin is competitive while remaining affordable luxury.

This hotel is no mere place to lay your head, with everything the weary traveller or energetic city visitor might require. A restaurant bistro, real ale pub, gym, spa and luxurious ‘Bubble Lounge’ dedicated to champagne and cocktails for the more discerning guest all quite literally on the doorstep.

With dinner reservations several hours away, we took a five minute stroll back to the German market, indulging in a bratwurst and beer before spending several hours Christmas shopping in the Bull Ring before escaping back to the haven of tranquillity that is Hotel du Vin within a few minutes. Hotel du Vin’s central location is one of its biggest plus points given the solace its walls provide from the hustle and bustle of a busy city outside.

A quick change before a hop, skip and jump downstairs, and we were in the Bistro du Vin. Bustling with diners, its real Parisian feel is a world away from the hotel restaurant one usually encounters (littered with businessmen dining alone and very little atmosphere.) Despite being located to the right of the lobby, a separate entity to the hotel itself, it achieves the authenticity chains such as ‘Café Rouge’ try but desperately fail to evoke.

Quality and simplicity are the watchwords at Bistro du Vin and Head Chef Nick Turner’s menu provides a choice of mouth-watering old favourites along with more unusual concoctions.

Choosing the Pinot Grigio from an extensive wine list, we decided to start with Moules marinieres (£6.50), with generous-sized helpings and a sauce so creamy I couldn’t resist spooning the rest down my gullet, and the Chicken liver parfait, red onion marmalade, pain d’epice (£6.50). Set to a liquid texture, the rich parfait oozed easily over the crispy bread with a sweet complement in the marmalade making for many nods of approval from my sugar-fiend boyfriend.

For main, I tried Classic Roast Partridge with bread sauce and game chips. (£17) which was a quirky and delicious twist on a traditional roast, while my dining companion chose the latest addition to the menu Panfried seabass, cod brandade, lobster jus (£15.95) which, I was assured, was delicately cooked and the “cod mash” was bursting with flavour. But we could not stop raving about our two side orders (all priced at £3.25) of golden-brown Roast potatoes and Honey roast root vegetables – gloriously tasty! For pudding, feeling nicely satisfied but craving something sweet, to round off, we decided to share the Sticky Toffee Pudding with clotted cream (£6.75) and instantly regretted not ordering a pudding apiece!

Early on a Friday evening, but weary from travel, we decided to sample the Pub du Vin, a short trip down a stone staircase from the hotel foyer, and an eye-catching glimpse into the extensive wine cellar. Packed as full as any popular boozer you’d stumble across on a Friday night, with rousing sounds of merriment coming from each corner, we settled into a leather couch to reflect upon the day’s adventures. After several drinks, we decided to retire to our room…but not before visiting the Bubble Lounge for a nightcap. This area of the hotel seems to be reserved for guests, private and exclusive, we settled into comfy lounge chairs and sipped our bedtime cocktails. A choice you may regret come the morning alarm call!

Continental breakfast can be served to your room at a cost of £12.50 or dine in the Bistro, with a hot breakfast served until 11am on Saturdays meant a leisurely start to the day. I plumbed for Omelette with ham and mushroom, fresh and fluffy (just how I like it) while my boyfriend went for a Waffle with bacon and maple syrup (didn’t I say he was a sugar-fiend?). The finest ingredients are freshly prepared, boasts Hotel du Vin’s literature, and it must be said, they taste every bit of it.

Checking out at 11.30am, truly refreshed, we bid a fond farewell to Birmingham city centre to embark on an afternoon of childish gratification at the Cadbury World Factory Tour (read full review here)

9/10 Hotel du Vin = hotel divine! See website for special offers.

N.B There is a £20 charge for valet parking (saving the hassle of finding a local NCP which will generally charge £18 for 24 hours) and giving you peace of mind your vehicle will be carefully locked up overnight.