I’ve never been sentimental about restaurants. As much as the fact that I live for food, I don’t care where it comes from, as long as it tastes good. Restaurants come, restaurants go. And more often than not as soon as a new one opens, I struggle to remember what stood in its place mere weeks ago. I mean sheesh, my brain can only retain so much, ok?

But last Friday night, as I arrived for dinner at Bistro du Vin, my heart skipped a beat.

The awnings are no longer red but there’s no mistaking it. Here at 40 St John Street once stood one of my favourite restaurants in London – Bjorn and Justine van der Horst’s Eastside Inn.

I was surprised by my unusually emotional response to seeing  Bistro du Vin scrawled across the premise’s new green awnings. I mean, dude, it’s just a restaurant! But somehow, Eastside Inn carved a spot in my memory, not in the least because Justine and Bjorn were amazing hosts (and the latter a brilliant chef, of course). Where are they now? Does anyone know?

Update 16-May: Please see comment below from A Reader. Apparently Bjorn has been jailed for not paying child support. WOW. That paints everything in a different light, doesn’t it? Personality he may have had, but ethics? None!

Update again 16-May: See comment below from Laissez Fare. News is that both Bjorn and Justine are now running the restaurants and events at Six Senses resort, Maldives. Ah, the media. It perplexes my little head.

Anyway, I may have had a moment of uncharacteristic sentimentality, but I quickly shook it off and focused on the task at hand: downing my first three course meal since that surgery. Excitements.

The interior of Bistro du Vin is EXACTLY THE SAME as when it was Eastside Inn. I mean, I get that they can’t do a lot about that open kitchen in the middle of the room but the furniture? Light fittings? Decor? They could have at least changed the framed images across the walls (because I swear they haven’t). I was starting to harbour negative feelings towards the Hotel du Vin powerhouse behind this bistro venture until they brought out some bread – specifically some chocolate bread.

Ah, the powers of distraction.

I happily munched on chocolate bread and perused the menu. Negative feelings? What negative feelings?

The lack of negative feelings lasted for as long as it took to serve our starters. Panu ordered the lobster bisque and while the pungent smell of the dish hit the spot, the bisque itself was extremely watery and not at all creamy. If wikipedia says bisques are meant to be creamy, then I believe it, dammit.

My asparagus in sauce ravigote was much better. Salty and tangy over perfectly blanched asparagus. One fail, one good. Let’s see what the mains will bring.

lobster bisque

English asparagus, sauce ravigote

The mains were better, Panu’s 250 grams fillet of Belted Galloway beef cooked to a pink medium rare, just the way he likes it. What made it even better was the pot of deliriously awesome garlic butter served on the side, which in my humble little opinion, it should be served completely drowned in.

Opting for the light-ish main, I chose the steamed hand dived scallops & prawns, served in sauce vierge. Five scallops and three prawns, a little steep for £22 but perfect for my still recovering digestive system.

I always wonder though, why don’t people serve scallops with the roe?

250 gram fillet Belted Galloway beef

steamed hand dived scallops and prawns, sauce vierge

sides: tomatoes & onions; grilled mushrooms

Finally, dessert. I ordered the iced raspberry soufflé and I’m not sure which part of “iced” I didn’t understand but I expected a soufflé. It came out looking like a soufflé, slightly raised from the ramekin and all that but imagine my surprise when my spoon hit the surface and instead of breaking into light, warm fluff, it hit solid ice.

Well, not solid to be fair but solid enough. This dessert is more like a big serve of raspberry sorbet which, once you get your head around that, is actually amazing. A perfect balance of sweet and tangy.

Panu had the ice cream selection which was apparently expletively awesome. I think Hawksmoor has created a monster with this cornflake ice cream thing.

iced raspberry soufflé

ice cream selection: cornflake, rum & raisin, dulce de lecce

All in all, the meal improved as it went along, and while there was a wobbly moment with my “soufflé”, it was still hands down my favourite course at Bistro du Vin and in fact, I wanted to inhale about five things on the dessert menu so if I come back, I’m coming back for dessert.

