PERHAPS, given its name and location, it’s not surprising that so many people assume Marwell Hotel is part of the zoo next door.

When I mentioned where I was going to for an evening out some of my friends expressed surprise that the zoo was open on a Friday night.

The Dining Room is a fantastic and well priced restaurant which deserves to be packed to the rafters but was surprisingly quiet, probably because a lot of local people just don’t realise it’s there.

The restaurant has recently relaunched, with a heavy emphasis on local and seasonal food.

Chef Roger Halford, pictured, lets the quality of his ingredients shine through, with some fairly simple dishes that don’t detract from the flavours. We started our meal with an appetiser of Mrs Tee’s wild mushrooms. This was light but richly flavoured and set the scene for the meals to follow. I had told the restaurant I was vegan when I booked and it was definitely worth it. My meal was every bit as lovingly prepared as my meat-eating boyfriend’s.

My starter was a warming butternut squash while my boyfriend had seared scallops with smoked pancetta and spinach which were among the best he’s had. We then had a palate cleanser of beetroot which included thinly sliced pieces and a first for both of us: beetroot sorbet! It sounds odd but it was delicious.

My main was a masterclass in how quality, healthy food which is well prepared wins against junk every time. I had an assiette of vegetables: there were three distinct “bits” to my dish. My mouth still waters at the thought of barley and kale risotto that was my main event. I’m not normally a big fan of courgette but the grilled aubergine and courgette was amazing and the sweet potato and baby vegetables were sublime.

My boyfriend had rump of lamb with dauphinoise potatoes, barley, rosemary sauce and a side of green beans. The lamb was the perfect shade of pink and very moist.

I tend not to have dessert when I eat out but I’m very glad I made an exception at The Dining Room. I found myself making strange noises with my mouth full that translated as “this is amazing”.

The highlight was a sweet and sticky coconut rice pudding. My boyfriend had cherry clafoutis with cherry compote and milk ice cream, a warming dish without being too heavy.

After five courses we were satisfied but without that horrible heavy feeling of having over-indulged.

The Marwell Hotel is in Thompsons Lane, Colden Common, 01962 777625,