Tempestuous storms dominated the day, sweeping across the countryside, taking down power lines and causing rivers to break their banks.

It was indeed a really wretched period, which meant that if we were to go out for lunch, we had to choose somewhere really special, far from a river, but with roaring wood fires, friendly staff and jolly good food.

Fearful of travelling too far from my home in Eynsham, I chose the White Hart, Fyfield, which is seven miles south of Oxford off the A420.

The White Hart was voted one of the top 50 gastropubs in the UK in a recent industry poll and is one of the top 100 restaurants listed by the Daily Telegraph which suggests it is not a cheap option.

These awards do, nevertheless, signify it’s a pub that serves some rather splendid food that should be taken seriously.

Built during the reign of Henry VI, The White Hart certainly has an unusual history, as it was created to provide accommodation for a Chancery priest and five almsmen. It was dissolved in 1548 along with all chanceries in the country and became the property of St John’s College which already owned most of the land in the parish.

Herald Series:

  • The fish was fresh and juicy, but the oil may have needed changing

Over the years, it has been used as a sweet shop, a farmhouse and then a public house. In 1963, alterations to the building included the removal of the floor in the main hall to expose the magnificent 15th-century, arch-braced roof. This roof is now visible to customers sitting in the main restaurant area and so, along with the minstrel’s gallery, does much to enhance the dining experience.

For those who like to feel that there are several ways of escaping a building in the case of emergency, it also has a tunnel running through to Fyfield Manor, which is thought to have been a priest’s escape route.

Local food enthusiasts will be pleased that many of the ingredients used in their meal come from the pub’s own kitchen garden, Manor Farm, Fyfield, Home Farm, Kelmscot, Millets at Frilford and several other major suppliers in the area.

Herald Series:

  • Jerusalem artichoke soup was chosen by my companion

Having dined well the night before, my companion Uncle John was not particularly hungry, so he chose Jerusalem artichoke soup, garnished with artichoke crisps and served with warm homemade bread which he declared delicious — indeed a perfect dish for the day after the night before.

I chose beer-battered fish served with proper chips, mushy peas and homemade tartare sauce (£15). While this dish looked fantastic, and the fish was fresh and juicy, I fear that the oil in which it was fried might have needed changing.

Given that we called at the end of a busy festive period, I guess this can be forgiven as everything else was superb and the staff were both friendly and professional.

No, Barnaby my Border collie, didn’t join us. The White Hart is not dog-friendly.