This week we spoke to the newly appointed Head Sommelier at Hotel du Vin Edinburgh, Thomas Senetra, and asked him what exciting French dishes have made it onto their new menu.
What is your role and how long have you been at Hotel du Vin?
I’m the Head Sommelier at Hotel du Vin Edinburgh and I’ve been here for just two months now after moving up from the Hotel du Vin in Brighton.
Tell us a little about your background and what experience you brought to the table.
I remember from a young age my father making wine at home in Poland and from then I had always been interested. When graduating from high school I wanted to follow this interest and it soon grew into a passion when I was accepted on to the Wine Business course in Brighton. Hotel du Vin gave me the chance to develop my knowledge further and be surrounded by some of the best wines on a daily basis. A perk of the job is being able to try some fantastic wines and being able to introduce others to these unique wines too.
Hotel du Vin specialises in French home style cooking – what makes French food stand out from the rest?
French food is renowned for having rich flavours and using the freshest of ingredients. It’s refined in its taste and offers robust, earthy dishes that rely on fresh produce. The dishes are uncomplicated – simple things done well – this is one of the key principals of Hotel du Vin.
Hotel du Vin has just launched a new menu – tell us a little more about this.
Our new menu has been heavily influenced by French home style cooking, but there is definitely a British twist to it. It’s classically French, escargot or comte cheese soufflé, but undeniably British with heart-warming comfort food, like duck shepherd’s pie. It pairs the marriage of British comfort food with classic French cuisine and wines to match.
What is your favourite dish and why?
My favourite dish has to be the duck shepherd’s pie from our comfort section of the menu. It really is just what you want on a cold day in Edinburgh to warm you up. The flavour is fantastic and I can even enjoy a glass of my favourite red with it, Juan Gil Silver Label.
What are your top tips for pairing dishes with wine?
Personally I think that food and wine matching is all about bringing out the best from both. There are several simple tips which can help you to do it better and avoid unpleasant mistakes. Firstly pay special attention to not pair bitter food and high tannin wine as these will multiply bitter tastes. If you want to pair a high tannin wine, look to foods with fat and salt for balance. When it comes to desserts always make sure that the wine is sweeter than your dish, otherwise the wine will taste tart and bitter. Any foods high in acids such as salads with vinaigrette or oysters generally should be matched with wines with even higher acidity – try oysters with Blancs de Blancs Champagne, you won’t regret it!
How would you describe the decor at Hotel du Vin?
Each Hotel du Vin is unique in décor and character, this is shaped by the architecture, history and location of the building. We are elegant, yet unpretentious and informal yet luxurious. Through the comfortable seating in a sophisticated environment, we want to make all our guests feel at home. With our Laroche tasting table, cigar bothy and whisky snug we definitely live by our unique description.
The building itself has quite a history. Tell us more about this.
Hotel du Vin Edinburgh was built originally as a Poor House in 1743 and it later became better known as Bedlam – the city’s lunatic asylum. During the World Wars it changed into a science laboratory and then Edinburgh’s Blood Donation Centre until purchased by Hotel du Vin in 2007. With such history the hotel is bursting with character, some of which is still visible today through the original brickwork.