IF YOU want to impress someone special, Black Jack's Mill, an Italian restaurant set in picturesque surroundings off Park Lane in Harefield, is certainly the place.

In fact, the restaurant, which was once a flour mill, is quite a discovery and the journey itself is a little adventure.

There is not a road name for Black Jack's, you are told it's simply off Park Lane. At first I found this baffling, but soon understood on reaching my destination. You simply follow a sign which takes you along a wonderful series of rather bumpy twisting lanes, with overhanging trees which form a mystical-looking tunnel. Finally, a wonderful little brick bridge takes you into the restaurant grounds, where a canal, full of canal boats, surrounds it.

You then enter a doorway which you expect leads straight in to Black Jack's, but instead, you find yourself in a beautiful garden, with a flowing canal and the restaurant's entrance. The garden also has another little wooden bridge which is private property and leads to a large house where the original owner of Black Jack's still lives.

A mention in the Domesday Book of 1086 AD shows that Robert, the son of Gilbert, the Earl of Briou, owned Harefield, then known as Herefelle, including Black Jack's Mill. Although the old flour mill is not in its original form, the kitchens below ground level still exist.

Jack himself was a serf (a slave bought and sold with the land), who worked for Robert. With his donkey and cart he delivered flour which had been ground in the mill. His cruel treatment of the donkey was infamous, and he was known as "That Blackguard Jack" or "That Black Tempered man, Jack".

A weather vane at the top of the house shows Jack pulling the donkey towards the mill.

This image also features on the restaurant menu which is full of sumptuous Italian dishes.

Chef and owner Salvatore DiCiancia has gone to the unusual step of including a large selection of meat dishes, veal, chicken, beef and lamb, an equally large choice of fish dishes, including salmon, seabass, dover sole and swordfish and there is always a special's board to add variety.

The type of starters available are dishes such as Prawn cocktail, ham and melon, tomato and mozzarella salad and Mediterranean prawns which my dining partner ordered four very large prawns with a prawn cocktail-type dip. I ordered calamari (squid in batter) from the special's board, which was crisp to the bite.

The main course includes dishes such as saltimbocca alla Romana (veal with ham, sage and wine) and pollo alla Milanese (chicken in breadcrumbs). We ordered pescespada alla Livornese (swordfish with garlic, parsley and wine) and lemon sole from the specials board. Again the portions were generous, the lemon sole fat and hanging off the plate and the food was served with vegetables, potatoes and cauliflower cheese.

The desert menu has a very enticing choice of many home-made delights such as profiteroles smothered in chocolate and Tiramisu dusted with chocolate.

We settled for the Tiramisu and torta della nonna (an Italian pastry case filled with custard, with a hint of lemon and covered in pine nuts). Both sweets were simply exquisite.

Black Jack's Mill Restaurant, off Park Lane, Harefield. To make a reservation, telephone 01895 823120. The restaurant is closed on Sunday evenings and all day Monday - AK