"I’m like the grim reaper” our cheerful Irish God of a waiter grimaced as he arrived to tell us that yet another dish we’d been about to order had just run out.

First it was the game pie special with roast garlic mash, carrots and a red wine jus (£22.50), and then the crispy pig cheeks my friend had his little heart set on.

But worse - only the rump steak was left, the rib eye and fillet having long flown the noose, sorry roost.

Upon looking around the vast dining area at The Bear and Ragged Staff, once so forlorn and empty and now packed to the rafters, it was easy to see why.

First of all, the Cumnor pub has been awarded an AA Award for Culinary Excellence within a year of opening up as a Peach pub, and secondly it’s being run by my favourite landlord of all time, Owain Llwyd Jones, whom the pub could have been named after.

Eternally cheerful and beloved by everyone, Owain was trained by Peach at sister pub The Fishes, before being poached by the House of Jacob boys for whom he opened the hugely successful Woodstock Arms, before becoming more of a Jacobs general group manager.

That he is back in the Peach fold says everything you need to know, and helps explain why The Bear and Ragged Staff has gone from 0-50mph in under 11 months.

Damian and the other staff, whom Owain has probably pinched from all the best places, as is his want, meant service was fun and professional, Damian gently guiding us through the remainder of the menu, cooked by head chef Ben Flynn.

I hadn’t been for decades, not since the pub was taken over by Mark Greenwood about 10 years ago, who’d run restaurants in the Far East.

But the years had not been kind and The Bear needed a new lease of life.

It has certainly gone from one extreme to another one; its labyrinth of dining rooms buzzing, leading from one to another, the bar at the front entirely separate.

The Peach menus are always enticing, if on the expensive side, but the delivery not as consistent.

So how would The Bear And Ragged Staff fare?

If the starters were anything to go by - brilliantly; the twice baked cheese souffle with pickled apples and balsamic pearls (£7.50) giving it a sticky caramelly, sweet, yet sharp, aftertaste that perfectly complemented the puffy cheese contents.

The retro deep fried brie special with cranberry compote and toast (£7.25) was a must on such a cold winter’s eve, which we offset with another starter of green salad, pine nuts, herbs and avocado with a punchy vinaigrette (£6.50) which cut through the fromage.

Next up the smoked and poached haddock fishcake with spinach and parsley sauce, the presentation of the round, brown crispy croquette of salty, smoky fish framed by the bright, dark, green spinach and the lighter parsley, pretty as a picture and deceptively filling - I ordered a side of chips but didn’t need them.

The two steaks hailed from famous Oxfordshire butcher Aubrey Allen and came with chips, rocket, and a sauce of your choice (red wine and shallot or peppercorn) (£19.75), and judging by the two clean plates taken away went down a treat.

The vegetarian mushroom and roast onion tart was an interesting and varied addition, served with wild mushrooms, spinach, poached duck egg and bearnaise sauce (£14.50) and wonderfully rich so that my lovely friend was almost defeated.

If the tart didn’t finish her off, then the amarena cherry baked alaska for two or more (£14) did. It got to all of us actually, a glassy sheen permeating our faces. And yet we were strangely unable to resist the mounds of frothy meringue and cold ice cream within, if a tad sweet.

Sadly the raspberry and almond roly poly, our dessert of choice, was sold out. Damian comforted us with a table in front of a burning fire and some wonderful coffees and liquers.

So my advice is to go to The Bear and Ragged Staff but get there early and book. It’s a wonderful example of how our village pubs can not only be regenerated but enjoyed by one and all.

The Bear & Ragged Staff, 28 Appleton Rd, Cumnor, Oxford OX2 9QH

01865 862329