IF NOT for the empty beer garden and winter-weathered trees outside, the sunshine could almost trick me into thinking spring has arrived.

Wishful thinking: The Trout surely comes into its prime during the warmer months, when customers can enjoy its peaceful lawn overlooking the River Thames.

If the pub's pictures online are anything to go by, come summer, the grass will be neatly manicured and dotted with garden furniture.

Alas, the season for hibernation stretches on.

Red-nosed despite copious layers of clothing, I am pleased to find a fire burning as I hurry inside - late, as usual.

Unwinding my suffocatingly fat scarf as the warm air washes over me, I find my parents already sat next to the window, with a view of the gravelled entrance and Tadpole Bridge.

The Cotswold stone feature walls, brown leather armchairs and dog-friendly tiled floors are the epitome of an English country pub.

Animal-themed ornaments - including, of course, a plastic trout - add interest, and I am particularly taken to the rhino-headed lamps.

A friendly waitress appears and hands me a menu, listing a small selection under each course header.

The dinner menu doubles up as the lunch menu, except on Sundays.

Our waitress Ellie is extremely helpful despite it being her first day, and clarifies a couple of elements on the starter list - 'music paper bread' and 'pestorissa'.

Plainly, very thin bread and tomato salsa. Curiosity satisfied, we proceed to order neither.

I choose chicken liver parfait to start (£7.50), which is presented as prettily as can be (for what is, unavoidably, a slab of greyish paste).

It arrives with a slick of magenta lingonberry sauce, hazelnuts and crispy chunks of chicken.

It is delicious - packed with meaty flavour without being overpowering, with the delicate texture of a whipped mousse.

To mains: a steak burger for dad (£14.50), and polenta with mushrooms, goats cheese croquettes and spinach for mum and I (£13).

More simple but beautiful presentation, topped with a parmesan crisp for height.

Lots of head-nodding and happy murmuring ensues, the flavour rich and earthy, the croquettes and spinach crisp against the creamy texture of the polenta.

I would have liked something tangy, perhaps a chutney, to stop it getting sickly.

Regardless, I will certainly be back for more: quality ingredients and clever cooking in a beautiful setting, conveniently located just off the A420.

The Trout, Buckland Marsh, near Faringdon. 01367 870382