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What a midweek treat! Poole Quay is popular all year round; in summer months a bustling area of folk and rock bands, firework nights and classic car and vintage motorbike meets, and in winter a collection of cosy pubs and bars, all with roaring fires and fabulous views across the waters to Brownsea Island and beyond.

Just a stone’s throw from the Quay, hidden among Poole Old Town’s cobbled streets, Hotel du Vin takes your breath away as you walk up the grand steps to this wonderful historical Georgian building.

Feeling like a princess in one of the elegant bar armchairs, I ordered a simple refreshing Tom Collins, accompanied by the best selection of olives I think I have ever tasted (although I didn’t want to ruin my appetite so had to stop myself). I sat back to take in my surroundings. Stylish yet understated, the rustic wooden features and ship-inspired intimate lighting certainly give the wow factor. The open kitchen, wine bottles lined up on the walls of the restaurant and buttoned banquette seating have all been perfectly thought out. The finished effect reminded me of an elegant ship’s galley and dining room.

The extremely attentive staff talk through the menu and specials board with pride, and it didn’t take me long to see why. I opted for the chicken liver parfait with sourdough toast and raisin chutney to start. What a wonderful mix of flavours! The parfait was creamy and the chutney created a real ‘zing’ on my tongue. My partner chose the prawn cocktail – we weren’t sure how this simple starter could be ‘jazzed up’, but indeed it was. From the tangy cocktail sauce, to the crisp iceberg lettuce and home-baked brown bread and butter, it was a prawn cocktail like no other!

After ordering a glass of the recommended ‘Kendall-Jackson’ – a Californian Chardonnay (well the establishment is called Hotel du Vin) I chose a main that would not only complement this fabulously fruity wine, but the house special that seemed apt in my surroundings. The Moules Frites Du Vin Mariniere was simply a joy; now I am a huge fan of shellfish and seafood (and usually wish the portion was bigger) but the quantity of mussels in the presentation pot was just right. My partner tasted a more traditional dish, the Oven Roast Pork Belly with Meaux mustard dauphinoise and Agen prunes sauce. The different flavours married perfectly; the pork very delicate and the ‘slab’ of crackling….just divine. I thought my mother produced perfect crackling – I’m going to have to let her down gently.

I have a slight crème brulee obsession, and after squealing (quietly) at the sight of one on menu, and telling my partner that he just had to choose the warm chocolate fondant (as long as I could try some) we were in dessert heaven.

After dinner, resident sommelier and duty manager for the evening Chad gave us the grand tour of the hotel. Beautiful rooms with no numbers but wine-themed names, exquisite meeting rooms with impressive oak boardroom tables and extra-friendly reception staff.  Most impressive was the wine cellar and tasting room. Beautifully refurbished with glass viewing walls into the bar area, Chad told me about their private and corporate wine tasting events. Everything about Hotel du Vin made me want to return, but the food was the icing on the cake. (or sugar on the crème brulee. I told you I had an obsession!)