Like his father and mother before him, Jon Ellse has certainly made his mark on the catering scene in Oxford, for which all lovers of good food have cause to thank him.

Dad was Wally Ellse, the legendary proprietor during what many considered the glory days of the Turf Tavern, while mum Ann herself ran a number of pubs at which Jon early practised his hospitality skills.

These days he packs in the punters at the Perch in Binsey – glory days there, indeed – and at two branches of the award-winning Mamma Mia pizza business. It is next to the first of these, in Summertown’s South Parade, that he has for 15 years been running the rather more up-market- and ever stylish Portabello Restaurant, Bar and Grill.

That it has been operating so long – a bit of a surprise to me – was revealed on the business website which boasts of “serving the neighbourhood since 2002”.

Yes, and some of the neighbours especially, I thought, recalling a long-time pal – sadly no longer with us – who seemed almost a daily sighting as I pedalled past on my afternoon bike ride, greeting me from the terrace, he being a smoker, with a brimming glass of red wine in the non-waving hand.

Rosemarie and I visit much less often, but have enjoyed the place from the very beginning when the admirable Alberto Brunelli was in the kitchen. He now has two of his own places in St Clements, La Cucina (which Jon helped find for him) and the next-door CuttleFish.

Portabello’s kitchen is now in the sound command of David Pannel, whose introduction of a new autumn menu provided the excuse for our recent-Friday night visit.

Joining us for what proved a memorably delightful evening were our friends Joe and Martin, not accompanied this time by their lovely labrador Bella, Portabello being off-limits to dogs.

G&Ts having been enjoyed elsewhere, it seemed sensible to order more of the same – albeit of different brands – as we hot-footed in from the taxi.

Joe and Martin both went local with the new Oxford Dry Gin from TOAD, whose strong juniper note was shared with Rosemarie’s Jensen’s, from London. I went for the more citrussy (and appropriately named) Portobello Road. Expert pouring was in the hands of the long-time resident mixologist Nick Wykes.

Assistant manager Alvaro, who had welcomed us on arrival, showed us to our table overlooking the terrace, offering advice en route about the autumn dishes, some of which we ordered.

My starter was new and seasonal, being a whopping helping of sliced mushrooms with cream and tarragon, on toasted sourdough.

Comfort food indeed, as was Rosemarie’s silky smooth carrot soup. Martin had good-looking, lively flavoured charred fennel and courgettes with roast tomatoes and pecorino.

Highest praise of the night came from Joe with his slippery pappardelle pasta with meltingly tender pig’s cheeks, onion, white wine chilli and tomatoes. This is one of a number of dishes that can either be starter or main.

He continued with a bavette steak (cut from the flank, French style) with “spot on” bearnaise sauce, confit tomatoes and triple-cooked chips. This was much enjoyed, though he admitted enviously eyeing my melt-in-the-mouth swordfish steak, with fennel jam, and lemon and caper dressing.

Martin’s grilled seabass got the thumbs-up, with the accompanying salsa verdi said to be “nearly as good” as chef Joe’s (praise indeed!).

Rosemarie’s bangers and mash from the specials board, with cavolo nero was enjoyable enough, though she thought (and all who tasted agreed) that the sausages were over-seasoned,

The side orders of buttered spinach, green beans and creamed leek gratin were praised by all, the last especially. We drank ever-reliable South African chenin blanc (Kudu Plains), with Joe branching out to the same country’s cabernet sauvignon (the robust Gable View).

We had a fancy to finish with cheese. but none was available. I had vanilla ice cream instead, while Martin, the only other pud-eater, had lemon sorbet with candied orange and iced marmalade vodka.

Must try that at home!

Portabello, 7 South Parade, Summertown, Oxford, OX2 7LG, 01865 559653,

Opening hours: 9.30am-10.30pm daily, with breakfast served 9.30am-noon (5pm Sat/Sun).

The people: owner Jon Ellse, general manager Henrik Engel, head chef David Pannel

Do try the... tarragon creamed mushrooms £7.95, carrot soup £5.50, charred fennel and courgettes £7.50, swordfish steak £17.95, sausage and mash £14.95, grilled sea bass £16.95, lemon sorbet £7.95 Rating: 4/5