I know a review of an exceptional dinner should start at the beginning – with the delicious, earthy truffle popcorn, perhaps, or the thick wedges of salty homemade biltong presented in a shell on the table.

But this one needs to start at the very end of the meal I shared with my friend at The Jetty in the grounds of Christchurch Harbour Hotel and Spa in Mudeford.

It needs to start with the dessert – or better yet, The Dessert, because it really does deserve those capitals. We had eaten with complete abandon to the point of becoming almost uncomfortable.

Course after delicious course, we had gorged ourselves on food for the best part of two-and-a-half hours. And as we were brought the dessert menu, I almost bowed out altogether.

But in the interests of responsible journalism I decided to pick one of the lighter options available, the blackcurrant mousse with blackcurrant sorbet crème de cassis. It is the best dessert I’ve ever had.

The mousse is light, sweet but tart, partway between the nostalgic jelly and ice cream of childhood and a more sophisticated summer pudding. Alongside it is the sharp, snappy sorbet, as fresh and lovely as a sunny autumn day. It was so delicious I was sad to finish it. So I had a go at my friend’s dessert, a dark, rich chocolate and salt pistachio tart accompanied by the most delicate pistachio ice cream. And that was pretty fantastic too.

It was the perfect way to follow an absolutely outstanding meal that began with a verdant, lush amuse-bouche of rocket and pea soup, served with warm bread shot through with the summery flavour of sundried tomatoes.

Next was the cheese soufflé – a dish I have never tried before, but am now keen to eat every day for the rest of my life. It was so light I think only the ribbons of melted cheese kept it tied to the plate.

My friend had ordered from the vegetarian taster menu – her fricassee of wild mushrooms had a deep, earthy flavour, and the dish was quite rightly served almost without interference from other flavours or ingredients.

It’s a theme that runs throughout the food at The Jetty. Chef and restaurateur Alex Aiken doesn’t fuss with food – there’s no trickery here, no reliance on disguises of heavy seasoning or too many additional ingredients.

Instead, he puts his faith in top-quality and often locally-grown produce, and allows it to sing. Nowhere is this better illustrated than in my main course, sea bass served with new potatoes and long, elegant stems of broccoli.

The food speaks for itself – everything straightforward and cooked to perfection. It’s also true of my friend’s truffle macaroni cheese, which tasted like the best comfort food in the world, or her pot roast vegetables with red wine sauce and herb gnocchi.

If you like good food done well, you’ll love a visit to The Jetty. 

For more information, visit www.thejetty.co.uk, or call 01202 400950 to book a table