WE were apprehensive about revisiting The Home Sweet Home Inn, Roke, as it had changed hands since our last visit 16 months ago, when we enjoyed a superb pre-Christmas lunch.
On phoning to enquire if it was necessary to book, I was informed it was totally unnecessary, in a manner which implied they were no longer busy.
If a place isn't busy, that often implies that customers have voted with their feet.
Fortunately, any such fears were unfounded. We had a simply delightful lunch and, in doing so, met a quite remarkable dog.
It was a black Labrador with the shiniest coat I had ever seen. This creature simply glowed with health. On congratulating his owner, I learned that he was taken to Vale Hydrotherapy, Wantage, for regular swimming sessions in a heated pool designed especially for dogs, and simply loved it.
I was so impressed that, on returning to the office, I booked Pythius-Peacocke, my border collie, a couple of sessions to see if it helped with his arthritis.
My dog-loving friends at East Hendred have often suggested this form of treatment and have been trying to persuade me to take him to Vale Hydrotherapy for ages. So, thanks to that glorious dog, I will give it a go.
Yes, the Home Sweet Home is a dog-friendly place, and wheelchair-friendly too, with a spacious toilet for the disabled and a ramp for wheelchair users to get to the bar.
There were once four pubs in the area, but only two remain, The Chequers, in Berrick Prior down the road, and the Home Sweet Home, which is a whitewashed old building built in Cotswold stone.
Inside, there are gnarled beams everywhere and it is all very atmospheric, particularly with a roaring log fire in the centre of the main bar area.
We remained in the bar area for our lunch, rather than the restaurant extension on the right-hand side, as it was far cosier - though the restaurant comes to life nicely when the pub is really busy, as it was last time we called.
The bar menu offered customers a chance to pick a two-course meal for £12 from the items listed, or to select dishes individually at a slightly higher price. There was a main menu too.
We went for two dishes on the main menu. I chose pan-fried rib-eye steak and skinny chips (£13.50), my colleague Chris chose the fillet of salmon served with a warm salad of cous-cous, chorizo and baby spinach at £13.50.
Both meals were delicious. Mine was quite the nicest meal I had had for some time.
We drank red wine, but could have had a pint of Wadworth's IPA, 6X or Horizon, which is the Wadworth brew best drunk slightly chilled. Despite the daffodils being out, it was just a little too cold to go for a chilled beer - whereas the red wine, sipped while sitting in front of the fire. slipped down nicely.
Other dishes on the main menu included leek and blue cheese tartlet with roast root vegetables and toasted hazelnuts (£9.99), faggots and mash with braised cabbage and bacon (£11.95), and beef stew with Stilton, port and mashed potatoes at £12.95.
The bar menu included dishes such as soup of the day (£4.95), cod and salmon fish cakes (£5.95), roast rump of beef, horseradish cream and Yorkshire pudding (£9.50), roast loin of pork, bramley apple sauce and crackling (£8.95), and faggot and mash with braised cabbage, bacon and mash at £11.95.
Puddings, and there were plenty to choose from, cost £4.95, sandwiches £5.95.
The pub was so atmospheric we could have easily called for another drink after finishing our meal and spent the afternoon in front of the fire putting the world to rights.