The Michelin Guide rightly rates The White Horse pub in King’s Sutton worthy of recommendation for its food, allowing this lovely village a second claim to the attentions of the discerning.

The first is the magnificent 14th-century, near-200ft spire of SS Peter and Paul Church – “the finest in a county of fine spires,” as the architectural historian Sir Nikolaus Pevsner called it.

The county is not Oxfordshire, surprisingly, though this lies both before and behind the evening train (Oxford to Banbury) as we alight – in public transport speak – at the village station.

We step into Northamptonshire (county of my birth) and into the path of a handsome station cat, busily glad-pawing passengers as we pass onwards and upwards towards our dinner.

Rounding a bend we see, floodlit and fantastic, that wonderful church spire, looking infinitely more amazing than it did in recent newspaper cuttings. The story? A boot-in-the-face to half the population by the refusal to countenance a woman vicar.

Happily, women stand ready to serve at the White Horse opposite, where Julie Dutson-Steinfeld – landlady for the past five years – is soon guiding Rosemarie and me through the many gins on offer.

Oxford Mail:

Hendrik and Julie Dutson-Steinfeld in the bar of their deservedly popular pub, The White Horse, in King’s Sutton

A no-brainer for us: we take a favourite Chase GB, it being gin of the week at a bargain five pounds a throw with FeverTree Mediterranean tonic. Perfect.

Another time, we shall enjoy a more extensive prowl of the gin range, or perhaps try one of the hand-pumped beers (Bomber and Brakspear Oxford Gold).

Already a return is in our minds, not least to mingle with some of the canine companions hanging – literally, by a lead from a stool, in one case – around the bar.

Whitebait with a piquant pink dip are offered as the gins sink, after which, our orders made, we are conducted by assistant manager Viktorija through rooms of chomping customers to a table precisely behind our point of departure.

Another complimentary appetiser arrives – a little bowl of yummy potato, cheddar and ale soup – and excellent home-baked crusty bread with salted butter and Marmite butter.

Then come starters, but before describing them, and in turn the main courses, I shall mention some of the other dishes offered by chef Hendrik, Julie’s husband.

We could have begun, perhaps, with glazed omelette of wild mushrooms, crispy pig’s head with black pudding, or ham hock terrine; then continued with a shared dish of hay-baked Merryfield Farm Duck, Cotswold white chicken, or gnocchi with peas, broad beans and goat’s curd.

As with the gins – and with puds like apple crumble tart and yoghurt and vanilla panna cotta – another time will come.

Today it’s off the block for me with a little ‘cake’ of Chalk Stream trout – the source of ingredients is usually given here – diced dill-pickled cucumber and baby capers topped with a scoop of trout mousse and beads of Avruga caviar.

It found a perfect accompaniment in a fennel-flavoured rye crispbread and the flinty South African chenin blanc (Kleinkloof, a fair £17.50)

Rosemarie opted for one of Hendrik’s most popular starters, a crabmeat Scotch egg (quail’s) with a creamy shellfish bisque. She enjoyed the flavours but found the texture of the crab case (gelatinised?) a tad rubbery.

Perfection came, she thought, with her main course of Little Hill Farm pork belly, with an ‘apple’ of slow-cooked shoulder and pickled onion and mustard cream potatoes.

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She had a side order of Savoy cabbage – wisely, for she wasn’t getting any of mine. This was delivered, beside a ramekin of classic dauphinoise potatoes, with a sensational lamb pie (see left) – a taste-bomb, as I styled it – with golden pastry enclosing a core of lamb loin with pulled braised shoulder around it. There was rich gravy and a lovely mint sauce.

Oxford Mail:

A trio of cheeses – Minster cheddar, brie and Oxford Blue – completed my meal, with fig chutney and six moist oatcakes. Rosemarie had ‘Mum’s’ (that’s Hendrik’s) bakewell tart with cherry sorbet. She loved it.

The White Horse and its super staff were a happy discovery. Try it.