We booked at the last minute or, to be more accurate, the previous week. It’s interesting that we could get a table at a 2* Michelin restaurant, on a week’s notice. Try and do that the Hand & Flowers, for example or the Ledbury and they’d laugh at you. I’m wondering whether it’s something to do with the location or with the food. Probably the former.

Everybody seems to absolutely love this restaurant. I generally try not to read too many reviews before I go to a new restaurant because I like to experience it afresh and not unconsciously take on board other people’s opinions. It’s the same reason I very rarely read film reviews, before I choose to go to see a film – I don’t want to be influenced and I certainly don’t want to know the outcome.

Because I didn’t know I was going to be here, I’d read quite a few reviews and maybe it was the weight of expectation that was too great or maybe it was the fact that I’d seen or read about quite a few of the dishes before I got there that spoilt the surprise and the impact.

I loved the room. Simple and elegant. Bare tables and subtle artwork. good, plain furniture. Nothing to detract from the food. A plain backdrop to visually exciting food.

And my overwhelming impression was of beautifully presented food.  Clever, a work of art on the plate, almost.  But I wonder whether there has been too much concentration on cleverness and that in doing so, something has been sacrificed. And I do understand this food. I’ve eaten at Roganic and loved it. The food there was inventive and interesting but also delicious and satisfying.

I also thought it was a great wine list. And I was extremely pleased to see that they had one of my very favourite wines, the Trimbach Gewurtztraminer Cuvee des Seigneurs de Ribeaupierre 2004. It seemed auspicious.

But here, at least three of the dishes here were over-salted and two were bland. It made me wonder whether the food was being tasted properly before it left the kitchen. Some dishes were delicious, some were very clever and a few were, for me, visually stunning but not memorable. And maybe that’s too big an ask for 17 courses, but the truth is, without trying I can think only of a few courses that really stood out. The oyster meringues, odd, semi-sweet. The plaice, simple but effective. The truffle dish, visually exciting and intensely flavoured; the venison tartare, which I struggled to eat, as I’m not keen on raw meat but which was  a great mixture of textures and flavours. Eel and ham hock was also good, made more memorable by my sister’s struggle to force herself to be adventurous and eat it (pronounced a great success).

And the staff were fantastic. Helpful, with a great sense of humour and very accommodating to our large and fussy party, with their various and varying food requirements. One ate fish no shellfish, two ate fish meat and no shellfish and pork. All was accommodated with grace and a “nothing is too much trouble” attitude.

Except that two people couldn’t get there until an hour and a half after the start.  We told them a few hours before the time of the reservation. They said they couldn’t hold the meal but would start it at the point they arrived. I would have thought that they could have done something to ensure that the two would get a proper meal, or perhaps a few dishes could have come at once. It seemed rather inflexible. And no account taken of the fact that they had missed 7 courses. I was sorry that they missed the experience.

Would I drive up from London to do it again? Not sure I would. But I’m glad I went and it was a great way to hit 50. Oh. And no cake with sparklers either.

Oyster, with pebbles.

Butternut squash

Eel and ham

Bread. It came at this point in the proceedings

Squid and chicken. This was delicious.

Potato with coddled eggs.

Egg. In other photos you can see that there is a yolk. Not today though. And I was worried that these were maggots. They were puffed rice. I liked this.

Dumpling. This was pre-sauce. I found this dish beautiful but there wasn’t enough contrast and it was bland

Venison. Pretty as a picture.

Carrots. And langoustine.

Artichoke and truffles. Outstanding.

Heritage tomatoes. And other things. Delicious.

Plaice. Simple and delicious.

Duck. Intense and delicious.

I didn’t eat all of it. Not quite

Bread for the cheese.

Chestnut cream, apple, woodruff. One where the presentation wasn’t all that.

Cumbrian slate. This was magnificent to look at. Clever, and refreshing too.

Blackberry. Plum and stout.

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