It’s been years since I’ve been to Harrogate, we once went specifically to try out a restaurant back in the 80’s called Oliver’s but I’m not sure if I’ve been there since. We went this time to go to an Antiques & Art Fair at the Pavilions so thought we’d stay overnight.
It is a really charming town, so much to see, the antiques fair was pretty good too. Looking for somewhere to stay when you’re not 100% sure of the area however is another thing. There was always the Old Swan, Agatha Christies old haunt as well as quite a number of other hotels, guesthouses etc but on this occasion we opted for the Hotel du Vin as it is right in the centre of town.
One of the reasons for choosing the Hotel du Vin is that we used to visit the original hotel of the group in Winchester. Back in the day right from when it first started out and Gerard Basset and Robin Hutson owned it and of course when James Martin was the chef there. Both Gerard and Robin had come from Chewton Glen in Bournemouth, Robin as GM and Gerard as Head Sommelier, James too had previously worked with both Gerard and Robin at Chewton Glen as pastry chef. The original Hotel du Vin was not only a great idea for an hotel but was also so well executed, it was a great place all round and had a very good Bistro style restaurant.
The hotel seemed to rise to fame during the Fred & Rose West trail at Winchester Crown Court toward the end of October 1995 as the trial took place at Winchester Crown Court and many of the reporters covering the trial of these two notorious mass murderers would have been staying there or using the hotel and its facilities for the duration.
The group that Basset and Hutson formed eventually consisted of about 6 hotels before eventually being sold in 2004. The concept was first class with all the rooms being named after famous wines, growers and vineyards.
The Harrogate branch, is housed in a handsome and impressive Georgian building just off the town centre in the Montpellier Quarter. The rooms are spacious and very well kept, strangely far better than I imagined they would be, don’t know why but I was pleasantly surprised. Our bathroom was large and spotless. The bed a super king was comfortable, the bath, a free-standing roll top affair was not in the bathroom but in the bedroom, a design feature that seems to becoming the norm in a lot of boutique hotels these days. We even had a separate room with sitting area and it’s own tv, which, while quite plain was adequate.
On arrival the reception staff were exemplary. They were as attentive as anyone could be giving us all the help and information we needed too. Indeed, the staff throughout our stay were all very good, bar, restaurant in the evening and those for breakfast too were all very professional. Having said that it would have been nice for one of the bar staff that evening, especially as they were not busy, to have come over to our table to get our drinks order rather than making us go to the bar, not only take the order but also bring the drinks over to us, we were, after all, in an hotel not a pub. Not that it is a massive problem, but still a service that any hotel of this level and price should offer automatically.
The only thing to let the place down, and it was a very big let-down, was the food. It was less than poor. Such a shame, the restaurant itself is a really nice room. Rather than spend time writing about something that is not worth writing about I will stop there and say no more except I know that it is difficult to find staff, I really do, but why not bring in a good group executive Chef to sort the food out, or take on someone like James Martin (or even me at a push), to sort it out and get the staff you do have in the kitchen trained to produce better. To be honest my expectations on the food side were not high, but when I found out they actually had an AA Rosette for the food, I know, I know, I know, one AA Rosette means next to nothing, but it was not even worth that. So just confirming that AA Rosettes, especially at the lower level are not worth the paper they are printed on.
I will emphasise again though that the restaurant staff were extremely pleasant and did a good job especially given what they were serving.
I had said to my wife just as we arrived at the hotel that afternoon that I was not going to bother reviewing it as my expectations were not overly high. Although this review is short, I soon decided that not to review it would be a mistake, and an injustice, because we would definitely go back, absolutely no doubt in our minds. We would however find somewhere else to eat. We have no hesitation in recommending it as an hotel worthy of staying in next time you are in Harrogate, the hotel is worthy of its 4 Stars and is worthy of hiring a good chef, as with one it would transform it, massively.
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