IT'S beginning to look a lot like Christmas. 

Especially when a huge polar bear appears in a jolly knitted jumper and hat on Winchester's High Street. 

The Ivy Winchester, one of the city's top-rated restaurants, has brought in the polar bear to man the door of its city centre establishment. 

As well as this humongous greeting, which makes an excellent social media photo, the restaurant is in full Christmas mode and has been tastefully decked out in all the trimmings, trees, lights, festive flowers - all decorated with tiny versions of our front door polar bear. 

Hampshire Chronicle: The Ivy The Ivy (Image: Kimberley Barber)

It also launched its festive menu this week, three courses at £55, and invited the Hampshire Chronicle along to test the wares. 

First off, it's smart dress code, after all, we are going to The Ivy. The restaurant has an art deco vibe, not too bright or garish, but equally not too dim and gloomy. It strikes the balance - and creates, in the words of comedian Micky Flanagan - ambience.

We are greeted at the door by smartly dressed staff, I love the yellow floral blazers, who even take my coat and put it in the cloakroom, it's certainly a step up from McDonald's around the corner. 

We are shown to our immaculately presented table, perfectly polished cutlery, shining glassware, bright white tablecloths. It's a proper restaurant. 

As well as launching a Christmas food menu, it's launched a festive cocktail menu - and we kick off with a glass of Nyetimber (it wouldn't be Christmas without fizz, right?) a Gin-Gle bells fizz cocktail. It comes served with a flourish of candy floss and glitter. Christmas 2023 in a glass. 

For starters, we chose the crispy duck salad, an Ivy classic, which comes served beautifully with roasted cashew nuts, sesame, watermelon, ginger and hoisin sauce. Top marks for presentation. It's tasty, flavoursome and everything you want from a duck salad. 

Hampshire Chronicle: Shepherd's pieShepherd's pie (Image: Kimberley Barber)

For the main, my dining partner chooses the baked fillet of sea bass, which comes served with mussels, saffron sauce, spinach, tomato, samphire and parsley - an excellent dish. 

I go for the more traditional Christmas option - a goose and turkey shepherd’s pie which comes with pigs in blankets, mashed potatoes, and a side of brussel sprouts. 

It's not what you would usually be served for Christmas dinner, however, it's tasty and comforting, and it's everything a winter dinner should be. 

The dessert is where the real spectacle comes in. The polar bear Christmas is as entertaining as it is sweet. A white chocolate replica of our front door friend (there's definitely a theme emerging here) sits on a fluffy bed of sweetness, and the waiter pours hot caramel sauce over a white chocolate ball (snowball?!) to reveal a hidden clementine and orange sorbet heart.

Hampshire Chronicle: Polar bear dessert Polar bear dessert (Image: Kimberley Barber)

Again, it's a step away from the usual figgy pudding, but still gorgeous, stylish and special. 

And that's exactly what a night at The Ivy is meant to be. Everything from a visit to the loos, to the golden bar and the immaculate staff, to the presentation of the food on the plate and the choice of flavours, reeks special.

For £55 per person, it's not the cheapest night you'll have in Winchester - but it's certainly up there with being one of the most memorable.