Hotel of the Week: Hotel du Vin

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The Independent Travel

Where is it? Between shops and parks in Royal Tunbridge Wells, one of the watering holes favoured by royalty from the 17th to 19th centuries. Address: Hotel du Vin & Bistro, Crescent Road, Royal Tunbridge Wells, Kent TN1 2LY (tel: 01892 526455; fax: 01892 512044; net: www.hotelduvin.com; e-mail: reception@tunbridgewells.hotelduvin.co.uk).

Where is it? Between shops and parks in Royal Tunbridge Wells, one of the watering holes favoured by royalty from the 17th to 19th centuries. Address: Hotel du Vin & Bistro, Crescent Road, Royal Tunbridge Wells, Kent TN1 2LY (tel: 01892 526455; fax: 01892 512044; net: www.hotelduvin.com; e-mail: reception@tunbridgewells.hotelduvin.co.uk).

What's it like? A classical 18th-century mansion built in local sandstone, which was enlarged during the 1830s by the notable architect Decimus Burton.

Ambience? Half-way between an English country house and a refurbished French provincial hotel, with period furnishings and trompe l'oeil effects. The bare floorboards were retrieved from disused French railway carriages. There is a pétanque court in the grounds and a billiards room, its own humidor crammed with fine Havanas.

Rooms? Named after sponsoring drinks companies: you can stay in the Veuve Clicquot suite, in Courvoisier, or Sandeman - each furnished with antiques. Egyptian cotton bedclothes, power showers and roll-top baths discourage an early breakfast. There are 32 rooms, from £75 for an en-suite double to £139 for a principal room.

Service? Attentive, unfussy, French. Head sommelier Dimitri is knowledgeable and keen.

Food and drink? Good bistro fare; new chef Graham Ball arrived three weeks ago from Chez Bruce in Wandsworth, London. Starters were faultless - a parfait of foie gras and chicken livers with toasted brioche, and grilled goats' cheese with a plum and hazelnut salad. Roast venison with celeriac and thyme mash was just the thing for a winter's night. Three courses came out at £24 a head. There are plenty of good value options on Gerard Basset's daunting wine list, including 10 well-chosen wines by the glass.

Awards? Poured in the moment the doors opened - including the Dom Perignon Award from the Academy of Food and Wine Service, the RAC Residential Hotel Award, and a South-East England Tourism Award.

Clientele? Wine-loving couples who prefer not to drive the Aston Martin/Porsche/Jag after imbibing so many good things; occasional families at weekends. Weekdays attract business people.

Things to do? Stroll down the hill past shops and galleries to the Pantiles, the Georgian heart of the town. Within easy driving distance are Bodiam, Penshurst Place, and Hever and Leeds Castles.

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