IT’S one dark, autumnal evening and, despite the fact the Boat Show was in town, Southampton is quiet and grey.

So a warm welcome to a superb restaurant was just what we needed – and that’s exactly what we got at Merchant Blue Moon at Ocean Village.

The high ceilings give this place a light and airy feel and the buzz of conversation and the smell of delicious food wafting through the door made us feel immediately at home.

Sharing light-hearted conversation with the friendly staff, my friend and I were soon tucking into our starters.

My old favourite, a gooey flavoursome Deep Fried Brie, coated in breadcrumbs and served with leaves and a tangy fruits of the forest coulis, was just what the doctor ordered and arrived promptly and piping hot.

My companion adored her Chicken Charlie, fillets of chicken seasoned with five spices and sealed in a light batter with honey and sesame seeds, which had just the right hint of heat without being overpowering.

But the steak was the main event here. We both opted for 6oz rumps, which were cooked to our exact specification and came out sizzling and smelling superb, served with a hearty portion of chunky chips, sautéed mushrooms and grilled tomato.

Mine was sautéed to perfection in the restaurant’s famous Jabberwocky style sauce, part of the menu which has been transferred from the legendary city eaterie Bouzy Rouge.

Feeling particularly greedy, we couldn’t resist dessert. I opted for three good-sized scoops of superb vanilla New Forest Ice Cream and my companion was impressed with a generous portion of Merchant’s own fruity cheesecake.

We washed our excellent supper down with a bottle of reasonably priced house red wine – and plenty of gossip.

I’ll make sure I return soon for the live entertainment on offer as a trip to Merchants really brightened up our evening.