A SILVER lining of the unrelenting heat is the excuse to while away the weekends in search of a sunny beer garden.

A scrap of grass with some benches plonked on would do - I certainly was not expecting the beautiful garden that surrounds The Mole Inn at Toot Baldon.

The gastropub is fronted by a maze of plants and lavender bushes, leading the way to a outdoor tables, where we sit and cool down in the shade of a fruit-laden pear tree.

Each table is tucked away behind the foliage for privacy, but I am pleased to find out-of-sight does not mean out-of-mind for staff.

We are quickly offered drinks and given a run-down of the fish of the day dish and menu choices - two options have run out due to a busy Sunday lunch service hours earlier.

There is not a huge array of choice for mains but it is a case of quality over quantity, as each option is a tempting mix of flavours inspired by various cuisines.

The butternut squash salad with spiced chickpeas, pomegranate and tahini sounds delicious, as does the side dish of truffle and parmesan chips.

After much menu flitting I order the grilled goats’ cheese salad with roasted beetroot, pecan nuts, rocket and orange vinaigrette [£15].

It is available as a starter [£8] or a main, as are all of the four starters listed.

Tom chooses the grilled fillet of seabream, new potatoes, tender-stem broccoli and peas with a chorizo and parsley vinaigrette [£18.50].

To start we share homemade bread and olives, which arrive soon after ordering.

A waitress presents us with two hunks each of the day’s freshly-made bread, with a pot of dipping oil with balsamic and a generous portion of mixed olives.

The bread is pillow-soft and delicately flavoured, one with herbs and the other a subtle hint of chilli.

The olives are even more tasty, packing a flavour punch with chopped fresh garlic and sun-blushed tomatoes.

In the interim between starter and main, with the birds singing above, it strikes us how peaceful the location is despite being a 10-minute drive from an industrial area of Cowley, just across the district border in South Oxfordshire.

Even the few diners who have opted to sit inside can enjoy the pretty surroundings, as the glass doors at one end have been opened out onto the patio area.

A crunch of gravel underfoot signals the arrival of our mains, and we each give a murmur of approval at the elegant presentation.

I cram each element on the first forkful, which delivers a mouth-watering mix of flavours: the richness of the cheese, earthy bite of the pecans and beetroot, peppery rocket leaves and a sweet but zingy citrus kick from the dressing.

Tom is equally if not more impressed, confidently proclaiming: “This is the best fish I have ever had.”

I agree it is cooked perfectly, and we polish off our plates in happy silence.

Pictures of the desserts online look incredible, but I have exhausted my appetite with cheese overload, so we decline when offered - next time, I will save some room.

The Mole Inn, Toot Baldon, near Nuneham Courtenay, 01865 340001.