The Spanish evening at The Feathers began with gin and tonics, as evenings have tended to at this luxury establishment in Woodstock since it gained an entry in the Guinness Book of Records for stocking more varieties of mother’s ruin than anywhere else in the country.

I was present at a memorable lunch in 2012 when the plaque commemorating the achievement – the stock stood at 161 brands – was presented by the publication’s editor. This still has pride of place in the bar.

Though 440 gins are now on offer, the tally still leaves the Feathers way behind other competitors in the field. It is a measure of the scale of the gin boom that the current holder of the record, the Evil Eye, in York, offers 1,026.

Everyone with an interest in food is likely to know of, and will almost certainly have eaten at, The Feathers, which has been an important part of the tourist offering in the lovely town of Woodstock since 1982.

It creator (from the down-at-heel Dorchester) was the legendary hotelier Gordon Campbell Gray, who went on to shape One Aldwych and Carlisle Bay, Antigua, among other significant contributions to world gastronomy.

Its current proprietors are Dr Munir Majid and his wife Eileen, who also own The Lords of the Manor in Upper Slaughter.

The Feathers’ special evening, as I said, was on a Spanish theme – with a six-course menu devised by Benjamin Comeche, a member of the kitchen team from Valencia, teamed with wines from the drinks supply company Matthew Clark.

All present had a humdinger of a time. Considering the quantities of everything on offer – it amazed me where some trencherpersons put it all – the event offered superb value at £50 a head.

We kicked off in suitable Spanish style with Xoriguer gin, from Menorca, which barman Octavian poured generously enough for its heady juniper flavour to sing out from over the top-end Fever Tree tonic.

As Rosemarie and I met some of our fellow guests – a number of them happily already well known to us – Octavian talked us through some of the other gins. These included a trio from his Romanian homeland, including the curiously named Pride of Wembley (its British makers shifted to Bucharest).

Moving through to a large shared table in the dining room, we met our guide to the evening’s wines, Brian Meacher. In the business for 30 years, he remembers the time when Spanish wine meant just sherry and rioja, the latter deriving a new importance in late Victorian days as a survivor of vine-killing phylloxera. Now things were much more varied, and interesting, he said.

This was seen, and tasted, in the first of his offerings, a crisp, dry, distinctly refined dry Cava from the Codorniu winery in Catalonia.

It has been favourite of mine for some time, as have many cavas; this modesty priced fizz is a classy drink infinitely superior to the much-hyped (and industrially produced) tipple, prosecco.

The evening’s menu began with a brace of salt cod croquettes with a nice garlicky rouille. Brian correctly advised that the white rioja (Don Jacobo, from the viura grape) would cut nicely through the intense flavours.

Pulpo Albarino Rias Baisax, a zesty white from Galicia, performed the same role with the salad of octopus (beautifully tender).

Rosé (rosado) – which cannot be made in Spain by blending white and red wines – proved a delicious accompaniment to the chicken and rabbit paella, a tad too filling for me but nicely done. Again a rioja, this was soft and fruity Don Jacobo.

Pork cheeks were next. “From where?” asked a wag along the table. The head, of course! With salsa espanola, they demanded a robust accompaniment, and got it in the Don Jacobo Rioja Crianza.

A notch up in the reds, the Don Jacobo Rioja Reserva was teamed with the evening’s best looking dish, vegetable timbale with anchovy and goat cheese escalibada (a Catalonian vegetable dish, noted for its smoky flavour).

Tart with apples, almonds and raspberries completed our meal, with a sweet wine (Floralis Moscatel, Torres) in the French style. This was a banquet indeed.

The particulars:

  • The Feathers Hotel, Bar and Restaurant, 16-20 Market Street, Woodstock, OX20 1SX. Woodstock. 01993 812291,
  • Manager: Dominique Ghislain
  • Opening times: lunch noon to 2.30pm, tea 2.30pm to 5pm, dinner 5pm to 9pm
  • Do try (from dinner menu): parma ham with fried duck egg £9.25, seared Cornish mackerel £8.95, slow-cooked beef and ale pie £17.95, wild mushroom and spinach pie £16.95, mango and passion fruit mousse £7.25, treacle tart with candied walnuts £7.25
  • Italian wine dinner on October 25