EARLIER this month the owners of the Crown at Stadhampton sent out a press release boasting that their pub had been taken over by the famous Sadones family of Oxford, who run the Old Bookbinders in Jericho and the James Street Tavern.

Hawthorn Leisure quoted Jo Sadones saying the Crown would be serving, improbably, 'French pub food'.

The term instantly sent a ripple of confusion around the office - do the French even have pubs? And if so, what food do they serve?

There was only one way to find out.

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We pulled up around sunset on Thursday, the pub basking in the last evening rays, and it looked smart - a newly-painted motif on the wall in an appropriate royal blue.

The first impression was quite French in a way - local workers finished for the day sat having beers in the garden, and the two ladies at the bar friendly and unpretentious.

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The tables were bare wood, so I hoped that all this simplicity meant the focus was on producing fine French fare.

And, indeed, the new menu at the Crown is very French - for a start, there is a two-course Gastro menu, £17.50 per head, with dishes (unnecessarily) listed in French then English, so the Potage De Legumes is just a vegetarian soup of the day, La Poulalliere En Folie is just chicken and mushroom in a creamy white wine sauce and Le Minute Steak is - well, you get the idea.

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Over the page you can go a la carte, with a section called Les Snacks even including Escargots de Bourgogne. There is also a selection of six burgers (including a vegetarian), and another section headed What a Load of Crepes, with a host of savoury and sweet pancakes.

So, now you know what French pub food is!

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Sadly, as we're choosing, one of the ladies informs us that they are out of goats cheese, which wipes out three dishes on the menu.

I decide to start with Moules Farcies - 'stuffed mussels with garlic butter, a Pernod breadcrumb and bread' (£8.50).

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The dish was certainly unfussy - you might call it rustic: 20-odd mussels in the shell, covered in breadcrumbs, served with some bread in a tiny metal bucket.

The mussels certainly weren't badly cooked, and you could definitely taste the Pernod in the breadcrumbs, but I still prefer moules mariniere.

Katie next to me had the asparagus potage, while my mum had plain garlic bread to start. Both of these were equally no-frills, but not bad.

For my main course, I was seduced by the Loup de Mer Aux Herbes - seared seabass fillet in a white wine sauce with French beans and crushed new potatoes. This was from the £17.50 menu so I'm afraid I don't know what it cost on its own.

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Delicately stacked in a neat pile, with cherry tomatoes adding a splash of colour, this turned out to be a lovely bit of cooking, though just slightly under-seasoned for my palate.

The fish was tender and the beans al dente.

Either side of me were two enormous crepes, one Italienne with roasted Mediterranean vegetables and one Anti Cannibal vegetarian option with a fried egg on top.

Both these went down well, though defeated their eaters out of sheer size.

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The one thing that definitely wasn't very French was the wine list: three bottles of each colour. Of the whites, one was French, so we had it, and it was good.

As we wove our way home we all agreed that if you lived in the village the Crown would be a perfect place to drop in after work, but with several other top French restaurants in the county the Sadones have some serious competition on their hands.