The publicity that the Giraffe restaurant chain puts out about itself is so tiresomely twee that I am tempted to give the new Oxford branch a pasting on that basis alone. Go to their website ( and you will see the sort of yucky guff I mean, much of it concerned with smiling. It includes badly scanned verse: "I've thought about my smile/and realised all its worth/single smile like mine or yours/could travel round the earth! So if you feel a smile begin/don't leave it undetected/start an epidemic quick/and get the world infected." Doesn't it make you feel like throwing up?

The suspicion, of course, is that all this upbeat, happy-clappy stuff is nothing but a cynical marketing ploy to shift more grub. Giraffe is, after all, the property of some very hard-headed business types. The company chairman is Luke Johnson, a one-time medical student in Oxford and current boss of Channel 4. His previous successes have included both the Strada and the Pizza Express chains, the second of which he bought from its founder Peter Boizot (who was brought up round the corner from me in Peterborough).

Luke was interviewed in last week's Caterer magazine and talked confidently of a boom in the restaurant business, and his own enthusiasm for the sector. "It's great fun to give people pleasure," he said (which seems to me an admirable philosophy).

"We opened our latest Giraffe in Oxford on Saturday. It's a tremendously exciting moment when you see a shell of a building transformed into a busy, bustling environment. It's the most exciting thing I have experienced in business."

Exactly a week after its first customers piled in - many, I gather, already familiar with the brand - I paid a lunchtime visit, my first to a Giraffe. And, do you know, I really rather liked it. God help me, I even found myself smiling. There will be no pasting for the place from me today.

Leaving aside the garish colour scheme, I think it was perhaps the music that first put me in the mood. They go in for cheery, up-tempo stuff. It comes from all corners of the globe, thereby reflecting the eclecticism of the menu. You can buy a CD to take home with you if you like, for £9.99. We nearly did, but then Rosemarie changed her mind at the last minute. Probably didn't want me wandering round at home with a silly grin on my face.

Our mood was also lifted by a delicious yellow Mojito, which Rosemarie ordered and generously allowed me to share, and the warmth and courtesy shown from the start by all members of the staff. Our waitress was a Romanian young lady called Mihaela (pictured left); the man who appeared to be in charge, spreading a natural warmth in all his dealings with customers, was from Slovakia. While they may not be of any use in Bangladeshi restaurants - so their owners complain - Eastern Europeans certainly keep the rest of the catering world fully staffed Talking of Bangdeshi restaurants, I was delighted when Monir Ali, the boss of last week's featured restaurant, the Spice Valley, spotted us through the window of Giraffe and popped in to say hello. I don't think he blew my cover.

By that stage, we were well into our lunch, which was proving much more enjoyable than I had been expecting. Though the pea and asparagus soup was tempting, I began with the Sunshine Antipasti Bruschetta. This was a truly delicious piece of pesto-spread foccacia, piled high with a mix of pitted black olives, balls of mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, roast peppers and artichokes, with that extra lift of summery freshness that only basil can give.

I followed with a flavour-packed wedge of hot smoked roast salmon - the sort called 'Bradon Rost' in Loch Fyne establishments - on wasabi and green onion rice, with toasted sesame seeds and Yakitori sauce. Does is sound good? It certainly was.

For Rosemarie, there was a starter of the oddly-named Shrooms - tender mushroom caps in a tomato, basil and Parmesan sauce with what the menu called "melting mozzarella". Alas, this cheese did not melt, because the dish was still rather cool in its centre.

She was very happy indeed with the burger and chips that followed - the meat 100 per cent Scottish, and the presentation tempting to the palate. She did think, however, that with a price tag of nearly nine quid, it was a bit mean to charge an extra pound for the onions and cheese.

A shared portion (designed as such) of red cherry and apple crumble, with "Very Vanilla Ice Cream" - it was - completed a most satisfactory meal.

I tried the white and red house wines, both Acacia Tree from South Africa. The white was a light and refreshing Chardonnay/Colombard blend. I was unsure whether the Red was Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon. It turned out to be both.

I grazed, by the way, throughout the meal on a bowl of wok-fried edamame (soya beans). They were in a very fine soy, ginger and chilli dressing which got stronger and stronger as I neared the bottom of the bowl. A highly recommended extra!