It was a blood bath from start to finish, in culinary terms. A travesty of a meal. And one that shouldn’t have happened.

Dressed up as The Plough is in Bicester, in its kitsch, hygge, mountain cabin interior, it lulls you into a false sense of security with its cosy menu and welcome, and then fails to deliver on the one front that really counts – the food.

We bounded in relaxed and happy on a weekday lunchtime over the festive period, having given the bowling alley over the road a good pummelling.

We were hungry, on holiday and demob happy, so decided to treat ourselves to a slap-up meal.

The Plough seemed as good a place as any, having been opened last year by the Jacobs House boys whose Oxfordshire empire continues to stretch far and wide; Islip’s Red Lion being the latest string to their burgeoning bow.

And having already visited when it first opened, and enjoyed the menus that run concurrently through all their restaurants and pubs (Wolvercote, Headington and Woodstock) I was confident in their mastery.

Besides we didn’t want anything fancy; just something suitably warming and sustaining before we had to venture back out into the cold – soup, steaks, pies, burgers – that sort of thing.

So it took us a while to realise that things had changed there for the worse, because the decor was still charming and funky, the staff well dressed, the interior busy and when we were shown to our table at the back, the dining room already well filled with mutual diners. It also meant that we ordered confidently, having eaten many of the dishes numerous times before.

Except that when our mains arrived they didn’t resemble anything like the food we were expecting, or indeed anything that should emerge from a professional kitchen.

The tartiflette for example, which last time came in a wonderful rectangular dish of oozing Reblochon cheesy goodness, and should be filled with submerged softened cubes of potato, ham, garlic and onions, came as a scarred, dried apparition lacking any fluid or sauce whatsoever.

It looked as if it had already been embalmed.

The Jacobs Club Sandwich (£8.50) was just a pile of under-toasted bread with very little between the layers, as you can see from the picture, let alone fillings, sauces, condiments or texture to balance it out. Mr Greedy abandoned it with a sigh, unable at this late juncture to bear sending it back, the service having been so bad and the waiting time so long, that we had all since lost the will to live – the fun slowly seeping out of the occasion like a slow puncture.

The children’s menus were more successful: £8.50 for a drink, main and pudding. My eldest ordered the burger and chips, the other the mac and cheese.

The mac and cheese arrived in exactly the same sized ‘distressed’ enamel plate as my £13 tartiflette, even though it was a child’s portion, which said it all really. And hers was better.

The burger was much more generously sized and would have satisfied any of us, so my daughter came away less traumatised than the rest.

As for the service; there was a nice lady who greeted us, who then spent a lot of time on her laptop or polishing glasses so it was very hard to get her attention, and a new lad who tried very hard with very little instruction.

The man behind the bar eventually had to be hailed over to order the kids’ desserts, some drinks, condiments etc throughout the meal, because we were so bored with waiting to be noticed, and already crotchety because of our terrible fare.

They didn’t have any honeycomb left for the vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce, but we had it anyway, and the sticky toffee pudding was much better.

I know the Jacobs boys are busy expanding and throwing their considerable expertise into their latest opening, before moving on, but The Bicester Plough needs a bit more TLC and a firmer hand in the kitchen.

Because at these prices there is really no excuse and The Plough has become the absolute antithesis of what a good gastro pub should be.

The Plough

63 North Street, Bicester OX26 6NB

tel: 01869 388101