I was very lucky last Thursday to be invited to a restaurant in UK called L'Ortolan located in Reading.
Peter Newman and Alan Murchison co-founded the restaurant as is in 2001, Peter as the Owner and financier Alan as the head chef. Peter bought the L'Ortolan building from John Burton Race, who had moved to London the year before.They re-opened L’ortolan in September 2001 and gradually regained its reputation as a destination dining experience par excellence, culminating in the revered one star award from the Michelin Red Guide early in 2003. Then in Feb 2004, the restaurant was closed for several months during which infrastructure services were renewed and two new private dining rooms were added on the first floor. In September 2004 the restaurant was reopened with Alan once again at the helm, and has gone from strength to strength ever since, winning many awards on the way.
We were greeted in the conservatory with a glass of Pommery Brut Rose which went down a treat. Olives and nuts were served with the champagne. We were then lead to the private dining room on the first floor. The room was painted in a dark red which gave the room a dramatic look. The round table was lovely decorated without being kitchy.
First we were served the Chef's appetizer which was celeriac soup sprinkled with celeriac salt, served in a mocha cup. With our starters we opted for a lovely Casalferro, Barone Ricasoli, 2000 Tuscany. For my first starter I choose autumn artichokes with field mushrooms and truffle puree. The artichokes came as a fritter and were simply perfect. The second starter consisted of scallops with cauliflower puree and curry oil (the original dish was served with Alsace bacon). With this course we were served a Sancerre Les Cals de Beaujeu.
The main dish sounded simple enough as ravioli with spinach and mascarpone and ceps. But (and it is a big but), the ceps came as a veloute and some of the litle gems were panfried and lovely arranged on the plate - needless to say that I was in heaven. This heavenly feeling continued when I was served the Barolo Azelia, 1998. The cheese plate wasn't overloaded but still a great selection of mostly French cheeses.
The chefs pre-dessert was a creme brulee which was simply perfect. Our chosen dessert was a Manjari chocolate mousse, served with vanilla cream, raisins in rum and the best ever blackcurrant sorbet. For the cheese and the desserts we opted for Vintage Fortified Shiraz2004 from the d'Arenberg Estate. It was great with the cheese, a bit too overpowering with the desserts. The handmade chocolates served with the coffee were purely sins but gosh, they were nice.
The service in this restaurant was outstanding. Waitresses were in the background and very attentive. You hardly knew they were there.