Tina Jackson : Metro : 26th April 2006

In many restaurants, there's a table by the door and whoever's sitting there gets a blast of cold air every time a diner comes in.

Consummately professional, the black-clad waiting staff quickly moved us to a much nicer table near the radiator

On our visit to the recently opened J Baker's Bistro Moderne, that was the table offered, and I didn't want to sit at it.

Jeff Baker not only got a Michelin star when he was at Pool Court in Leeds, but kept it for ten years. And the last thing you need is a draught while tasting Baker's culinary wizardry.

Consummately professional, the black-clad waiting staff quickly moved us to a much nicer table near the radiator.

Reassured that we could relax, we attacked fat, attractively nobbly breadsticks of warm ciabatta with lovely unsalted butter and sipped a superlative French Gigondas from Chateau De Trignon (£19.95) that offered lusciously ripe, heady flavours of black cherry and plum.

The deal at J Baker's is simple, and in line with his mission to create a democratic fine-dining experience that's inclusive and affordable rather than exclusive and prohibitively expensive.

During the day there's a grazing menu. In the evening, two courses cost £18.95; three are £24.50.

The cappuccino-toned surroundings are modern and modest; the menus short and chic, with an emphasis on local ingredients. It's the mark of a real artist to do simple things well, though, and the wow factor here is through the roof.

Although the confidently brief menu is scattered with aggravating exclamation marks (pie and peas! today's fish market!), it's a transgression for which J Baker's can be forgiven when you eat the food.

The pie and peas! starter was a small pastry stuffed with Thornbeck duck and adorned with pea shoots and truffle, although a mere description can't begin to offer a sense of the intense, ducky glories that made the person eating it quack with delight.

East Coast sea scallops arrived in a bowl brimming with a frothy, saffron-coloured broth. It was lemony and delicious, and within its golden depths lurked succulent scallops, spring carrots and meaty flavoured slices of cod's cheeks. I'd have happily had it again instead of a main.

At least, that's what I thought until the mains actually arrived. Seven-hour leg of lamb, served with organic spuds and spring vegetables, including greens and beetroot, was a compact bowlful that delivered a wonderfully judged mixture of tender meat and perfectly cooked veg in a pool of lovely red jus.

It came with an airy whirl of mash and pulled off the feat of being both elegant and substantially filling.

Oxtail risotto sounded a strangely pungent accompaniment to a dish of wild turbot, but the strongly flavoured stock in the rice dish was actually a well-judged foil for a fish that is meaty and rich.

Chocolate puddings are often too sweet, substantial or sickly, but J Baker's Valrhona chocolate pudding was none of these things.

Instead, it was a compact dome of dark chocolate sponge served with the imaginative addition of mint custard, that not only tasted wonderful, but looked beautiful next to the satanically dark pudding.

It was beaten – just – by bananas and custard!, in which a school-dinner favourite was given an immensely stylish update in the form of a creme served flamboyantly on black slate.

We had no room left for handmade truffles at £1.95 a plate, but wished we had.

J Baker's is something very special, and deserves to be fully investigated.