It’s amazing to think that the trendy loft-style interior of the 40 room Hotel du Vin Bristol was once a bustling Victorian sugar house, and that the harbour was practically right outside the door, along with all the commotion you’d expect from trading cargo. Now the only hustle and bustle is an occasional wine delivery, and I’m not complaining. The building was converted into a hotel in 2000, and what a creative architectural feat it was, creating an attractive glass frontage with a courtyard to the front of the hotel that is a popular drinks venue come the warmer months. A sweeping industrial-style staircase is a prominent feature of the reception, and the atmospheric bar, with its original beams, is a popular spot high to low tide.
If you’re at all able, take a room on the third floor named after a famous champagne house; Dom Perignon, Pommery or Pol Roger. Our spectacular Big Loft Chapel Suite named in honour of Veuve Cliquot featured spacious mezzanine living including a corner leather chesterfield and 42″ plasma television, a hand-sprung king size bed with Egyptian cotton bedlinen guaranteeing a good night’s sleep, and an elevated bathroom with walk-in monsoon shower and double tubs – the ultimate luxury. Products by REN were a further bonus, and it seemed almost rude not to take the hint and enjoy a long soak with bubbles galore. Cue a mini bar rummage, and it was only 4pm. It turned out no Veuve Cliquot on my visit but the Hotel du Vin Brut was a jolly good second.
The bistro serves an extensive, newly revamped, a la carte menu of popular French classics along with a good value pre fixe, making it an ideal spot for both the local business crowd and theatre goers – Bristol Old Vic and Bristol Hippodrome (where we were bound) both within walking distance. But don’t panic if you don’t get to eat until after the show, there is a late night room service menu running from 10pm-6am offering home comforts like cheese on toast or a bacon buttie – ideal for the world weary traveller or serious party goer.
I would have been sad to miss out on the straw-coloured Bistro with Victorian-style balloon-back mahogany chairs, however, adorned as it is with vintage paintings and prints, wine memorabilia and long since consumed bottles of superb vintages, something that will surely inspire when it comes to selecting from the extensive wine list. A French onion soup topped with abundant Gruyère cheese was a comforting opener, while my lemon sole meunière and my husband’s hearty cassoulet were both highly successful in capturing our love of rustic French cuisine. The dessert menu is meanwhile a who’s who of favourites including crème brulee, profiteroles with chocolate sauce and my idea of heaven, îles flottantes (floating islands). There’s a theme here.
Contemporary, yet with buckets of character and inspired interior design, the Hotel du Vin group is a consistently good base for business or leisure, and so it proved with the Bristol branch, the third out of their 19 properties to open and a wonderful example of this ever-evolving city’s love of change and innovation. As a Bathonian who was too stuck in my rut to think of venturing to such a scaffolding-clad metropolis after escaping the daily grind of London, I finally get why so many people rave about Bristol.
Hotel du Vin Bristol embodies the city’s extraordinary history mingled with contemporary urbanity – whether old or new it has a lot of soul. A short distance from the famous Christmas Steps and elegant Georgian squares, the buzzing waterfront and world-famous landmarks such as the Clifton Suspension Bridge and HMS Great Britain, guests can enjoy the renowned theatre scene come the evening, offering everything from large scale touring musicals to beautifully staged English drama.
The food culture is also extremely vibrant with everything from casual, yet quality, independents (we just love Burger Theory), to Michelin star fine dining at Casamia. An eclectic shopping quarter includes designer brands and Harvey Nichols (yes please), whilst after exploring Clifton, an area with an equally sophisticated vibe, you can’t help but conclude that Bristol really does have it all and is well worth getting to know better. Hotel du Vin Bristol is meanwhile the perfect base for pushing the boat out – quite literally.
Hotel du Vin Bristol, The Sugar House, Narrow Lewins Mead, Bristol BS1 2NU. Standard room starts at £119, while the Veuve Cliquot room starts at £234. For more information and to book please visit the website.