Dining out always feels like a treat, but for foodie fans, the Holy Grail is visiting Michelin-starred restaurants. Offering creative and interesting dishes, these venues are hailed as the most impressive when it comes to culinary skills.
However, not every aspect of the experience can be enjoyable, especially when you are faced with a plateful of ingredients you don't recognise.
That's exactly what happened to Gloucestershire Live's Senior Editor when he visited Lumiere in Cheltenham. And although he enjoyed the overall experience, some moments were painfully awkward. Below is his account:
My, did we feel out of our comfort zone at times. We felt as we would imagine time-traveller from the 19th Century would feel if they walked into a McDonald's drive-through and faced touch screens.
We know what food is. We know how to use cutlery and how a restaurant works. But we ended up asking questions that made us feel really dumb, such as - 'can we eat this?' and 'are you sure this is a cocktail'?
And we're pretty sure we made ourselves look stupid over the bread. But, nothing took away from a meal that surprised us, delighted us, baffled us, intrigued us, and satisfied us over six incredible courses.
Our visit to the restaurant got off to a delayed start (our fault) as we walked past the entrance to the restaurant at least three times. Despite knowing what street it was on, we managed to miss it even though we eventually got directions via Maps on my iPhone.
It's all a bit Platform 9 3/4 from King's Cross Station in Harry Potter, but once we found the 'secret' door we were in a restaurant that was much more intimate than we thought. Shown our table, we felt that this really was a place where food ruled and we prepared to bow down before its majesty.
Our first course (after ordering drinks) was extraordinary and the first time we felt on the back foot in terms of knowing how the whole thing was going to work. We were presented with a box of wine corks visible under glass with two long pieces of cutlery, a pot of 'sauce', a glass bowl with little golden balls and a 'biscuit'.
Quite frankly, it looked incredible but we didn't know what could be eaten. We asked, feeling a bit sheepish, but were told that all was edible apart from the golden balls.
I'm not 100%, but there was probably a 65% chance I would have tried to eat one.
In fact, it was a Taramasalata 'snack' made from Cornish smoked cod's roe and topped with a cucumber jelly. This with a touch of gold leaf and Avruga caviar served alongside squid ink tuiles.
This dish was introduced and explained by our server, but it's also handily written down on the iPad each table has. This usefully (and for us crucially) explained what each dish was and its origins and we consulted it a lot over the course of the meal.
The other 'snacks' we had were a Coronation Chicken which was a whole evolutionary step-up from the Coronation Chicken from Morrisons I had put in my lunchtime sandwich a few hours earlier.
To quote the menu, it was 'comprised of waffle tart shell made with the local Drovers Return Bitter, lemon curry marinaded Creedy Carver chicken breast, pickled sultanas and finished with apricot puree, Skyr yoghurt, puff rice, almond and crispy chicken skin'.
It was extraordinary. The skill and knowledge to put all those component parts together to make something so harmonious in taste and texture was mind-blowing.
These early tastes made up really sit up and notice what a remarkable place Lumiere is, led by creative chef Jon Howe and his wife, the restaurant's manager, Helen. Jon has earned a number of accolades since opening the restaurant in 2009 and got his first Michelin Star in March 2023.
Ingredients are often sourced from the family farm, or from a network of suppliers, to demonstrate Jon's version of British food. The seasonal menu changes through the year, or even daily, and the family grows everything from beetroot to elderberries on their own 15-acre smallholding.
Other courses on our menu included the 'Mac and Cheese Croquette' which shares the name but not the taste of your normal Mac and Cheese. Our youngest daughter loves those microwave ready Mac n Cheese from supermarkets - but we are not sure what she would make of the rich flavours of this. We utterly loved it..
Our, or rather my, next mistake was with the sourdough - a loaf that takes 24 hours to mix, prove and bake. It was served with Bungay Raw Cultured butter from Suffolk and Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Sicily.
As this was special bread and as we were in a special restaurant, I proceeded to eat it like it was a 'course' on the menu. It was only when I had almost finished the bread that the next course came out and I realised it was really bread for the table.
Another 'mistake' happened when my wife ordered a peach cocktail. And while we didn't expect a huge glass with a rainbow mini umbrella stuck in, we were surprised when it arrived looking like Champagne.
We weren't sure if we had mis-ordered, but when a blackcurrant cocktail came arrived looking like Champagne we had to ask. We were told that the flavour was there.
The rest of the meal continued with surprise after surprise. The Scottish Line Caught Cod was extraordinary in its texture and taste, and the Wye Valley Asparagus took my second favourite vegetable to new heights.
And the Tequila Slammer arrived with a 'dry ice' affect and clear instructions on how to eat it, which we appreciated.
The Mount Grace Farm Kerry Hill Hogget (lamb aged 12 to 18 months) with garden sand carrot and roscoff onion and mint was like a concentrated version of our favourite Sunday roast. it was small, but it packed a punch and almost made me feel a bit heady it was so rich.
And when it came to dessert - a Valrhona Guanaja 70% Dark Chocolate Fondant, with coffee, mango, passionfruit and sushi rice, it was almost enough to put me in a coma. Again, incredibly rich and packing a punch way beyond it's size.
Our six course tasting menu cost £95 per person. An eight-course version is available for £125. There is also wine pairing for an extra £70 or £95 which sees drinks matched to each course.
We found our visit to Lumiere memorable and we will be back, armed with a bit more knowledge and most likely prepared to push the boat out to the full eight courses and even the wine pairing.