If it is true that first impressions are all-important, then The Stables promised to be a spectacular dining experience.
The restaurant, part of Soughton Hall and five minutes from the A55, boasts what must be one of the most impressive approaches in the country via a tree-lined avenue that suggests Versailles rather than Flintshire.
And I mean TREES! These monsters are huge survivors of the ancient wild wood, and it seemed somehow ignominious to make that journey in a car. It was a vista that demanded to be enjoyed in a clip-clopping open carriage. Truly impressive.
But could the Stables live up to this spectacular billing? The answer, thankfully, was yes...and there were even a couple of pleasant surprises in store.
Inside the bar, and again first impressions are good. Unsurprisingly, there is a horsey theme and wood and leather abound. I had sat at our rather odd-looking table for several minutes before I realised it was actually a huge bellows!
Friendly and definitely non-pushy staff showed us to our restaurant table and there was surprise number one - no wine list.
But who needs a wine list? The entire landing is lined with rack after rack of wines.
You actually enter the restaurant area, an attractive low key brick-walled room topped with wooden roof beams, via what I can only describe as a wine walk - an avenue almost as impressive as the driveway, but with plonk taking the place of trees.
Choosing becomes a touchy feely experience and we spent a happy 10 minutes in wine-lovers' heaven poking, prodding and reading labels before we made our choice.
The Stables prides itself on its South African selection but we chose a Chilean Merlot, Veramonte, at £14.95. In fact most wines seemed to be £14.95 but there were plenty of more expensive choices as well.
Beverley, Merlot lover that she is, was impressed with the rich texture.
'It tastes of chocolate,' she said. I already knew that - I had read the label. The menu had an interesting mix but was small enough to avoid confusion.
My Thai style fishcakes (£5.95) were just so, firm but not rubbery. They came with minted Greek yoghurt and a subtle sweet chilli glaze and were served on a bed of salad.
Beverley had fresh egg fettucine with wild mushrooms, roasted pine nuts, black olives and pecorino cheese in a cream sauce (£4.95). This was actually one of five vegetarian main courses that can be ordered as starters. I found my stolen mouthful (or five) deliciously smoky and Beverley concurred.
The choice of main course had already been the subject of some debate, after all I was accompanied by a woman who has a spectacular gift of ordering entirely the wrong thing.
My choice was easy - roast brace of quail stuffed with herbs and wild mushrooms (£16.95} was begging to be savoured.
Beverley's order was not quite so straight-forward.
She was edging towards the moules mariniere (£11.95) from the specials board, but I had a word of warning... I know how big portions of mussels can be and I know how easily Beverley can be intimidated by large portions.
But the moules it was, and it was not long before I was wondering if the choice was wise as she suddenly froze in mid-conversation and wafted her hand in the direction of a neighbouring table.
'Look at that,' she said, her voice betraying an edge of panic. I turned to see a portion of mussels being delivered.
'That's not a huge portion,' I countered.
'That's a starter portion,' she replied.
But she need not have worried, because with her moules came surprise number two - it was served with a full loaf of fresh baked bread, still crispy and warm from the oven.
That should have made the mussels, which appeared to be a full catch, no doubt supplied by trawlermen to be served up to trenchermen, even more scary, but by now she was so bowled over by the charm of it all that it didn't seem to matter any more.
I can vouch for the quality of the mussels, after all I had to help out a lady in distress, and the combination of that bread and the refreshingly light sauce - I find moules mariniere is so often too rich - was a magical mix.
My quail was a treat, served with saute potatoes and with seasonal vegetables. I am happy to report that the potatoes came in their skins and the veg was satisfyingly crunchy.
The only black mark came with dessert. My wild strawberry-flavoured cheese cake (£4.95) cloyed slightly after a while and Beverley's cheeseboard (£5.75) was losing a battle with the laws of physics after apparently being delivered straight from the fridge. It may be a fallacy that red wine needs to breathe, but cheese definitely does, especially blue.
A shame, really, because the selection of Welsh cheese, so beautifully presented with biscuits, grapes, apple and celery, was obviously of good quality.
We asked for our capuccinos, again excellent, to be taken down to the bar, where an interesting selection of malt whiskies, not all of them familiar, caught the eye.
I asked the friendly and chatty barman if he could recommend one.
'They're all good,' he said. 'Well, all the ones I have tried. I haven't tried that one.'
He pointed to a 12 year Dalwhinnie (£3.95) and that clinched it - that was the one I had to have.
Good choice. I can recommend it. Likewise The Stables.
The Stables, Soughton Hall.
Cost: £84.55 for two people, including drinks, starters, main courses, desserts, coffees and nightcaps.
Would suit: Couples looking for an intimate atmosphere and small groups of close friends.
Best thing: Quality ingredients, quality surroundings.
Worst thing: The desserts.