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Tucked away in the quiet village of Shinfield, not far from the bustling town of Reading and close to the M4, is the Michelin-starred L’Ortolan. This brickbuilt former vicarage shares the same lane as the historic St Mary’s church and takes its name from a bird which was once considered a delicacy when doused in Armagnac, roasted and eaten while wearing a napkin over your head to preserve the aroma.
I visited with a good friend of mine to sample this much-acclaimed eatery’s French cuisine, with menus created by executive chef Alan Murchison, and chose from the du jour tasting menu. We were initially invited into an elegant lounge where we were served unfiltered Prosecco with olives and vegetable bhajis to sharpen the tastebuds.
When ready, we were then ushered into an art deco-style dining area, where each dish was served on uniquely shaped crockery with complementing wine. We began with confit of duck and foie gras terrine with pickled rhubarb, sweet wine gel and brioche – with Hungarian Tokaji wine. Following seamlessly came macaroni with wild mushrooms, artichoke mousse, smoked eel and mushroom tapioca. Later, loin of line-caught pollock with lentil dahl, warm soused potatoes and curried mussels. Braised and roasted pork belly with pinot noir topped things off a treat, arriving with charred Roscoff onions and apple and Calvados sauce. The service we received throughout was not only courteous but very informative too.
When the time came for dessert, what at first glance resembled a fried egg, turned out to be a supreme coconut espuma with a delicious mango purée centre. We also tried some intriguing liquorice cake with dark chocolate ganache, fromage blanc and carrot sorbet.
Afterwards, we retired to the lounge for an aromatic herbal tea for myself and a coffee for my companion, plus homemade petits fours – including white and dark chocolate and Turkish delight. Later we toured the restaurant and found an airy conservatory allowing sunlight to filter inside, and two spacious upstairs rooms – one with an ornate glass table – perfect for business or private dinner hire.
Open: Tues-Sat noon-2pm,
t: 0118 9888 500