HOTEL OF THE WEEK

Hotel du Vin

Where is it?

In the centre of Bristol, opposite a carpark and two minutes from a chippie - but don't let that put you off. Address: The Sugar House, Narrow Lewins Mead, Bristol BS1 2NU (tel: 0117 925 5577; fax 0117 925 1199; email:admin@ bristol.hotelduvin.co.uk)

What's it like?

Chic without being scary. You enter through a courtyard with a fountain and then step into the small but perfectly formed lobby with a grand sweeping staircase. There are various styles of decor, from the simple, modern, bedrooms to the more traditional bistro. Comfortable but not chintzy, there's also a great bar, cigar room and pool table.

Ambience?

Informal, fun. The sort of place where you could really kick back after a day of doing business. Wouldn't be a bad place to have a steamy affair either.

Service?

Friendly and relaxed (no, that's not another word for slow). The staff are apparently encouraged to be "real people, rather than the robots encountered in so many hotels".

Rooms?

They look like the warehouse apartments you see in interiors magazines. All the rooms are sponsored - ours was backed by the Swiss Wine Association, but sadly there wasn't a cuckoo clock in sight. Instead there was tasteful furniture, Egyptian-cotton sheets, a sound system and TV, a minibar, and a fantastic bathroom. The directory tells you where all the furnishings were bought. Toiletries are by Body Shop (the Roddicks are shareholders). Rooms cost from pounds 99 to pounds 125 a night and there are suites from pounds 150 to pounds 175.

Food?

As you'll have guessed from the hotel's name, the owners Robin Huston and Gerard Basset are wine-lovers and in their small chain (they also have places in Winchester and Tunbridge Wells) you can drink quality wines at fair prices. Food is high-quality bistro, and lunch or dinner costs about pounds 25 a head. Eddie Gray, the head chef, has worked for Marco Pierre White at the Criterion in London.

History?

The listed building dates back to the 1700s and has been used to manufacture clay pipes and to refine sugar. For 15 years it had been derelict, but then the Alternative Hotel Company lavished pounds 4.5m on it, and it opened as a hotel two weeks ago.

Clientele?

Everyone's welcome but it's best for business people who hate naff hotels, and weekenders.

Things to do?

There's Bristol Zoo and the famous suspension bridge to visit, and many cafes and antique shops. Also lots of historic buildings to gawp at in the city, and for fresh air, head for the Bristol Downs.

ANDREW TUCK

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