Lovingly converted from a Grade II-listed mansion, Hotel du Vin in Tunbridge Wells, which is celebrating 20 years of being in the town, is full of character and charm; at once calming, cosy and classy, it boasts a warm decor that’s both comfortable and inviting.
My guest and I are sampling the hotel’s summer a la carte menu, so naturally expect great things. As we take our seats in the smart and stylish Bistro, with a window view of the alfresco garden beyond, we’re certainly far from disappointed.
To start, I’m smitten by the chicken liver parfait with hazelnut brioche muffin and tomato chutney (£7.95), while my guest is busy tucking into his impeccably presented scallops ceviche (£13.95), marinated in lime juice, salt, sugar, pomegranate, chilli and baby coriander.
For the main event, the chateaubriand (£65 to share) is just the ticket, the steak expertly cooked and wonderfully succulent, enriched all the more by peppercorn sauce, pommes frites and sauteed spinach (£3.95 as a side). A bottle of Château Bauduc Rouge (£32), meanwhile, is the ideal accompaniment to wash it all down.
My chocoholic radar soon hones in on the chocolate bombe (£7.95) for the finale, a melting dark chocolate sphere encasing white chocolate ice cream, immersed in molten salted caramel. As for my guest, he’s so enamoured with his tarte fine aux pommes (£6.95) that he insists that it’s the best he’s ever tasted!
Which is just as well, really – a true taste of France is what we came for, and it’s most definitely what we’re leaving with.
• Hotel du Vin, Tunbridge Wells TN1 2LY, visit www.hotelduvin.com/locations/tunbridge-wells/