My enthusiasm for Gee’s — indisputably Oxford’s best restaurant — will be known to regular readers of this column. The quality of its food, the charm and efficiency of the service and the unique atmosphere supplied by its conservatory setting make it for me the place of choice for any special celebration. Such an occasion — the Important Birthday — drew us there at the beginning of the month. That Rosemarie’s anniversary happened to fall on the evening of our departure for a two-week holiday in Greece supplied another cause for making whoopee.

In other circumstances, I might not have made our dinner the subject of one of these articles. But since Gee’s had just unveiled the new seasonal menu, the opportunity to put readers in the picture about it was not to be resisted. This decision was reached even before I learned that in charge of the kitchen that night had been Julian O’Neill, the head chef for six years at Piccadilly’s iconic Wolseley restaurant (and before that at Sir Terence Conrad’s Quaglino’s), who since the beginning of the year has been Director of Food for Mogford Limited, which also runs the Old Parsonage further along Banbury Road and Quod Brasserie in the High Street.

With our table for three booked for 8.30pm, Rosemarie, Olive and I were delighted when our taxi arrived well ahead of time. OK, I confess I had ordered it at 7.30 to permit of the glasses of chardonnay at the Rose and Crown in North Parade without which no visit to this upmarket district of Oxford would be complete. Having thoroughly enjoyed these, we felt able to embark on our dinner around the corner with no need for an aperitif. But this was to reckon without the courtesy of manager Sarah who, sensing celebration in the air, caused complimentary glasses of champagne to be delivered. They arrived at our table even as we were noting that an adjoining one was graced, quite by chance, by the presence of two of our oldest friends and a charming guest to whom we were later introduced.

The new menu, which were were soon inspecting with interest, offered much to whet the appetite. “Classic dishes using the best seasonal ingredients” is how the restaurant’s publicity characterises its food. The description seems eminently justified at present.

Besides the dishes I shall presently describe, there were starters such as grilled asparagus (in shorter than usual supply generally this year owing to waterlogged fields which now seem a distant memory after the heatwave), halibut carpaccio, and sardines with lemons and olives; main course dishes like grilled pigeon with fennel and rocket, beetroots with cress and curd, and veal breast with courgettes; and, among the puddings, panna cotta with rhubarb, chocolate nemesis and coffee gelato.

Sarah drew my particular attention to the bistecca fiorentina available for two at £56, causing me to recall that it was in the company of the gentleman at the adjoining table that I first enjoyed one of these Italian delights — a signature dish at the Wolseley — on a Tuscan holiday more than 30 years ago. Too substantial tonight, I thought; besides, both my companions wanted fish.

Our orders given, we were surprised and pleased by the sudden arrival of two dishes that had not figured among our requests. The kitchen wished us to sample two of the new starters: these were roasted artichoke hearts with broad beans (peeled, of course) and ultra-thin slices of prosciutto with croquette-like chickpea fritters. Both are highly recommended to prospective visitors.

So, too, are the pair of starters we had ordered. With Olive passing at this stage of the meal (as she had thought!), I went for the risotto with clams, peas and parsley (delicious, with a welcome ‘bite’ to the rice) and Rosemarie had seared scallops with vine tomatoes roasted to a tasty ‘jam’.

Since this had not been conceived as a test meal, my companions had not demurred over their order of the same main course dish. This was a chunky, beautifully fresh plaice, either grilled or pan-fried (it was hard to tell which), served on the bone, but with the head removed. Accompanying it were al dente green beans and Jersey royals boiled in their skins and then finished in butter. My main course, offered in splendidly generous quantity, was rump of lamb served in slightly pink slices with roasted garlic cloves in their skins and aubergine purée. This was a spring treat, indeed. I drank the heady Carignan/Merlot from the Languedoc, while my companions shared the rest of our bottle of French white, a refreshing blend of ugni blanc and colombard.

The starterless (!) Olive finished with a strawberry and almond tart, praising the excellence of its pastry, while Rosemarie and I shared the Pendragon cheddar-style buffalo milk cheese and gorgonzola dolce with an array of excellent biscuits. This cost £7, though I was pleased to see (other restaurants would do well to imitate) that one cheese could be had for half the price.