OUR dramatic arrival at the Horse & Jockey had heads turning and tongues tutting before we even made it to our table.

With a screaming two-year-old in tow, we heard the collective groan as diners, who had been eating peacefully until then, shuddered from the sheer volume of my niece's wails.

Having been rudely awoken from a nap, even the most comforting of cuddles failed to calm her down.

It was a Wednesday night but most of the tables were full, and we smiled apologetically at our fellow pub-goers, acknowledging that we might never be able to show our faces here again.


Phoenix-like rise of fire-hit Horse & Jockey from the ashes

The dining area is separated from the bar by a glass door, presumably to offer a more peaceful setting - until we traipsed in, that is.

I had visited once before and ate a meal in the bar, and loved the high ceiling and half-timbered walls of that part of the pub.

Though slightly less striking, the restaurant area was still pleasantly decorated and lit in a more atmospheric manner.

Our waitress did an excellent job at taking our drinks order above the persistent sobs of the pub's unhappiest guest, as well as the bickering as we debated how best to manage the disruption.

As far as family dinners go, this was turning out to be a classic.

Herald Series:

Horse & Jockey. Pic: Google Maps

Seeking solace in the wine menu, we ordered a bottle of house red to share. In the heat of the moment I did not note the price, but remember thinking it was reasonable.

The Horse & Jockey is part of the Greene King chain and I do find the food at their pubs a bit hit and miss, but the tempting selection of dishes on the menu was encouraging.

My sister and I decided to share the Camembert for two, as a starter (£11.50), and it did not disappoint.

A pool of molten cheese appeared as I pierced the skin with my knife, delicately seasoned with cloves of garlic and sprigs of rosemary.

Warm ciabatta and tangy red onion marmalade paired well with the Camembert, but I would have liked a little more bread for dipping.

Food appeased our youngest family member, much to the relief of the neighbouring tables, and we were able to enjoy our mains in happy silence.

I was tempted to make the most of steak night - two sirloin steaks and a bottle of wine for £35 - but instead chose the fish board (£15.95), which is actually a sharing starter.


An almost perfect afternoon tea

The platter was loaded with smoked salmon, trout pate, calamari, prawns and langoustines, with olives, ciabatta and lemon mayonnaise.

Although I found the pate to be much too smoky, the rest was a delicious feast for any fish fan, as long as you are not adverse to decapitating the larger shellfish.

My niece must have enjoyed her food, too - she was soon happily playing hide and seek behind the curtains and blowing kisses at the staff.

A friendly woman, who I assumed might be the pub landlord, came over especially to comment on how sweet she was - perhaps we might be welcome back there after all.

The Horse& Jockey, Stanford in the Vale, near Faringdon, 01367 710302.