Its taken a while to get this post up, what with Christmas and New Year, but with a few quiet days at home before I head back to work, here it is. A review of Reading’s only Michelin Starred restaurant – french inspired L’Ortolan.
Headed up by Alan Murchison, an amazing chef with real solid Michelin experience behind him, its one which has been on my hit list for a while. Seeing as we were visiting good friends who live near by, we decided a lunch trip was in order.
L’ortolan is in a strange location, down a narrow road through a housing estate so I was impressed when we turned the corner to face a stunning Victorian manor house with gorgeous landscaped gardens. However, seeing as it was a freezing cold November day we headed straight inside.
We started in the bar with gin and tonics and fantastic nibbles – fish fingers & tartare sauce and bacon and maple popcorn. We decided to go with the Menu du Jour – great value at 3 courses for £31.50pp.
As we moved into the dining room I was surprised to see the change in decor from the dark heavy almost Victorian feel of the bar to the light and minimalist dining room. Modernist lighting and wall panels contrast against the big sash window under which we were sat. I’m not sure the decor was quite my cup of tea but I wasn’t there to criticise the wallpaper – it was all about the food!
The service was excellent, effortless and the sommelier was very friendly, making it easy for us to decide what we wanted to drink. I’ve eaten at quite a few Michelin restaurants now and the service was great here and although I wouldn’t say its the best food we’ve had, it was all excellent none the less. To start I had cured salmon with beetroot and it was very delicate and delicious. I had partridge with chestnuts as my main dish and the confit leg was delicious but I found the breast a little dry, as did my friend who also had it. Dave had pork tenderloin, however, which was just pink and cooked to perfection.
As we were visiting friends who we don’t see enough, it only seemed right to add cheese to finish the meal. It was worth paying extra for – a trolley containing around 20 cheeses was wheeled over complete with its own interpreter. We spent a good 10 minutes choosing what to have. How luxurious! Cheese heaven!
By far and away, the winning dish for all of us was the Tiramisu, which incidentally also appears on their Al a Carte signature menu. The coffee flavour was to die for and the macaroon by far the lightest I’ve eaten. An amaretto mousse complimented it perfectly.
All in all, a great lunch in a peaceful, charming environment. The presentation of the food was impeccable, like works of art on the plate and the best I’ve ever seen! The bill was around £100 per couple and this included a fourth cheese course, a bottle of wine and 2 gin and tonics. I’m not sure we’d return at night but I’d definitely recommend it for a special occasion lunch.