As surprising as it seems, there is no denying Bicester is a goldmine when it comes to tourism. Visitors come by the tens of thousands and from across the world – not least China and the Middle East – boarding trains which announce their arrival in their native tongue.

They come, of course, not for the charms of St Edberg’s Church or the bright lights of Pioneer Square, but for the gaudy, designer delights of Bicester Village.

A recent report suggested 6.4 million visitors descended on the manicured, too-twee-to-be-true shopping village each year, sucking up suitcases full of high-end goods knocked out by the likes of Armani, Gucci and Versace.

Such a favourite is it for Chinese tourists, it ranks second only to Buckingham Palace. Most, of course, shop, spend up and leave – missing out on other local charms.

Kaven Gill, manager of the newly-restored Chesterton Hotel, down the road, thinks that’s a shame – and a missed opportunity. Since taking on the pretty 18th century converted farmhouse in a village just behind the ever-encroaching tentacles of Bicester, he says he has been amazed at the lack of decent places to stay – and eat – in what is an economic hotspot.

The lack of competition is good news for the cheerful Kaven, who is happy to fill the gap.

And having put his hotel on the map he is now doing the same with his restaurant, which offers not just new menus – but a new-look dining room which combines north Oxfordshire rural charm, with lots of exposed stone, with a chic boutique feel. And, bizarrely, a love of sausage dogs – with dachshund statues all over the place.

We popped in for our favourite meal of the day – afternoon tea – but also had a cheeky look around a place which is braced to cash in on the Bicester boom. All weathered stone and old tile roofs with tiny cottage windows, it has the air of a high-end barn conversion, but with refined touches – the kind of charming place you could stumble upon while driving through the Dordogne, and about which you might possibly go on to bore dinner party guests, ad nauseum.

Having taken our order for tea (and a glass of fizz for myself), Kaven was keen to share his enthusiasm for what has become his personal project.

“We really believe in this part of the word,” he said, brandishing a transparent pot of Darjeeling – and advising us to leave it rest for a while. “I can’t believe there aren’t more places to stay or eat well, here, especially with Bicester Village, and Bicester town continuing to grow. That’s where we come in.”

The food, when it arrived, caused us all to double take. More generous than most, it was all quite hearty; more rustic than refined – and there were no complaints about that.

Cute finger sandwiches were deceptively substantial – absolutely a meal in themselves and a little different to the usual fare. We had good Cheddar, tomato and cucumber with a little French dressing to keep it moist; egg mayonnaise and cress in little spongy rolls, and best of all, a satisfying beef and brie with cranberry sauce.

Unusually, there were also smoked salmon and cream cheese bagels – the bagels springy and fresh, the salmon melt-in-the-mouth lovely and the cheese smooth enough to take the edge off the fish.

It had the feeling more of the contents of a high-end picnic hamper than the bottom layer of a cake stand.

There were fresh, home-baked scones with proper bowls of strawberry jam (none of those wasteful little pots) and perfect clotted cream, and a good selection of cakes - with macarons, micro-eclairs lavished with chocolate, ever-so-light lemon tarts topped with raspberries, hunks of moistly yielding cake topped with chocolate flake and strawberries, and, our favourite, Victoria sponge. Sweet, yes, but not sickly nor overpowering.

There was, however, more than we could polish off – though thoughtfully Kaven had second-guessed us and offered to package up the surviving treats – all of which made not just a for a great Saturday afternoon – but Sunday too.

This is exactly what Bicester needs.