I HATE missing out. You know that. I have to be in the know. And while I was aware that The Kitchen at Farnborough was doing great things (they wrote about it for our food pages for goodness sake) I was also quietly confident. The cat was in the bag, what was the rush?

Besides, it seemed a little bit far away, situated as it is near Banbury. I’d go another time, give it time to settle in, bide my time, visit somewhere nearer my own front door. Foolish.

Because then The Good Food Guide 2018 came out and threw a spanner in the works, naming The Kitchen as one of the top three restaurants in the South East, and shedding my lethargy as fast as a table dancer’s feather boa in Spearmint Rhino.

I was booked in for lunch the very next day and could be found loitering in the car park before noon, desperate to get started.

Despite a charming, comfortable and kooky interior, the sun was shining and a large, smart beer garden beckoned, framed by the charming, Hornton stone cottages already filling with satisfied locals settling in for lunch. No competition then.

We tried to restrain ourselves from engulfing the bread, served as different flavoured rolls in individual flower pots, laced with whipped butter, while waiting for our starters, but fared badly.

The evidence was already amassing. We were in for a treat.

Take the poached Hooky duck egg with green bean and pea salad and rapeseed mayo, a seemingly simple innocuous sounding late summer dish, until it arrived resplendent on a bright blue plate, oozing with colour, texture and dexterity, the bright yellow yolk saying everything that needed to be said about sourcing, sustainability and local suppliers.

Ditto the soup – summer garden herb with lemon creme fraiche – whose colour dazzled as much as its zingy, rich flavour and beautiful presentation.

The seared scallops with curry dressing, crisp gem, kohlrabi slaw, and toasted cashews (a steep £13) was like a deconstructed kedgeree; dainty, delicate, juicy and packed with flavour.

Then the mains; the Aberdeenshire sirloin steak on the bone, garlic and herb butter, served with rocket, herbs and parmesan and home-made beef dripping chips (£25), a hugely generous hunk of meat, wonderful to behold, if all rather salty. The only criticism would be that the enormous chunky chips were too much; some smaller, thinner frites would have been much more appreciated.

The roast monkfish with Jersey potato and salt cod croquettes (my knees still quiver when thinking about those crispy, soft, smoky, fishy fritters of loveliness) with garden peas, saffron and basil (£21) was such an accomplished dish: a wonder to behold, fragrant to taste, perfectly balanced, impeccably presented, the fish itself beautifully cooked, a tribute to the dying summer and its bountiful produce.

And then the special of the day: an English heritage tomato and ricotta tart with pickled garden vegetables, basil and mint pesto, (£16) which sounded heavenly. What arrived though was simply not what had been described.

We had envisaged tomatoes fanned out on thin crispy pastry, with dots of creamy cheese and basil, but these were more like mini quiches or flans in both taste, texture and appearance, the tomatoes missing altogether, on enquiry only evident as yellow flecks in the filling, but otherwise indiscernible.

Not unpleasant, just not what we’d ordered.

How we managed pudding I’ll never know, but in we plunged, unable to resist such wonderful food, and we weren’t disappointed.

For me the English raspberry syllabub with lemon sherbet Turkish delight (I know) and almond biscuits was a coup de foudre (£8).

The meringue with a dark chocolate and strawberry sandwich (£8) also defied the trade descriptions act, an enormous, bulging monster of a dish which needed a warning sign, and perhaps some subtlety.

But the piece de resistance?

The chocolate orange with Seville orange sorbet and honeycomb (£8), a billiard-sized ball, which, when cracked, revealed a chilled chocolate mousse, accentuated by the sharp coldness of the citrus sorbet and the crunch of the honeycomb. A picture prefect dish.

So dainty, so clever, such a perfect conclusion to a wonderful meal.

The Kitchen in Farnborough then was a lesson in diplomacy; I will never leave it this late again, and vow to venture further afield and trust my instincts.

Because this discerning village pub has set a precedent in how to open a local hostelry and do it properly without any pomp, circumstance and pretension. Because while inspired, beautifully decorated, and wonderfully staffed, it still manages to be both welcoming and relaxing.

With a new menu in place since my visit, I can’t wait to go back, and it’s that kind of anticipation that puts The Kitchen at the top of the charts.

The Kitchen

Main Street, Farnborough, near Banbury OX17 1DZ thekitchen farnborough.co.uk 01295 690615