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L'Ortolan

Church Lane, SHINFIELD, Reading, RG2 9BY

4 rosettes

Alan Murchison's 10 in 8 enterprise emphatically doesn't work as a chain with the same signature stamped on each outpost, but is made up of a heterogeneous collection of venues stretching from Shropshire, through Bedfordshire and Berkshire, down to Hampshire. L'ortolan was the first, and still feels in many ways like a flagship. It's a red-brick former vicarage tucked away down a lane, in a sizeable but pleasantly tranquil village not far from Reading and the M4. With conservatory extensions looking over the pretty gardens, and interiors decorated to a high order, it looks every inch the destination restaurant. Three private dining rooms are part of the appeal, and the place is run with knowledgeable aplomb by a cosmopolitan European brigade of staff. Head chef Nick Chappell is a consummate practitioner of the modern French style, bringing a nice delicacy of judgment to dishes that manage that elusive balance of looking neat and light while being constructed of powerful, concentrated elements in bold counterpoint. Multi-course tasting menus are the principal drivers of the operation: five stages at lunch, six for the Signature, seven for the Gourmand, ten for the Prestige, with vegetarian versions too. Classical French technique is the foundation, with increasingly evident Indian and other Asian seasoning and spicing conferring distinctiveness. Lunch might begin with a serving of firm-textured Goosnargh duck terrine with pickled rhubarb, granola and a sharp rhubarb sorbet, or a warm pavé of salmon with salt-baked beetroot in all colours, and a purée of kalamansi. Those Indian notes resound in the lightly curried mussels that accompany a main course of stone bass, together with shaved white radish, lentil dhal and pickles, or there may be braised and roasted pork belly, its buttery tenderness matched by a serving of full-throttle macaroni cheese, with garnishes of apple Parisienne and a deeply resonant Calvados sauce. Main courses on the lengthier menus may include succulent venison haunch with charred cauliflower, sauced with port and chocolate, and roast fillet and braised shin of veal in liquorice with burnt onion (charred veg are a speciality) and Madeira sauce, while the corresponding vegetarian option may be spinach and mushroom agnolotti with truffled cep purée. The professional finish to dishes is maintained through to dazzling desserts such as the vibrantly colourful blood orange cream with pistachio meringue and pistachio ice cream, or parsnip and almond cake with parsnip sorbet and bitter chocolate ganache.

Further information

Tel: 0118 988 8500
Please quote 'The AA'.
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Open/closed

Days closed: Sun-Mon
Dates closed: 2 wks Xmas-New Year

Restaurant information

Cooking type: Modern French
Chef: Alan Murchison
Number of seats: 58
Accessible for wheelchairs.
Disabled toilets.
Vegetarian meals available.
Children welcome.
Children's portions.
Parking available.

 

Restaurant price guide

2 Course lunch from: £28.00
3 Course lunch from: £31.50
Prices are for guidance only. Please check when booking for current rates.

 
L'Ortolan, Shinfield

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Directions

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From M4 junct 11 take A33 towards Basingstoke. At 1st lights turn left, after garage turn left, 1m turn right at Six Bells pub. Restaurant 1st left (follow tourist signs)
Nearest station: Reading

Local information for RG2 9BY

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