“Small but smart” was one reader’s first impression of the increasingly confident and energetically driven Artichoke. With a calm but well-oiled open kitchen adding to the entertainment value of this Buckinghamshire barnstormer, Laurie Gear’s cooking is heading ever onward and upward, allowing big-city techniques and a respect for the seasons to inform his creative endeavours – don’t miss the charred fillet of Cornish mackerel with Isle of Bute seaweed jelly, pickled mushrooms, pomelo and brown shrimp cracker (“a plethora of flavours”) or Chiltern venison partnered by venison salami, young beets, horseradish mousse, sprout tops and sloe gin sauce (if they’re on). Seasonally changing desserts such as apple ‘presse’ with poached blackberries, smoked cobnuts, artichoke mousse and a tiny hazelnut madeleine also hit the spot. Service is delightful, the wine list includes many fascinating tipples, and the lunchtime tasting menu is an “absolute joy”. In short, an independent local restaurant par excellence.