“Fresh, simple and tasty.”

That’s how head chef Darren Rockett sums up the menu at Hotel du Vin in Poole.

There is a slight emphasis on seasonality, but a real focus on quality at the historic Georgian building near the quay, as well as a certain attention to detail.

Darren, 44, has been with the hotel since it opened, having started when it was formerly the Mansion House in 1996. While the building was refurbished he spent a year working at Hotel du Vins in Brighton, Henley and Winchester, before coming back to Poole to put together the kitchen team.

The hotel’s Bistro now boasts an extensive a la carte menu, which is generic throughout the chain, but local man Darren, who trained at Bournemouth and Poole College and has worked at Gavroche, Britannia Intercontinental and The Ritz, among others, welcomes the opportunity to add as many specials as he can, allowing he and the team to express their culinary creativity.

In addition to the main restaurant, Hotel du Vin offers a private dining experience for smaller, more intimate celebrations or corporate events, with two rooms available for up to 28 covers.

It’s a chance for Darren and the team to create a more bespoke experience for customers – a challenge he clearly relishes.

“Although we have got specific function menus, with a lot of the a la carte dishes occurring on there, we can always work with the customer and tailor to their needs,” he explained.

“We’ve got guidelines with the menus, but we will work with them.

“For example, if you’ve got a group of men, they may want a heavier dish. We just try and make sure it’s not too unbalanced.

“We had one guy in who wanted a whole turkey and he wanted it carved at the table, so we worked with them.”

Popular dishes can also be tweaked according to season, or to the customers’ needs.

So where does Darren get his inspiration from?

“It comes from everywhere,” he said.

“You can be watching something on TV or be on holiday somewhere.

“The one thing that’s definite is that if you sit down and try to write it, that’s difficult. I need to have the ideas flowing around.

“But I think as I’ve got older my success rate from scratch has got better, and what’s logistically practical.

“The main thing is making sure you can get stuff when it’s at its best and we try to present the food less fussily so it looks more fine dining.”

  • To find out more about private dining at Hotel du Vin, call 0844 748 9265 or visit hotelduvin.com.

Signature dish – Pan Fried Fillet of Hake with Tiger Prawns Provencal

One of Hotel du Vin’s most popular dishes is pan fried fillet of hake with tiger prawns provencale.

“The key is in the tomato sauce,” said Darren.

“Which is chopped onions, garlic, thyme. Gently cook them down until soft, then add chopped tomatoes and a little bit of tomato puree and just cook down.

“Add salt and pepper and a pinch of sugar. Just finish with chopped parsley.

“The fish is pan fried and I normally flour the skin.

“We do it with spinach sometimes, or with pommes puree.”