AS we push open the back door, ducking under an ancient beam, we are hit with the smell of wood smoke from a real log fire.

Shimmying through a passageway into a cosy snug of a bar, we are greeted by a group of middle-aged villagers sat around the fire, nursing pints and arguing about whether you watch Top Gear because of Jeremy Clarkson or in spite of him.

The pub is mostly empty but there are half a dozen wooden tables laid neatly for dinner with gingham tablecloths.

Smiling politely at our fellow guests, we wait at the bar and my gaze wanders to the low ceiling above, where, between the thick wooden beams are pinned a wallpaper of yellowing newspaper clippings.

Three barmaids appear at once and we are given menus offering a small selection of pan-European cuisine including a range of pizzas.

I go for one of my old favourites to start – whitebait, served with persillade, lemon, mayonnaise and granary bread (£5.95), and we take our seats at a table in the corner.

Continuing my olfactory adventures, my tiny pungent fish smell and taste exactly of the sea, although the persillade (which Google tells me is a sauce or seasoning mixture of parsley chopped together with seasonings) is actually just a bed of rocket – perfectly fine, though.

For my main, I strike lucky again: the wild mushroom linguine with spinach and pine nuts (£9.95) is creamy, flavoursome, al dente and with the perfect peppering of pine nuts to stop a plateful of pasta being stodgy overkill.

Sadly, Mrs Hughes is not so impressed with what she gets when she orders the hot smoked trout salad: for a start, the ‘salad’ is boiled green beans, a few peppery leaves and boiled potatoes.

That would be been fine, if slightly underwhelming, until we discover the fish is dry.

I didn’t think it was trout at all, but the haddock further down the menu, but either way it seemed past its best, and had to be abandoned.

Our waitress was very decent about it and said she would pass on the feedback to the kitchen.

Personally, I was very satisfied with my comfort food, and as we sidled out of our snug back into the cold night, fatter and wiser, the group by the fire were debating whether Chris Evans might even have been a better presenter than Clarkson. / 01865 820494