AFTER a hectic weekend of school fairs and children’s parties, a dinner at the Cumberland Hotel’s Ventana Brasserie and Bar was the perfect tonic.

From the moment we stepped over the threshold into the hotel’s reception, a feeling of calm descended, and the ambience of the brasserie itself meant we felt instantly relaxed.

The decor is decadent, but not over the top, chic while still managing to be comfortable. Comfy chairs with cushions make for a less-formal setting and the ambient lighting and calming background music combined perfectly to set the mood.

Refurbished several years ago, it was also awarded an AA Red Rosette in 2011 and a new chef, Mateuse Nowathkowski, has been in residence for the last six months.

As we browsed through the extensive menu, which is adapted to suit the seasons, it was clear there was something to suit every taste.

A varied selection included salads, burgers, grills and even sandwiches, with dishes such as seared salmon steak (£13.95), pan roasted fillet of monkfish (£15.95) and leek and saffron risotto (£10.95), sitting alongside classic winter warmers such as hand-made cottage pie with stout ale (£10.45) and Portobello mushroom pie (£10.45).

I opted for the soup of the day, carrot and coriander (£4.95), to start followed by the slow cooked spiced lamb shank (£13.95) while my husband opted for the Ventana’s duck liver pate (£6.75) – marked on the menu as a “regulars’ favourite” - and an 8oz sirloin steak (£18.95).

All food, which is sourced locally as much as possible, is cooked fresh to order, so you are warned there may be a wait.

But there is an extra “while you wait” section on the menu specifically designed for the really hungry, from which we chose a warm rustic bread board with Spanish extra virgin olive oil and aged Balsamic di Modena for dipping (£1.50 per person).

The bread arrived almost instantly and was deliciously warm and soft - perfect to stave off the hunger pangs while we waited for our starters.

But the wait wasn’t long at all and as soon as the bread was finished our soup and pate arrived.

The soup was steaming hot, thick and creamy and deliciously sweet, while the pate was smooth with a strong liver taste.

After a suitable break, we were served with our main courses.

The lamb shank is usually accompanied by a serving of bubble and squeak, which I chose to swap for a side order of cheesy mashed potato.

It was also served with silverskin onions and rich, dark gravy and the meat had been marinated in roasted garlic and fresh rosemary.

While there wasn’t a strong garlic or herby taste, the meat fell right off the bone and was melt-in-the-mouth tender.

The mashed potato, which was perfectly smooth with a definite cheesy tang, was the perfect accompaniment.

My husband’s juicy steak was a fair size and, he proclaimed, “cooked to perfection”, while the Julienne fries it was served with were crispy and piping hot.

He also chose a Dijon mustard dressing, the tang of which worked beautifully with the flavour of the meat.

After scraping the plates clean, I didn’t feel confident about polishing off a dessert as well, but after a short break to peruse the menu again, I was simply too tempted to resist.

I chose the sharp lime and coconut cheesecake (£5.25) and my husband opted for the Dorset cheese board (£6.95).

The cheesecake was a dainty size – just enough for a full stomach – and the sharpness of the lime combined beautifully with the coconut and the crumbly biscuit base.

The side helping of delicately flavoured coconut ice cream was very moreish.

My husband’s cheese board consisted of four local cheeses - smoked, blue, soft and cheddar - as well as water biscuits, fresh grapes, Julienne celery and house chutney.

Each of the cheeses were deliciously tangy and the house chutney had a lovely sweet flavour.

We left feeling full, happy and relaxed – what more can you ask for?

The Ventana Brasserie is open daily serving food from 12pm to 9pm and offers a 2-4-1 deal Monday to Thursday.

For further information call 01202 290722 or visit