FROM the outside it looks like a rather chintzy boudoir with its swirling drapes, net curtains and flowery calligraphy.

But make no mistake, Isabel's restaurant in Ashley Cross, Poole, has a long standing reputation as one of the finest places to eat in Dorset.

It has been serving consistently good food for the past four decades and you would certainly be hard pushed to find a more romantic rendezvous. (You need to book ahead to secure one of the highly sought after booths).

So when I heard that the owners Maggie and Luciano Trisconi were selling up, I was concerned that it might be turned into yet another uber chic, shiny eatery offering "fusion" food or some such.

But rest assured because the restaurant is now in the hands of Justin Castle who has been head chef at Isabel's for the past 20 years.

The interior hasn't changed. The dining room is candlelit and intimate and the focus is on French and Mediterranean style cuisine.

To whet our appetites we were given a selection of canapés including a Roquefort mousse, Mediterranean mini pizzas and smoked mackerel and black pepper while we read the menus.

You have a choice of à la carte or a bistro menu (available on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 6.30pm).

The bistro menu gives you a choice of four starters such as smoked haddock and pea risotto or oriental duck at £5.60 each and a choice of four mains for £11.40 each such as sea bream served with a saffron sauce or sirloin steak served with a peppercorn sauce.

For starters I chose Soufflé Au Fromage (£6.90), a double baked cheese soufflé with a blue cheese sauce from the à la carte menu which was rich, light and creamy and elegantly presented with a crispy, cheese wafer on top.

My husband had the Oeuf Poche à la Florentine (£7.90), a poached egg on a bed of spinach and smoked haddock topped with Mornay sauce which was equally exquisite.

For mains I decided to try something a bit different on the waitress's recommendation and opted for Supreme de Volaille au Banane (£16.90) breast of chicken coated with coconut breadcrumbs and stuffed with a banana puree and topped with a curried sauce which was an inspired combination.

I couldn't resist trying my other half's Tournedos au Stilton et Porto (£21.90), tender slices of fillet steak with a Stilton rarebit and rich port jus which was rich and decadent.

Although I don't usually bother with a third course, a Baileys Crème Brulee (all desserts are £6.90) sounded too good to miss and was a match made in gastronomic heaven.

Although there are plans to give the place a bit of revamp, it is clear there's no risk of losing the essence of the place that makes Isabel's such a timeless classic.

We are now waiting for a special occasion to justify going back for Sunday roast as Isabel's is now open for lunch for the first time from Thursdays to Sundays.