BBQ and a cocktail at Hotel Du Vin

I was gutted that I couldn’t make this event a few weeks back – sadly I had to be on duty at one of my own, but luckily Catriona and Graeme were happy to step into the breach once more. Probably just as well – a bbq running out of meat wouldn’t have made for a happy ‘steak girl’. 

07_Dessert

As continued novices to the ‘food-blogging’ world, with only one outing to date where we were spoiled at the outstanding Osteria del Tempo Perso (Link), this type of ‘launch’ event was all new to us.

Tonight we were asked to fill in at the launch of Hotel Du Vin’s Summer Al Fresco Menu which was billed as a cocktails and barbecue night, and we were all too pleased to oblige.

Finding this place tonight was not a challenge, if we hadn’t already been aware of the well established and highly regarded Hotel Du Vin then the smoke signals billowing from the barbecue and visible down Bristo Place street were a good indicator we were on the right track.

06_Veggie-Burger

On entering the Courtyard you can see why this has been recognised as a lovely dining space even with the jeopardy of a Scottish summer. There is a continental ambience enhanced by the jazz playing quartet in the corner, fairy lights dangled overhead and flashes of greenery around the edges.

We were warmly welcomed by part of the events team who were keen to tell us about tonight’s event and the dining concept and equally keen to know who we were and who we represented, the prestigious Eating Edinburgh no less! We were pointed to the bar and the barbecue and told to mingle and indulge. All sounds pretty good so far. That we were welcomed, quizzed and given the run down by two further eager members of the events team before we even made it to the bar meant that the Plum Sake Cocktail was exceptionally well received, and this was exceptionally delicious.

02_Cocktail

It was presented in a large punch bowl and the waiter whistled through the ingredients as he poured me a glass so suffice to say I only managed to remember one but it is enough for me to say that if you see a cocktail on the menu with Plum Sake in the ingredients you have got to try it! If I was being picky, which my parent blogger has encouraged me to be, I would say, it was a good job I liked it as, for an event badged as a cocktail night, this was the only one on offer!

Delicious cocktail now in hand it was time for the food and mingling and this is perhaps where the event had been a little bit misconceived, I would suggest. On looking round the space it was clear that all the tables available were filled, the invite said 5.30 to 7.30 and we had arrived around 6. The barbecue was being sold as ‘made to order’ which meant there was a constant queue of around 10 people waiting. The idea of mingling was nice but as we were there representing a food blog and to opine on a summer menu, and cause we were hungry with the lovely smells from the barbie, the prospect of trying to juggle a drink, a plate and eat a burger in a bun, cous cous and potato salads, prawns still in their shells, parma ham and coleslaw, and make small talk seemed a little daunting, and more bluntly, near on impossible.

05_Starter

So we set out on our mission to create a base for ourselves, asked two tables if we could borrow their spare seats, spent a very long time trying to find a waiter to ask for some cutlery, there seemed to be a slight imbalance between event staff doing the mingling and spouting the blurb about the ‘concept’ and actual staff catering to the needs of the attendees. One waiter was left to dish out all the plum cocktails, red and white wine and Morretti beers which were available at the bar and one other poor chap was left, sweating, alone, manning the BBQ and trying to cater for all, and, as I say, any other waiting staff were few and far between. So base station locked down I garnered us some made-up plates from what you would call the starters and sweets table. I opted for the parma ham which consisted of one generous slice of parma ham and a ramican of waldorf style coleslaw. This was simple but very tasty but not exactly finger food. The other plate was a tomato salad which was a delicious mixture of ripened tomatoes from the sharpest green to the juiciest deep red. There were basil flavours coming through and drizzled with a treacley balsamic glaze. Again simple but oh so flavoursome.

Starters finished and plates stacked on the floor beside our chairs we descended on the barbecue which had been creating the fabulous charred meat smells all evening. Of course we had the ten people wait to get through and then a wait to find a waiter to provide us with some plates. As mentioned there were bowls of leaves, cous-cous and potato salads which we loaded up on as we approached the grill as well as buns for both hot dogs and burgers. The scene at the grill was a big disappointment though. They had run out of Burgers! and the smokey, paprikaey, chorizo like sausages I had also eyed enviously on others plates as we ‘mingled’. Available to us, at around 6.30, were vegetarian sausages, vegeterian burgers and limp looking mini frankfurters steaming in a vat of water. No smokey, bbq, meaty goodness to be had.

04_The-BBQ

We returned to our perch a little disappointedly, again back to eating with plates on knees. There were though some pleasant surprises. The vegetarian burger which my wife opted for was well received and was a fragrant mix of chickpea, spinach and turmeric. As the less carniverous of us she was more than satisfied with this and enjoyed her meal. Both the vegetarian sausage, a bit cardboardy, and the frankfurter hot dog which I opted for were pretty forgettable though the potato salad was very good and the coriander pesto I drizzled over my salad was top-notch.

With main course consumed and the numbers dwindling, though only 7 o’clock, we pounced on a table that emptied and could finally relax into a comfortable space. We thought it only right, purely for review purposes, that we finish off by trying their dessert offering which we had seen earlier and had looked like dollops of whipped cream with a strawberry on top though could have been something far more sophisticated and indulgent. Alas, we will never know as this table had been stripped clear and the strawberry surprise remained an unknown.

Instead I thought I would drown my sorrows with another of the stand-out plum cocktails but these had also been cleared away and so we settled for another glass of white wine. We noted that this had been downgraded from the classy, crisp white my wife had received on arrival to a pleasant (but alas not equally pleasant) house white.

08_Gift-bags

We did receive a goody bag which contained some promotional material on Hotel Du Vin and some delightfully fragrant goodies in the form of a scented candle and shower gel from the always excellent Arran Aromatics brand. Through our meet and greet line-up we were told and told again that someone was about to say a few words on the event and the menu but this never materialised. We were also asked and asked again to place our business cards in a box for a prize draw as this was about to be drawn yet this also did not occur. And so, at around 7.30 with decks cleared and crowds dispersed we left to far less of a fanfare than we received on arrival, and, despite a number of let downs, we actually had a pleasant night. The setting was lovely, the weather was good, the music was atmospheric, the cocktail and wine were delicious and bits of the food were first rate. To be blunt, as an event, they missed a few tricks. The food they were serving didn’t match the event they were trying to create. If they wanted mingling with drinks in hand then a finger buffet would have been a better idea and if they wanted to serve that kind of food they needed to provide seating, and ideally cutlery for all. For me a cocktail night means more than one cocktail, a barbecue night means meat and in a classy venue like Hotel Du Vin I wouldn’t expect to have to wait in a lengthy queue for my food like I would for school dinners.

But it should be noted, these are almost entirely criticisms of the event and not the menu and experience it was trying to promote. Clearly someone here has a taste for good food as was hinted at in the tomato salad, the coriander pesto, the chickpea and spinach burger and I can still see this being a lovely place to enjoy a summer evening where you would be guaranteed a table, cutlery, attentive service, the drink of your choice and the food of your choice, but unfortunately, this was not the experience we were given the opportunity to review.

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