Historic hotel eaterie offers a welcoming ambience for an intimate dining experience, Laura Mills goes on a taste test...

Hidden just off the quay in a narrow cobbled street is one of Poole’s most charming hotels. The stunning ivy-covered building is steeped in history and the original stone stairs and columns make for a striking entrance.

Originally built in 1776 as the mayor’s Mansion House, the eatery has an elegant, yet comfortable style and is very welcoming, boasting a relaxed ambience perfect for an intimate dinner.

My Sloe Gin Spritz (£11.50) aperitif went down beautifully as we were left to peruse the extensive, French-inspired menu. Hotel Du Vin has recently revamped its offering, choosing to present its à la carte options with its “set” selection on one menu. The range of choice was vast with plenty of options for both vegetarians and meat eaters.

We enjoyed a slice of fresh homemade walnut bread and sourdough, served still warm with butter and balsamic vinegar, while our starters were prepared.

I settled on the Severn and Wye smoked salmon classic (£9.50), which was a dish for the senses. It was beautifully presented with the soft-boiled quails eggs, shallots, capers and Cornichons placed delicately on top of the layered smoked salmon with a glass dome encapsulating smoke. Once placed in front of me, our waiter swiftly removed the dome allowing the smokey aroma to infiltrate my nose. There was plenty of salmon but the thin melt in the mouth slices kept the dish light with just the right balance of smoky and salty.

My partner opted for the Iberico presa (£9.00) served with roasted carrot and swede and Findlays of Portobello haggis. He couldn’t speak higher of the dish – for him the showstopper of the evening. It wasn’t long until our mains were on the table. My partner went for the fillet steak (£29.50) – a prime tender cut taken from the loin, served with pommes frites. He ordered the steak rare and also opted for a side of chantenay carrots (£3.95).

The steak, served with a choice of sauce – my partner opted for peppercorn – had a wonderfully rich flavour and was melt-in-mouth tender, perfectly paired with the creamy sauce which had a welcome heat, and satisfyingly crispy fries. It was an incredibly generous portion size and the side dish could have easily catered for two.

I chose the Herdwick Lamb Shank Tagine (£17.50), which was once again beautifully presented. The accompanying couscous and vegetables give the dish plenty of texture. It was an extremely filling portion and I only managed just over half of it before having to admit defeat, but I made sure no lamb was left as it really was delicious and just fell off the bone.

All this was washed down nicely with a bottle of Malbec expertly chosen by our sommelier in accordance to our mains.

I was going to skip pudding – I really am more of a savoury than sweet girl – and the two generous courses had left me feeling pretty full. However my partner was quizzing the waitress on the different sweets available and when she mentioned that the baked pumpkin cheesecake served with cinnamon ice cream (£6.95) had an Oreo base, my ears pricked up. Oh go on then!

The cheesecake topping was creamy and certainly hit the spot. The Oreo base was just the right thickness and added a perfect amount of richness. The accompanying cinnamon ice cream was delicious and despite not wanting pudding, it was my favourite course of the night.

My partner chose the Apple Tarte Tatin (£6.95) from the set menu, a fresh apple tart made daily served chilled with crème Normande, although he decided to swap the cream for vanilla ice cream. The tart was fresh with the pastry flaking nicely. With full tums and the rest of our Malbec in hands we made our way over to the comfy sofas and low beams of the snug. The perfect end to a perfect night.

Hotel du Vin, Thames Street, Poole

T: 0330 016 0390 / W: www.hotelduvin.com/locations/poole