Gluttony - full-on, no buggering about gluttony - is like some nearly-forgotten friend from the bad side of the tracks, prone to sidle up from time to time, regard you knowingly and mutter darkly "go on then; I dare you!" When it does catch up with you it's hard to ignore. Sadly, though reasonably, quality and quality usually vary inversely when it comes to food as so much else, so the opportunities to pig out on some properly decent stuff are rare. Which is why Sunday Brunch at Hotel du Vin had always seemed an interesting proposition. I'd heard furtive talk of a four-course scranathon; rumours abounded of a "market table" overflowing with shellfish and cold cuts, followed by a full Sunday lunch. And then pudding. In this month of restraint and denial, it seemed like a pleasingly off-kilter choice for an anniversary lunch, so under gun-metal skies we set off for Ouseburn.
This was my first time at any Hotel du Vin. The Newcastle outpost is in a belter of an old building which in a prior life was home to The Tyne Tees Steam Shipping Company. On a slushily grey afternoon, the lounge, bar and bistro were all warm and welcoming rooms, with a massive wood burning stove the centrepiece of the former.
The place is positively littered with bottles of plonk, some empty and some, like these in this quite nifty glass-doored room, full. Clue's in the name innit. They do tastings don't you know.
The menu does a good job of getting you in the mood to stuff yourself. The idea of an unlimited buffet before a roast, is a solid one. But before that there was soup.
|Cream of Vegetable Soup|
The initial impact of this spread is considerable. Various breads, fresh from the oven, jump-start your appetite as you decide how best to spend it. In the interests of research and sheer greed, I had a bit of nearly all of it, doing a plate each of fishy stuff and meaty stuff.
So then to the roast. We both went beef, which arrived with just a blush of pink. It claimed to be rib, but looked more like topside to me, not that I'm a butcher or anything. Either way it had some good cow flavour, despite being a bit overdone. The gravy was ok. Much better was a properly risen Yorkshire, but best of the lot were the accompanying veg. Parsnips had a load of flavour and the roasties were pretty much as good as we could ever remember having in a restaurant. I can forgive a lot for a good roastie. This was a solid all-rounder of a roast.
Puds were similarly good. My Tarte Tatin, wasn't really - not enough pastry and not sufficiently caramelly - but was still very enjoyable.
Kasia's Crème Brûlée was a straightforward winner. Served in a flat dish, there was plenty of glassy crunch to contrast with the well made custard underneath.
I might be being a bit picky about some of what we had here, but it did feel like the quality of the produce and cooking was slightly under that which they wanted you to have the impression you were enjoying. Nonetheless, there's a lot of nice enough stuff here, and we left utterly stuffed to the guddles. It'd be a good place to head with families as there's a load of crowd-pleasing choice for mains if a roast isn't what you're after. For the same price - 22 of your British Euros - as the Sunday lunch at House of Tides, the venue you choose will depend on a simple choice: quantity or quality.
Hotel du Vin, Allan House, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 2BE
08447 364 259