Yes we are seriously mentioning the C word in August. The fact is if you want to have the best Xmas reservations, you’d best book now. Nick puts on his reindeer jumpers and sledged round to Franco’s

There’s a real fire crackling on the big television, the Xmas tree is twinkling enticingly, champagne is being poured and there’s a festive spirit in the air.

It’s also 26 degrees outside and humid and it’s July, but we’re not in Australia, we’re in Jermyn Street.

Established in 1945, Franco’s has been serving high end Italian food for 75 years, no mean feat in a world where restaurants can come and go in months. Something of an institution it has managed to remain relevant, without becoming stuffy.

The downstairs private dining room, where we are, has been recently decorated with bespoke scenic wall coverings featuring 17th-century etchings of the Italian countryside printed on canvas.

Mirrored antique panelling, and Art Deco brass light fixtures, add to the eternal feel of the room and it can seat a modest sized local business – 4 to 54 – with ease, making it ideal for that Xmas get together in privacy.

Despite the hot weather outside, I soon warm to the room which is of course properly climate controlled all year round, and while I can’t see any crackers to pull, the table is appropriately decked out for Yule just as it will be when the season is in full swing.

I did worry the menu might be prawn cocktail followed by turkey, but under Head Chef Stefano Turconi of course it isn’t. A large plate of antipasti – cured meats, cheese, grilled vegetables, chicken liver pâté -has all the Italian notes, including carta di musica crackers,  plus plump olives.

The pâté is super rich, just what Xmas calls for, although I never knew Italians ate pâté. In fact, I find out, chicken liver pâté is a traditional Xmas treat, especially in Tuscany.

Italians are also fond of chicken & mushroom tortellini in a  chicken broth at Xmas, traditionally stuffed with a mix of chicken, Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, egg and nutmeg. The broth should ideally be made from the chicken carcass  and served in capon broth. This has the deep flavour that suggests it has been made properly.

So no turkey, but what can replace it? The answer is roasted veal with roast potatoes and glazed carrots. It has all the right Xmas feels – roasted meat, roasted potatoes, gravy etc and certainly makes a change.

Franco’s has a good wine cellar, under the eye of Head Sommelier Giulia Fenoglio, and he can bring out fabulous wines or, as he does today, great value Italian whites and reds that won’t break the office budget but pair perfectly with the food.We end with Panettone bread & butter pudding, just the thing for Xmas, and some traditional Christmas Italian cookies. Coffee with petit fours is included.

It’s been a bit surreal, Xmas in July, but the food soon had me whistling Jingle Bells. This Xmas dinner is sure to be popular, so if you fancy something civilised for your ‘do’, you’d best think about booking now. Buon Natale!