Although I live in lovely Leeds I do take a trip out to dine from to time and my most recent foodie jaunt outside of West Yorkshire was to the Hotel Du Vin Harrogate where I met a friend for an early evening meal.
Hungry as Hannibal in Harrogate
Fresh from a trip to the Malmaison in Edinburgh (where the food was superb) I’d started stealthily tracking down other local hotels owned by the same chain and struck up a conversation with a manager at the hotel who suggested I came and tested out their wares. Well, it would be rude not to really, wouldn’t it?
Now, geographically Harrogate is but a short jump from Leeds, but in meal time terms, the monumental chasm (I feel in this instance the gravity of this phrase is appropriate) between the usual five minute walk home to cook tea and the half hour trip to Harrogate on the train was keenly felt. Simply put, when I met my dining partner outside the Georgian hotel building all geared up to go gourmet I was ravenous and the cold, damp, autumnal weather seemed only to fuel to our shared hunger.
The bistro is situated in a really beautiful building, but i’m afraid we absorbed very little of this as we made our way through the entrance, passed the busy bar and swiftly to the table where we were quickly presented with some lovely warm bread and butter and water for the table.
The comforting carbs soon calmed our wild hunger-stricken eyes and tums and we placed our orders for our starters and main courses. Meanwhile, the bistro’s sommelier came to chat to us because we were obviously looking far friendlier than BC (before carbs) and gave us his recommendation for wine that would adequately bridge both of our menu choices and tastes (he did this rather well, more on this later).
The restaurant wasn’t busy when we arrived but it filled up a little over the course of the meal – mostly with couples dining. The decor in the restaurant is as you may expect – French Bistro-inspired, which seemed to appeal to couples and those out for special occasions. However, as lovely as the candle-lit ambience was, it did make photography somewhat tricky, so I’ll apologise in advance for some of the iffy imagery in this post.
Although we were sat at a window seat (my favourite) the glum weather outside meant we were forced to indulge in a little inside people watching, which in turn led to some serious food jealousy. Most green-eye-inducing was a nearby gentleman tucking into what we later ascertained was a pot of crisp, golden,haddock goujons. Though we had been told at the table what the soup of the day was, we hadn’t been told about other special starters on the menu, this is perhaps because the staff assumed we could see the massive board on the way in. Of course, what they didn’t reckon on was our eagerness to start consuming at any cost and the consequent bypassing of said board.
Our jealous pangs soon subsided when our starters were brought to the table.
I chose a heritage beetroot and goats cheese salad and was delighted with the range of beets included on the plate. A melange of colour, it was a very pretty dish indeed – though I did feel the caesar-esque dressing was a little mismatched to the salad itself.
At the opposite side of the table my dining partner declared her liver parfait “lovely” and got thoroughly stuck into the task of spreading it on her toasted brioche. Perhaps surprisingly, her favourite part of the starter was the raisin chutney that accompanied it. I reiterate once more: condiments make a meal!
Washing everything down was this fruity white Portugese wine with heavy notes of grapefruit, which was a spot on choice from the sommelier. I took a photo because I knew after first tasting I would want to purchase it again and doubted my ability to remember it’s name. My photo turned out rubbish because the lighting suddenly turned very ambient. It is therefore a nameless tasty Portugese wine.
Craving hearty comfort food I opted for the Half hormandy chicken with jus roti (£14.95) for mains, while the lady across the table selected the lemon sole meunière (£16.75). We decided to share sides of charlotte potatoes with butter £3.50 and wilted spinach £3.50.
For it’s part, my chicken was moist with a deliciously crispy skin and though the jus was a tad too salty for my liking it was still flavoursome. The potatoes proved a fine addition (they were carbs after all), though I was disappointed the spinach came out in a tangled heap that was both difficult to eat and lacked any seasoning, flavour and potentially goodness.
The tasty butter and caper sauce that came with a supersize lemon sole proved the remedy for this not-so-sensational side, with the fish itself exuding many a “mmm” and “aaah!”
As we moved on to dessert things got even more romantic – the bistro filled up with more couples, the lighting got a little darker and my photographs got so yellow they almost turned into a romantic ‘sepia’. For this reason I have included a photograph of my dessert only, which was an unusual tutti frutti parfait and blackcurrant sorbet. The parfait incorporated fresh, plump,raspberries but the real star of the dish was the blackcurrant sorbet that fizzed in the mouth.
The second dessert – Pimms jelly with lemonade Sorbet necessitated the invention of a new adjective, the imaginative “pimmsy”. It was decided though the composition idea was good, the jelly itself was too pimmsy and the lemonade sorbet more sharp than sweet – it lacked the fizz of its blackcurrant counterpart. Though by itself the sorbet was lovely, combined with the very sweet jelly it was a little too much for our savoury-loving tastebuds.
While I dutifully polished off the rest of the wine my fellow diner ordered a cappuccino, which was utterly first class by coffee standards; frothy, tasty and wonderfully warming. With the rain lashing down outside I was a little jealous of this beverage and got to thinking how nice it would be to dine in Hotel du Vin as the snow fell outside and I clutched a similarly season-appropriate refreshment. Instead I was hit with the harsh reality of an after-dinner run to the car, in girl shoes.
This venue is well suited for dining festive dining groups or couples and the fixed price menu – which offered a fixed number of courses from £9.95-£14.95 looks to be really good value. There were a few elements of our meals that weren’t quite as we would have liked, but overall the service was good, the portions were sizeable and the setting was very romantically lit!