ON A chilly autumn evening, you could do worse than The Packhorse.

I realise there are more straightforward ways of saying I liked the place, but it was a good evening, rather than a great one.

My reservations began when I looked at the gastropub's website and read: "The Packhorse has always been a focal point for the village of Milton Hill."

Now, I might be wrong - and I am sure someone will waste no time in telling me if I am - but Milton Hill village does not exist.

As far as I am aware, Milton Hill is the name of the business park next to The Packhorse, while it also the name of the road that runs up from the village of Milton to the pub.

This is just a minor point, but links to another feature that struck me.

Despite being within a couple of miles of the villages of Milton, Steventon, Rowstock and Harwell, The Packhorse is not within easy walking distance of any of them.

As a result, it is not really anyone's 'focal point', let alone the made-up village of Milton Hill.

I read somewhere that back in the day it was a stop-off for horse-drawn carriages on their way between Newbury and Oxford, which I can definitely imagine.

It is fairly isolated on the A4130 Abingdon Road, but this makes the building look cosy from the outside, although not especially characterful.

Immediately after stepping through the door, this hunch was confirmed.

After walking past the bar we reached a modern and very relaxed restaurant area, which was packed and almost looked like an extended bar.

We eased ourselves into some incredibly soft seats, which I could not stop raving about until I realised the extra padding meant the table was ever so slightly too high.

That might just be me though.

The service was polite and attentive, yet we never felt rushed.

We noticed the menu asked diners to let staff know if they were vegan or vegetarian, which is arguably expected in 2018 but also a nice touch.

The lack of a focal point also applied to the menu, with a range of traditional starters and half-a-dozen 'Grazers', from box baked camembert to an oriental platter.

We went for the mezze (£14.95), featuring a range of dips including hummus, Moroccan butter bean and apricot dip, and baba ganoush, alongside Mediterranean vegetable and mixed bean salads.

This was accompanied by slices of flatbread, which those of you who read my previous food review (of which there are doubtless thousands) will know is a personal favourite.

The only downside of the Mezze was the limited flatbread offering, but each individual element was excellent, with a special shout out to the baba ganoush.

The main courses were split into 'stove and grill', '12" stone baked pizza' and 'salads and pasta', while there were other items on the specials menu.

I went for the pan-roasted barbary duck breast from the 'stove and grill' section, with dauphinoise potato, slow-cooked red cabbage and apple redcurrant jus and duck scratchings (£18.95).

While the price was a little steep and the duck slightly tough, this was thoroughly enjoyable and I wasted no time in taking apart the nicely-presented dish.

It was just a shame that I polished off the duck and the potatoes without paying due attention to the jus, meaning plenty was left to go to waste.

Georgia ordered the diablo pizza (£12.95), topped with chorizo, chilli beef, scotch bonnet and mozzarella.

She was expecting something spicy, but this was something else.

It is arguably a little harsh to be critical of a spicy pizza for being spicy, but it was so hot that it left her (and me, when I tried a slice) desperately pouring ourselves glass after glass of water. This was slightly disappointing, as the base was beautiful and there were no other complaints.

It just might have been nice to be warned about the inferno that was about to greet us.

It summarised the evening for both of us: good food, friendly atmosphere and attentive service, but that special something was missing.

p The Packhorse Inn, Abingdon Rd, Milton Hill, Abingdon OX13 6AG