AN AUTHENTIC Italian meal seemed like it would be just the thing to banish thoughts of the increasingly cold weather and nights drawing in.

La Fontana, in East Hanney, near Wantage, promises to provide just that, its traditional menu, written in both Italian and English, enthusing that Mattia and Eugenia Merola welcome you to their family-run restaurant.

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Although the exterior of the hotel and restaurant, which has been running since the late 1980s, now looks a little dated the interior was impeccably presented during my visit.

The dining room was filled with crisp white tablecloths and napkins, with dozens of wine glasses twinkling in the light from candles placed on each table.

Despite it being fairly early on a weekday evening, service was also quick and attentive but never crossed over into feeling intrusive.

Oxford Mail:

A relaxing soundtrack of piano music also helped with the sense this is a restaurant where there is no pressure on diners to rush.

My starter of fresh pan fried asparagus, cooked in butter and parmesan cheese and topped with a poached egg (£7.95) was not much to look at, served still swimming in a puddle of butter.

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It was tasty though, the combination of perfectly-cooked asparagus and the rich egg yolk proving why the pairing is a classic.

An unexpected delight was a delicious slice of warm bread served on the side of with (more) butter.

Oxford Mail:

The main of homemade tagliatelle cooked with chicken, cherry tomatoes, and mushrooms in a garlic, parsley and white wine sauce (£12.50), however, was curiously flavourless.

Even a liberal application of both pepper and salt failed liven up the meal.

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A side salad of tomato, cucumber and pepper with balsamic vinegar was a nice addition, though in the end it only emphasised the lack of flavour in the main dish.

Feeling disappointed by an Italian restaurant that failed to provide me with tasty pasta I decided to take a gamble and hope a dessert could turn things around.

Oxford Mail:

Though it hopped over from Italy to France, I had no regrets about ordering the classic creme brulee (£5.95).

As soon as it arrived still gently bubbling I knew I was in for a treat.

The satisfying crack of the caramelised sugar topping gave way to a generous serving of creamy vanilla custard.

As if that wasn't enough, the dessert also included a curled biscuit tuile - perfect for dipping in the creme brulee.