Royal Tunbridge Wells has been attracting visitors for over 400 years. Once a bustling spa town it’s 30 miles south of London and just under an hour on a fast train and it’s ideally placed for Kent and the coast. In the 1600′s a spring uncovered and the town grew around it, the area became known as the Pantiles, a favourite venue of royalty, and the jewel in the town’s crown.
If you walk to the top of the hill and turn left you’ll find the modern-day jewel in the Hotel du Vin a gorgeous – Grade II listed – hotel. Within its heart is the Bistro du Vin a beautifully classic, elegant yet informal setting for lunch or dinner which has recently updated it’s lunch menu which is, the reason for my visit. There’s a choice of a one to three course menu which are easy on the pocket at £9.95, £12.95 and £14.95 respectively. Their à la carte menu is updated too but for those of you who know their menu well, the steaks stay in keeping with the new menu which has introduced some French classics including onion soup, chicken liver parfait and the mains moules frites, duck confit with Lentils du Puy and a lemon sole meuniere.
We began with a glass of the House Champagne on the terrace and a few amuse bouche as we peruse the menu.
As we wander around the immaculately maintained lawns was a pleasure and on the lower terrace an unexpected vineyard and sodden petanque square.
I see that there’s steak tartare on the starter menu and I cannot resist. I’m asked if I like it spicy and don’t. The steak is well seasoned and the egg a gorgeous, golden, free-range. It’s as delicious as it looks.
The main course steak arrived and was cooked more to a medium than the medium rare I asked for but was perfectly edible. All the steaks are dry aged on the bone for a minimum of 28 days and come with a choice of 5 sauces along with frites. These had the crispest outer coating with the softest potato filling and were a joy to devour.
For dessert I opted for the lemon posset. A dense, sharp lemon cream served in a tea-cup. The rich shortbread biscuit was a calorific addition which wasn’t necessary but welcome – and scoffed.
Wines were picked by our lovely female Sommelier and the white and red were spot on for all of our courses.
Equal attention is paid to the food as to the wine and whisky on sale here and we toured the basement’s wine cellar which I’m told is available by booking in advance with the hotel, at a small cost. The whisky bar is literally floor to ceiling, full of bottles of pale to dark coloured whiskies. And there’s a cigar bar here – the humidor full of unpronounceable cigar brands. They’ve even got a lovely warmed snug outside for you to enjoy your smoke and a glass of something special.
Afternoon tea is served every day from 2pm until 5pm with a selection of cream teas, dainty finger sandwiches, cakes and scones. These beautiful peacock-blue macaroons were the remnants of one sitting.
A traditional cream tea will set you back a very modest £7.50 and a traditional afternoon tea £14.50. If you’re feeling a little naughty there’s champagne cocktails, and a G&Tea option. The room that it’s served in is a delight and a perfect place for a girlie catch-up.
If you fancy staying the night, I can tell you the rooms are rather lovely. These photographs are of the Hush Suite, some lucky bride-to-be was staying here the night before her wedding which was being held at the Hotel. There’s a beautiful mirrored room which is perfect for any ceremony but an equally fabulous space for a conference.
Other rooms aren’t as large but this is a suite, and whilst the size might be smaller, the facilities are exactly the same. Rain showers, Miller Harris toiletries and a good night’s sleep guaranteed. I’ve not stayed but don’t take my word for it. I leave you with a couple of entries from their Visitor’s Book – I did scour it but I couldn’t find a bad word there – and there had been no pages ripped out either!
Hotel du Vin and Bistro, Crescent Road, Tunbridge Wells, TN1 2LY
01892 526 455