I FELT as if I had walked out of a Christmas card! Admittedly I was in a mini rather than a sleigh, but as I drove through the snow past the church and into the old vicarage, you could imagine what it was like in days gone by. But my colleague and I were actually arriving at the renowned L'ortolan restaurant in Shinfield to sample their new Christmas menu. As the door swept open, we were shown into the ante room, decorated with flamboyant feathery Christmas decorations. We enjoyed a festive cocktail with canapes while we perused the menu.

We were shown to the chef's table, situated in the kitchen, the only one left as the restaurant was fully booked. The kitchen is split into various sections: one for bread, pastry and dessert preparation, another for meat and fish and yet another for vegetables, garnishes and sauces.

Head chef Elliott Lidstone was friendly, informative and very relaxed as only someone so sure of their skills can be. Surprisingly, the kitchen was not a cacophony of sound and blasphemy, but more like a well-oiled machine