SOPHIE RAE packs her unwavering appetite and head’s to Bristol’s very own touch of French fancy
Not many would argue that us Brits have an unrivalled Sunday food tradition – the roast. Whether carnivore or veggie, we work all week, looking forward to that promised heap of roasted, caramelised deliciousness, lashings of gravy and a golden, puffed-up Yorkie.
But once in a while, as the lunchtime hordes descend and the family squabbles begin over who gets the crispiest roast spud, who pinched the last of the mint sauce and who still doesn’t eat parsnips (it hasn’t changed in 12 years!), I dream of somewhere that will welcome me and my ravenous relations. I ask for very little: terrific food, friendly staff and excellent value. Too much? Not so, for the Bistro du Vin, it seems.
In an unlikely position, just off the busy main roads of Bristol’s city centre, Hotel du Vin’s 18th century sugar house offers an impressive 40 bedrooms, secluded courtyard, private dining rooms, wine cellar and more than enough charm and character to rival any London boutique hotel.
The French-styled, award-winning bistro has recently launched its Sunday brunch menu, to the applause of frazzled households across the country, looking for that homely touch but without a pair of Marigolds in sight.
And with four hefty courses setting you back only £22.95, you may want to dig out that pair of stretchy waist trousers because this is big eating for big appetites.
Cocktails first, (or mocktail if you’re feeling virtuous) and with a tongue-tingling Bloody Mary in hand, the bell sounds to let eating commence. A bowl of French onion soup goes down with ease and after many slurps and affectionate nods later, my clan make their way up to the indubitable star of the show: the French market table.
Second course invites guests to help themselves from the lavish spread of fresh seafood, charcuterie, pâtés, rilletes, homemade salads, sauces, dips and freshly baked artisan bread. We tucked into plump prawns, flaked crab, al dente haricot vert, sweet olives, and platters of delicate salad leaves drizzled in pungent mustard vinaigrette. It’s a foodies’ dream for those without a shred of self-restraint.
A much-needed 20-minute break later and only half way through our belly-busting feast, mains arrive and it’s time for the signature roast. The choice between rib of beef or Normandy chicken, pause us briefly in our tracks, though both were tender, and perfectly cooked. Honey-glazed carrots, buttered Charlotte potatoes and braised red cabbage sealed the deal.
With dessert looming and never one to face defeat, the sweet-sounding crack of an oozing crème brûlée and cheese board with oat crackers, walnut bread and apple chutney, reduced us all to silence.
Rolling into the adjoining Sugar Bar’s sumptuous leather sofas to sip a sturdy shot of espresso and listen to a spot of live Jazz music, the bistro continued to fill up even into the late afternoon. It seems I’m not the only one with that Sunday feeling.
Bistro du Vin’s Sunday Brunch menu is served from 12-4pm. Book a table by calling 0844 736 4252 or book online.
Hotel du Vin, Narrow Lewins Mead, Bristol, BS1 2NU; 0117 925 5577; www.hotelduvin.com