AT FIRST I thought the table we were being led to was dirty, but then as we sat down I realised it was just the attractive mottled wood grain.

Perhaps, in a way, this summed up my experience at Prezzo.

Personally, the whole chain-dining experience does not appeal to me – Cafe Rouge, Mamma Mia, Wetherspoons – I just don’t need that certainty that some people seem to crave that you’ll be able to get exactly the same meal, defrosted in exactly the same brand of Microwave, whether you’re dinning in Essex or Exeter.

Give me the unknown charms of a little country pub that’s got a bit of personality any day.

I also tend to find that the food at these national chains, in order to appeal to the broadest possible audience, is usually stripped of all surprises until you actually go full circle and find yourself surprised that any food could be so bland.

Such was the attitude with which I opened my menu at Prezzo Didcot.

To start with, I thought you couldn’t go wrong with a bowl of olives (£3.30) and some plain garlic bread (£4.40).

I was right about the olives – as Katie pointed out, they managed not to screw up taking them out the vat.

The garlic bread, sadly, they managed to get wrong.

For a start it wasn’t the bread most of us would think of, but a pizza base, which seems to be very fashionable at the moment (presumably it’s cheaper, if you’re serving pizzas anyway), but you could barely taste the garlic, so essentially we had a plain, slightly undercooked, pizza base to start.

For my main, I thought I definitely couldn’t go wrong with a traditional lasagne (£10.85): the basic ingredients of lasagne (the pasta layers, the two sauces, a minimum of three other things in there somewhere) are sufficient that even if you don’t do any more, you’ve got a decent, stodgy, filling meal.

And, actually, I was right – I’d even go so far as to say the lasagne was good. I’m not sure I could say it was worth £10.85, but it was decent.

The glass of Merlot wasn’t bad either.

The goat’s cheese and beetroot salad to my right, however, (£9.95) was pretty depressing – as Katie pointed out, she could have made it better herself: it was literally the ingredients listed dumped on a plate, and not a huge amount of them either.

Having said that, the staff were all friendly and helpful, the service was prompt and the table was indeed clean, despite my negative preconceptions.