Celebrating special occasions every day is something that James Allen, manager of Hotel du Vin Winchester, enjoys most about his job.
The hotel, which opened its doors in 1994 as the first Hotel du Vin in the country, is regarded as the flagship of the 16-strong Hotel du Vin group. Despite being its smallest property, it has a loyal following from both within the city and further afield.
“We often host guests who have booked in to celebrate a wedding anniversary, birthday or special occasion and return to enjoy similar events again the following year, or perhaps get married or host a business event with us,” James says. “The hotel is a landmark in Winchester and people feel they have a personal connection with it through the memories shared here.
“Because we’re a boutique hotel we recognise our regulars and know them by name. Offering them their preferred choice of wine, reserving their favourite table or simply greeting them as old friends makes a big difference, not only to their experience within the hotel but also to the team working here.”
Such has been James’ impact on the levels of service at Hotel du Vin Winchester that he now works as group training ambassador, ensuring that hospitality across all the hotels is top-notch.
“Hotel du Vin’s boutique hotels offer a much more intimate stay or dining experience than a big chain,” James says. “We like to be really attentive, passionate and genuinely interested in the people who come into our hotels.”
As well as celebrating special times, Hotel du Vin Winchester also serves as a place of rest and recuperation, with patients from the Royal Hampshire County Hospital booking in for time out during treatment or for a treat after an operation.
“Those bookings are extra special to us,” James says. “People use hotels for all sorts of reasons but we hope to offer a real home-from-home feel. To look after guests when they need quiet and comfort most is very rewarding.”
The hotel is also renowned for its many events, managed by James’ partner, Mitchell. These have included cocktail classes, charity dinners, independent film pitches, fashion shows and even television filming.
“Unique events are important to us because they generate excitement and a buzz in the hotel,” James says. “We host a good party and also like to lay on a few surprises too – whether they are a fire eater in our courtyard, a Cuban cigar dinner or marshmallow toasting on an open fire during a Christmas event.”
Wine remains at the heart of the bistro and its lively bar. “We have over 800 wines and champagnes on offer in Winchester and also mix a mean cocktail,” James says. “We want to continue the legacy started by Hotel du Vin co-founder Gerrard Basset, ensuring our sommeliers are highly trained and really enjoy making recommendations for diners who want to widen their experience. Our wine tasting events are always very well attended.”
Giving something back to the community year on year is also important. “Putting people first is at the heart of what we do inside the hotel, so we support city initiatives that do that too,” James says. “That might be providing a room for a charity event, hosting Winchester Business Improvement District events or getting hands-on, serving hot drinks at Trinity’s Big Sleep Out to raise awareness of homelessness.
“Managing a hotel is never just about looking after the people inside it. I’d like to think that the hotel is viewed as an extension of the living, breathing character of the city as a whole.”
Tel. 01962 841414. www.hotelduvin.com/winchester.