THREE pubs sit competing for custom in the picturesque village of Chalgrove.

The Crown has been described on Tripadvisor as the 'antithesis' of its neighbours – perhaps more of a drinking spot than the others, which both claim to be gastropubs.

Immediately opposite it on High Street is The Red Lion, which Tom and I decide to try out after a selection process that went something like: eeny, meeny, miny, mo.

First impressions at the roadside leave me hopeful, with its lush front gardens that must get crammed with cider-sipping regulars in summer.

A path cuts through the grass to the front door, accessed by a tiny bridge across a stream. I wonder how many people have had an accidental dip in there after a few too many beers.

The decor inside throws back to another decade, with red patterned carpets on the floor and a hotchpotch of copper pans and paintings on the walls.

Options on the main menu include pheasant and liver, and there is a long list of specials on a chalkboard from which we order – venison in mushroom sauce for me (£16.75) and game stew for Tom (£12.95).

I have to ask our waitress if I can order a tomato juice (£2.50) after she failed to offer us any drinks.

A young girl on the next table demands to know where her food is, and eventually I feel like doing the same.

It takes 20 minutes for our cheesy garlic bread (£3.75) to arrive, though it is clear when it does that it has been freshly prepared.

Butter oozes out as we tear the ciabatta; an indulgent slice of calorie-laden comfort.

Some while later our mains materialise, without apology for the delay, and I am grateful that the portion size is not too overwhelming after our filling starter.

The venison is cooked beautifully, apparently sourced from a local butcher.

Unfortunately the sauce is too thin and seems to contain little more than cream.

It needs more seasoning, more mushrooms and more time to bubble up some flavour on the stove.

With better service this could be a cosy spot to spend time with family, but I left feeling pretty unimpressed.

The Red Lion, High Street, Chalgrove, 01865 890625.