TO BE truthfully honest, I have never had the opportunity to dine at a Michelin star restaurant before but I was absolutely blown away, writes Isabella Perrin.

French Michelin restaurant L’Ortolan in Shinfield is a truly special place and when I mean special, it’s for those very important dates like an anniversary celebration or a big birthday.

The food was a piece of art painted on a plate; beautifully presented and attractive enough to make you excited to dig in.

My partner and I were warmly greeted by the L’Ortolan team as we stepped inside the luxurious Grade II listed building.

We eagerly sat down and browsed through the menu, while sipping on a Les Violet cocktail in the lounge area and enjoying a beautifully presented canapé.

Every single detail has been considered by head chef Tom Clarke, from the way the food is presented to the exploding flavours in the mouth.

The sommelier recommended me a refreshing crisp white wine based on my preferences and it went down a treat alongside the ‘gourmand menu’.

I have never had butter served on a piece of rose quartz, but there is a first for everything.

The chef’s appetiser was a mushroom mousse, served with some warm toasty focaccia and salty butter.

Confit salmon was then served as the first course, which arrived with three different styles of artichoke.

It tasted fresh, slightly salty and tangy with the globe and Chinese artichoke complimenting the flavours sensationally.

This isn’t just a meat eater review either, as my boyfriend had the ‘Vegetarian Gourmand’ menu which offered a beetroot terrine served with horseradish and dill.

Bursting with flavour, the dish was served with three different kinds of beetroot: sweet baby beetroot, purple powdered beetroot and pickled beetroot, served with a “really tasty” horseradish cream oil.

Initially, I was excited to try the goose liver parfait but sadly my taste buds were not used to the richness of the texture or strong flavour.

I could appreciate the taste of the blow torched pineapple and pineapple meringue with the goose, but it was a little too rich for me.

While dishes were coming out of the kitchen every 15 minutes or so, we were treated to a Maturano Val Camino, more commonly known as - ‘Orange Wine’.

The wine which comes from Napoli is for a sour palette and compliments savoury dishes very well.

Fun fact, the previous head sommelier at L’Ortolan became famous because of this wine.

Food further exceeded expectations when he tried the ‘Barkham blue cheese’ dish, which came with a brick pastry tube, candied walnuts, fresh celery and sorbet. He said it was light but delicious and creamy.

The final dish in the vegetarian menu was the butternut squash risotto and truffle cream on top.

My eyes lit up when the venison arrived. I was most excited for this dish because I was intrigued by the chocolate and red wine jus.

The meat was tender, juicy and packed with flavour. The salty kale and celeriac added a bite to the dish with the chocolate jus bringing all the flavours together.

And as if all that wasn’t enough, we were treated to a pre-pudding and dessert.

I was beaming with happiness when I saw how the chef had created an ice cream dessert encased in an apple.

It was fresh, sweet from the salted caramel and had a bite from the chocolate and pecans.

From the exceptional choice of wines, flavoursome food and warm service, we left the restaurant with an experience we’ll never forget.