I am generally well-disposed towards Hotel du Vins. They’re usually in interesting buildings, located in Britain’s more interesting towns, with comfortable and considered rooms, and really good bistros with, as you may have worked out from the name, serious wine lists.
When they first launched in the UK, they were pretty much the first proper boutique hotel chain, and they changed the way a lot of people looked at British hotels.
Back in December I was booked to speak at The Clothes Show at the Birmingham NEC. Trains being what they are, and with snow forecast, I came up the night before and stayed at the Hotel du Vin in Birmingham’s City Centre. (There are conference hotels by the National Exhibition Centre, but it’s only 10 minutes or so by train from town, so I went for the much nicer boutique hotel option.)
When I saw the size of that bed, with its handsprung mattresses and Egyptian linen, I knew I had made the correct decision. Such a shame I’m not drawn towards orgies, because that bed would have fitted a fair few people rolling around.
The hotel, an early Victorian red brick building, is contained with a previously disused Eye Hospital in the old city centre, now part of the newly revitalised Jewellery Quarter. It’s the largest in the Hotel du Vin group with sixty-six rooms around a courtyard.
(I did find the hotel’s public spaces and upstairs corridors a little dark and depressing: there’s a difference between atmospheric and Stygian gloom.)
Because of the restrictions around keeping the architectural integrity of the building, no room is the same in the hotel: mine was fitted into a corner of the building, with the humungous bed at 45 degrees to the walls. I liked the generously sized stand alone cupboard, and proper writing desk, as well as the books scattered around the room. (I’ve stayed in so many anonymous hotel boxes, so I now fully appreciate anything that makes a room seem less corporate.) My only gripe was that the room was like a furnace on arrival, but I soon fixed that by turning down the radiators.
Competing with the bed as the main selling point was the proper bathroom, easily bigger than many hotel rooms I have stayed in. Plenty of cat swinging space in there.
There was a walk-in shower, which really did deliver the promised ‘drench’, as opposed to the gentle trickle that so many supposed rain showers specialise in,
as well as the signature du Vin roll top bath, in which I gloriously wallowed before supper.
Decent-sized excellent toiletries are an Hotel du Vin trademark, and guests are encouraged to take them away.
I have no problem with eating alone in restaurants, hotel or otherwise, and the Birmingham Hotel du Vin has a particularly nice looking Bistro, buzzy with both locals and residents, but I was in the mood to hole up in my huge room, and stick this on the door:
So I popped down to the Bistro to have a squint at their menu — I wasn’t that taken with the room service carte — and they couldn’t have been more lovely or more helpful, agreeing to send up my chosen supper.
Consequently I had, hands down, the most delicious meal I have ever eaten in a hotel bed. (What? I’m not the type to sit at my room desk in solitary splendour. I am so all about the duvet picnic.)
I had two first courses: a Warm Autumn Salad of roasted beets, pumpkin, celeriac, salted almonds with hummus and harissa (£8.95), and the Sautéed Mushrooms With Madeira cream on Brioche Toast (£6.50).
I slept the sleep of the just, star fished out across my gigantic bed. It really was such a waste to only have me in it. I had an early start, so I ordered up the in-room fixed price breakfast special. It was just as well-thought out as supper the night before: very good coffee and a great compote with yogurt.
Hotel du Vin & Bistro Birmingham, Church Street, Birmingham B3 2NR
Telephone: +44 (0)121 200 0600 Email: email@example.com
LLG was a guest of the Hotel du Vin, Birmingham for bed, dinner and breakfast in December 2012.