Beefed up at Bistro du Vin Soho
I am a regular visitor to Hotel du Vin bistro in Henley and have generally enjoyed the food there, so I was delighted to get the chance to visit one of the Bistro du Vin restaurants in London (there is another one based in Clarkenwell). I was also curious to see what similarities and what differences there were at Bistro du Vin to the restaurant at the Henley HdV.
Bistro du Vin itself is close to the Shaftesbury avenue end of Dean Street, with a bar area to the front, a main restaurant area and then a lounge area to the rear of the restaurant that I am told is used for overflow from the main restaurant and for private parties. My initial impression was good, although our pre-booked table was rather uncomfy, being (literally) just behind the meat slicer! But the staff were happy enough to move us.
Neither the Bistro du Vin restaurant nor bar was packed on a Tuesday evening, but gently buzzing. The staff were cheerful and attentive throughout without being obsequious. My experience of Hotel du Vin in Henley is that service can be a little surly, so that was a welcome surprise. I had a chance to look round the excellent cheese store and was told the cheeses come from La Cave a Fromage in South Kensington. There was a really interesting range of cheeses on offer including the infamous ‘Stinking Bishop’ (Britain’s smelliest cheese) and I am only sorry that I wasn’t able to try the flight of cheese and wines on offer.
I really enjoy good meat and fish cooked simply, so choosing from the Bistro du Vin menu was quite a challenge. The main courses were all very tempting. The range of special grills from the ‘Jasper Grill’ were amazing (and the explanation of the special breed meats from Donald Russell on the back quite fascinating). And, the special, a casserole of Hare in red wine, was spot on for the time of year. I ended up with a classic menu choice, oysters to start and a Donald Russell fillet steak for my main course. I had been seriously tempted by the very reasonably priced Onglet that the people on the table next door were eating, and also by the Steak and Oyster pie, served, stargazy style with an oyster shell providing a steam vent. But, I wanted to see how good the meat could be!
My oysters were served on their own ice bed and were perfectly fresh. It might have been nice to have been offered tabasco or a chili sauce of some kind, but it wasn’t necessary because these were succulent and flavoursome in their own right. My companion had the creamy brie salad and was not disappointed with the quality of the cheese, although I’d devoured most of the bread while I was waiting for him to arrive!
My steak arrived in style, with a small copper pan of bernaise sauce to the side. It was well worth the price – and cooked immaculately as you can see from the photograph. So tender you almost didn’t need the steak knife! My companion ordered the Hare, the Special of the Day which looked and tasted wonderful. I believe it was a mixture of leg meat and sweetbreads, providing a real contrast of texture with a deep gamey flavour and accompanied by a rich red wine jus.
For the most part we drank a reasonably priced Argentinian red wine, a Bonarda (which is a vine that originated in Italy). As the sommelier explained, it was a light and fruity drink but really very pleasant and priced at £20 a bottle. I did succumb to a glass of HdV champagne with the oysters, but that’s almost a mandatory for me!
After the main courses I really couldn’t have eaten a full dessert. So I opted for the small sorbet cup, which is priced at just £2.50 and provides an excellent palate cleanser.
My companion chose the crème brulee, which appeared looking a little more like crema catalan, in a flattish serving dish and which he described as a little more custardy and full of vanilla than he’d expected. I don’t think he was unhappy though.
It was an excellent evening and I will certainly return to Bistro du Vin to try more of the menu options. The onglet, the cheese and charcuterie are all on my list, together with more of the fabulous wine list!
Bistro du Vin
36 Dean Street, W1D 4PS
020 7432 4800