Food review: Exquisite French dining at Bistro du Vin in Birmingham
Nestled away in a side street off Colmore Row, Bistro du Vin is surrounded by fierce competition. The French-styled chic restaurant in Birmingham's Hotel du Vin is a mere stone's throw away from The Grand Hotel's restaurant, Isaacs, and is a few minutes' walk from the sophisticated offerings of The Ivy Temple Row, Fumo, and Tattu.
Birmingham has a diverse array of fine dining options for people who are willing to spend a little more money on a special dining experience, which means it's easy for certain restaurants to be overlooked.
This was reflected in Bistro du Vin being virtually empty on a Friday night, in the height of summer no less, when I paid a visit. Being the only diners in the restaurant at 7pm and leaving at 9pm with only a few people in the restaurant, Bistro du Vin is sorely missing the extra footfall that some of its nearby competitors get.
Of course, this is understandable when our country is in the depths of a cost of living crisis, with many people resorting to giving up luxuries like restaurant visits.
However, for those who want to treat themselves to exquisite food and wine in a beautiful environment, then Bistro du Vin should be top of the list.
Located in a beautiful red-brick building which was once a Victorian eye hospital, the luxurious hotel and restaurant radiates elegance and class.
We are greeted in the lobby by marble pillars and winding spiral staircases, before turning into the restaurant where we are cheerfully greeted by our attentive waiter, Ben, who has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the menu.
Once seated in the restaurant, the aesthetics of which help create a calm, Mediterranean atmosphere, we are given our menus, and I quickly noticed their impressive selection of drinks, with a particular speciality in French wine.
There are also a tantalising array of classic cocktails, such as martinis and old fashioneds, to more unique signature cocktails.
I'll definitely be returning to try their signature menu, in particular, the French Fizz looks inviting with its twist on a Martini, mixing Lombard Champagne, Finlandia Vodka, raspberry liqueur, and pineapple.
The Provence Rose Crush also sounds perfectly refreshing for a summer's day, featuring Provence Rosé, Puerto de Indias strawberry gin, Provence rosé wine, raspberries, strawberries, and apple.
However, we both fancied a bottle of red to accompany our meal, and in the French-styled restaurant, made the sacrilegious choice to plump for an Italian wine. We're firm lovers of a Chianti and couldn't resist.
The Da Vinci Chianti, a 2020 vintage, describes itself on the label as: "An intense bouquet of ripe fruit, elegant and gentle on the palate, it ends with a solid persistence."
A deep crimson in colour, we could taste the ripe plums, cherries and red fruit in this lively medium-weight wine, which concludes with a peppery taste that lingers in the throat.
After enjoying our first glass of wine, we start our dining experience with Petit Lucas olives, sourdough baguette, and an eight-year-old balsamic vinegar with zesty notes of lemon.
I'm incredibly fussy when it comes to olives and spent years thinking I detested them after trying olives from various supermarkets. Thinking all olives were bitter and overwhelming, I said no whenever I was offered them.
However, over the past year or so I've tried some amazing olives from Italian restaurants in Birmingham and quickly fell in love with them. This does mean that when I try olives, I never know which end of the spectrum they'll fall on.
A second after putting one of Bistro du Vin's Petit Lucas olives in my mouth, I knew they were a triumph. Otherwise known as Petit Lucques, these olives are grown in the Languedoc region of France.
With a subtle hint of vanilla, the Petit Lucas olives were simply mouthwatering, and were very quickly devoured.
The sourdough baguette, crisp on the outside and fluffy on the inside, paired perfectly with our lemon and balsamic vinegar, which was smooth and had the perfect hint of citrus.
With little wait between our courses, we were quickly brought our starter, having both chosen the caramelised onion and garlic tart.
This was an incredible opening dish, with sweet, brown onions packed into a homemade tart, under an elegantly arranged laurel of roquette.
While the pastry was hard to cut, the caramel filling was exquisite and I could have very happily taken a page from Tom Cruise's book and ordered the same again.
For our main course, my mom chose the confit dug leg with a parisienne salad, while I could choose between the baked ratatouille or roasted heritage carrots with whipped feta, as only two of the 15 main courses were vegetarian.
My provençal stew was topped with a vegan style Parmesan and herb breadcrumbs, which added a slight crunch to the medley of perfectly stewed vegetables.
Meanwhile, I'm told that my mom's confit duck leg was incredible, easily rating it as a 10 out of 10. The duck was succulent and juicy, oozing with flavour.
It as also complimented by pancetta, peas, broad beans, frisée lettuce and sourdough croutons, the last of which was a particularly delightful addition.
If you're a fan of steak, then Bistro du Vin is definitely the place to go to sate your appetite. There are five different steaks on offer for guests, including a 200g fillet steak cured for 21 days, a 250g rib-eyed steak cured for 28 days, and a 200g signature rump steak aged for 35 days.
The most affordable option, at £18.95, is the steak haché: a chopped steak with a small salad and peppercorn sauce, also known as the "petit hamburger" of France.
On the other end of the spectrum is the 500g chateaubriand, a dish designed to be shared between two people. Described as "a supremely tender, delicious and indulgent treat", this his costs a staggering £75 with a £19.50 supplement person, meaning two people sharing this tenderloin steak will cost £114 in total.
Moving from the mains to the sides, I was in awe of Bistro du Vin's glazed carrots, which melted in the mouth and were utterly heavenly.
Their pommes frites were also cooked to perfection: crisp and salty on the outside and exquisitely soft on the inside. I felt distraught as soon as I'd finished my portion and was incredibly tempted to order another one.
While we were starting to get full at this point, there was no way we could say no to such beautiful desserts. After deliberating over the temptation of the black forest chocolate mousse and the crème brûlée, I went for the pot au chocolat, while my mom chose the rum raisin crème caramel.
Glistening with rum, the crème caramel was buttery-soft, refreshing, and light - the perfect dessert for someone who needs to make room for pudding.
I had high expectations for the pot au chocolat, having been impressed by every dish so far, as well as a chocolate aficionado with a life-long sweet tooth.
Somehow, it surpassed even my wildest expectations and groaned as soon as I spooned the chocolate into my mouth.
Topped with smooth crème chantilly, the classic chocolate mousse is the ultimate pudding. It's rich, decadent, and absolutely perfect.
More ganache than mousse, I've rarely tasted such deep, luxurious chocolate, and I've vowed to myself to return to Bistro du Vin soon so I can try this insanely delicious dessert again.
With dishes that taste incredible and look like works of art, Bistro du Vin should definitely be on your list to visit if you want a special culinary experience.
Hotel du Vin and Bistro, Birmingham
25 Church Street