I couldn’t shake the deja vu of being in Eastside Inn though, the food isn’t quite on par but the whole ambience and the soul of the place… it’s Eastside Inn, but not. If anyone knows what venture Bjorn and Justine are up to these days, please let me know, I’d love to get in touch with them again!

Bistro du Vin
40 St John Street,
Clerkenwell, Ec1 4DL
0207 490 9230
website

Bistro du Vin on Urbanspoon

Note: I was invited to dine as a guest of Bistro du Vin.

18 Thoughts on “Bistro du Vin, Clerkenwell: the new Eastside Inn?

  1. nice piece, great photos! never got to the Eastside so can’t share the memory but it looks like a good, if slightly predictable option in the area. Good for client meetings?

    Rich

    • Yes! Maybe I should have written that in the post – great for client meetings or as my bf said, after work drinks and dinner with the boys :)

  2. I’m so happy you are feeling much better dear! Everything looks so good at this place and I could kill for that bowl of ice cream!

  3. A reader on May 15, 2011 at 11:00 pm said:

    Where they are now? Bjorn is in prison apparently for not paying child support… http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/brooklyn/deadbeat_dad_chef_jailed_Weyuu37fWb0fafK64zQ1WN

  4. I get annoyed with un-creamy bisques of any kind! They NEED to be creamy. I’m with you about not caring where good food comes from as long as it’s good. Sometimes it is better not to know too! Wahaha!

  5. Haha I love you frank and unsentimental you are about restaurants. I wish I were the same way! :P And chocolate bread? That sounds delicious!

  6. So I talked to the manager when I was there and if it is the same bread, there is NO chocolate in it. Its actually a rye, toffee bread. I asked for extra. Enjoyed our meal there as well. Next time, try the Black Forest dessert. It was dreamy

  7. Maria: the ice cream was pretty delicious, I wanted to eat that as well as my own dessert but Panu wouldn’t let me hehe.

    Corsage: I know, right? it has to be creamy! And yeah, I’m not a food snob at all lol :D

    Lorraine: It was. SO DELICIOUS.

    London lady: Weird, I asked the waitress if it was chocolate and she said, yep it’s chocolate and nuts.

  8. I didn’t feel as sentimental as you about EastSide Inn – I never forgave them for the bad cheese they served me. Actually really liked the new Bistro du Vin – particularly the Josper meat!

  9. Can anything replace the ESI? Food- and Front of house wise, I’m not so sure. But I don;t think these guys are trying to that thankfully. The menu looks like it’s full of solid but good dishes and they have a Josper… And it sounds like they are fairly spot on with the cooking. One to try methinks.

  10. Hi Catty, just a quick one. The story about Bjorn in the NY Post was at the very least a bit sensationalist. He is not in jail! In fact, he and Justine are managing the food side of things at a beautiful hotel in the Maldives now.

    http://www.caterersearch.com/Articles/2011/04/12/337780/Bjorn-van-der-Horst-becomes-executive-chef-at-luxury-resort-in-the.htm

    Food at BdV seems okay but not particularly inspiring…though maybe not bad for a chain. They have enomatics, right?

    Best,

    LF

  11. Gourmet Chick: bad cheese! That is NOT good. The josper grill at Bistro du Vin is pretty great, I think I’m going to have the hot shells next time!

    The Grubworm: Yeah, I loved ESI too and given Laissez Fare’s link below I think we need to make a trip to the Maldives ;)

    Laissez Fare: Ah media media media *shakes head* what to believe and what not to, that is the question! Anyway, I for one liked Justine and Bjorn so if he’s paid off his child support and run off to the Maldives for a fresh start then I say good for them. Gives me an excuse to go haha. Food isn’t bad – nothing spectacular but it’s a great venue atmosphere-wise for a work dinner for example.

  12. Regarding the bread confusion – I think they serve different selection of breads each day, so Catty probably did have chocolate and nuts while London Lady had toffee rye. We had neither of those, though I forget what we did have…

  13. I had a similar experience with an iced soufflé a couple of weeks ago. Unfortunately for me, your experience sounds much better than mine–which turned out to be just a poofy-looking, difficult-to-eat chunk of ice cream which only vaguely tasted like grand marnier.

  14. What a way to celebrate your recovery dude! Nice. Never had a raspberry soufflé before- looks amazing.

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