We were recently offered the chance to visit and review l’ortolan – Reading’s only Michelin starred restaurant. Having never been to an establishment with a Michelin star before (Pizza Express & Ask Italian are the kind of places we tend to frequent with our two little ones!) we were very intrigued and of course we jumped at the chance to see what it’s all about.

l’ortolan is in Shinfield, about a 15 minute drive from central Reading. We were coming from Newbury and it is easily accessed from junction 11 of the M4 – follow the signs for the A33 towards Basingstoke and the restaurant is then signposted. l’ortolan is in the beautiful setting of a Grade II listed building. On arrival the door was opened for us; we were welcomed and were asked if we would like a drink in the bar area. We were presented with the bar menu from which to choose our pre-lunch drinks. There was a wide range to choose from including cocktails, champagne and soft drinks. We both chose a mocktail – going for the ‘l’ortolan Sunset’ and the ‘Deep Cooler.’ These were presented beautifully in ‘fishbowl’ glasses and they were delicious. Our mocktails were accompanied by canapés of arancini (risotto balls) and crispbreads with small pieces of fish and caviar which went down well! Whilst enjoying our drinks and canapés in the relaxed setting of the bar we perused the menu – we chose our meals from the A La Carte menu but you can also enjoy the ‘Menu Gourmand’ which consists of seven courses or the ‘Discovery Menu’ – a 10 course tasting menu prepared by l’ortolan’s Head Chef, Tom Clarke.

lortolan building

Copyright Shannon Lee Robinson Photography

We were escorted through to the dining room when our table was ready. Although it was lunch time most of the tables were occupied and this helped to create a lively atmosphere. The sommelier came over to us to recommend some wine (we understand that the sommelier would normally come to you after you have ordered your food and before you have been taken to your table but there was a slight misunderstanding on our visit). He was very knowledgeable and passionate about wine; we took his advice as he recommended different wines to go with our courses. We tried two different wines which were enjoyed by both of us. Before our meal we were provided with a basket of bread and then a chef’s appetiser, a delicious savoury mousse. Our first courses consisted of Gazpacho and Salmon. The Gazpacho had a goat’s cheese mousse, tomato and basil.

lortolan cocktail

Copyright Shannon Lee Robinson Photography

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Our second courses were Stone Bass and Risotto – this was a pea risotto with mushrooms and a tarragon cream. Before dessert we were given a ‘pre-dessert’ which consisted of a panna cotta and a vegetarian parfait. There were four desserts to choose from or you could enjoy a selection of cheeses. We chose the Coconut cheesecake and Chocolate desserts. Following dessert we were offered tea and coffee but we chose not to have this, however, we noticed that other diners had a selection of sweet treats with their hot drinks.  All of the food was excellent and enjoyed by both of us.

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A visit to l’ortolan is not just a meal out – it is a dining experience. The service is excellent – the staff to diner ratio was very high (3 members of staff to serve 4 desserts!)– yet you are left to enjoy your meal and you do not feel rushed. We would suggest you allow 3 to 4 hours to fully appreciate the dining experience. From our arrival to when we left we were very well looked after. We would recommend this as a place to go for a special occasion, perhaps if you are celebrating a special birthday or an anniversary. While we did not have children with us on our visit, children over the age of 3 are welcome at l’ortolan.

L’ortolan is having a Christmas Gala on Saturday 21st December 2019. Guests will begin with champagne on arrival, followed by a winter feast including dishes like goose liver parfait served with caramelised pear and pecan and roast loin of venison with braised red cabbage and bitter chocolate jus. There will also be a little extra surprise for diners on the night to spread some festive cheer! Tickets are £175pp and the full menu can be viewed here. Dress code: black tie and cocktail dresses. Starts at 7pm, call the restaurant on the number below to make a booking.

You can find out more about l’ortolan by visiting its website: www.lortolan.com.

L’ortolan, Church Lane, Shinfield, Reading, RG2 9BY. T: 0118 988 8500. E: info@lortolan.com.

L’ortolan is offering West Berkshire Mums Family Card holders a 20% discount (valid Tuesday-Thursday), quote ‘WBM1906’ when booking. See our membership page for more details.