Breakaway: Taste du Vin Experience at Hotel du Vin Newcastle
Hotel du Vin just up from Newcastle’s iconic Quayside is the perfect base for a weekend of exploring in the city
Hotel du Vin is a name most of us have heard of – they have a number of hotels up and down the country (19 to be exact) and their focus centres around fine dining and a passion for wine, so when we checked in for an overnight stay as part of the Taste du Vin Experience we were excited to see what was in store.
After checking in at reception we head through the cosy bar which already has guests sipping on glasses of wine and whisky, chatting by the fire. Our classic room is on the third floor and we are instantly drawn to the view from the room’s huge windows. The night is already dark and drizzle is in the air but that doesn’t spoil the distant view of the Tyne and Millennium bridges. It’s a large room with plenty of heavy furniture, a chaise longue at the edge of the bed and a cleverly designed structure (which mimics the outside of a house ) hides the bathroom and large shower. The highlight for me is the freestanding roll-top bath which sits at one end of the bedroom, perfectly positioned by one of the arched windows. There’s a side table with bubble bath waiting and a bottle of Champagne on ice. We have a little time before we need to head down to the bistro for our meal, so open the Champagne and enjoy a quick glass.
We already know what to expect from the set menu as we’ve taken a sneak peek online. We’re offered water, sparkling or still, settling for the latter, which is shortly followed by our first glass of wine. Luke, our sommelier, talks us through the tasting notes and the reason for the wine pairing with our first course of chicken liver parfait – and he’s spot on. The South Australian riesling is a dry yet slightly sweet white wine with elderflower notes on the nose and it pairs beautifully with the smooth parfait, which is served in a mini pot alongside sweet raisin chutney and brioche toast.
Our plates are cleared and we’re quickly presented with another 125ml glass of white wine, this time the Italian Puiatti Puiattino pinot grigio. This one has peachy notes with a dry taste, and on its own wouldn’t be something I would drink, but when accompanied by the smoked salmon it’s a totally different story. The oily salmon offsets the dryness of the wine and the soft boiled egg, cornichons, capers, parsley and red onions which garnish the dish linger on the palate.
The main course of roast porchetta is larger than we would have expected for a tasting menu, but no complaints from us as we both finish the entire dish. Served on top of creamy polenta, gremolata and rich pork jus, the meat is tender and flavoursome and the accompanying Spanish Rioja is my favourite wine of the night. A medium-bodied red with leather, smokey and dark fruit notes and flavours on both the nose and taste, it pairs really well with a meat which is typically bland.
There are a further two courses – a pot au chocolat served with crème Chantilly and a cold glass of Liquor de Tannat red, which has its own notes of dark chocolate and hints of liquorice which enhance the flavour of the dessert.
We take a short break before we tuck into our cheese plate, and the restaurant now has a buzz of happy guests and diners enjoying food and wine. Luke checks to see if we’re ready for the final course and brings over our wine pairing of a full-bodied 10-year-old Tawny. We’re both served a plate with three triangles of cheese – stilton, cheddar and camembert – alongside a sharing plate of crackers, warmed bread, a pot of fig chutney, grapes and celery sticks. We manage most of the plate but retire to the outside fire pit to finish our wine before heading back to our room.
Leaving one of the semi-circle window blinds at the end of the room half up allows the natural light to slowly flood in, waking me up gently just as the sun rises. I quickly run the bath, turn the Nespresso coffee machine on and jump in the bath, just in time to enjoy the sun rising over the River Tyne. On most days off I would begrudge getting up so early, but at Hotel du Vin it’s a pleasure, with a strong coffee in one hand and my latest book in another – and I could have sat there all morning, but breakfast was calling.
Heading down to the bistro where we enjoyed dinner last night the mood is different. The natural light has a warmth and the smell of freshly-baked croissants lingers in the air. There are already guests dotted around the restaurant and I take the last table by the window before glancing over the menu. It’s short but there’s enough to choose from and I order the classic full cooked breakfast with poached eggs before heading to the continental buffet table. I take a small pot of granola and greek yoghurt and enjoy it just before my breakfast arrives. Alongside perfectly poached eggs, I tuck into smoked bacon, sausage, a grilled mushroom, tomatoes and black pudding. The portions are great but I struggle to manage it all, still full from last night’s feast.
There’s no rush this morning, and I can’t resist a quick walk along the Quayside before the skies turn grey. I leave through the wooden panelled doors from the courtyard and straight down to the river’s edge, reflecting on a brilliant stay.