KATHERINE MACALISTER samples some seasonal splendour at the Oxford Arms in Kirtlington.

It was like a scene out of Country Life magazine walking into the Oxford Arms in Kirtlington for lunch.

Autumnal leaves swirled around the door, and as we entered the flagstoned bar a roaring fire was already blazing away, meaning this beautiful country village pub was almost cliched in its seasonal splendour.

Two gentleman, complete with dog at their feet were just being served their lunch - an entirely fitting venison burger and a roast partridge, no doubt caught locally that morning and brought to the back door. Indeed, I kept expecting someone to come running out with a clapper board at any minute shouting ‘cut’.

Even our waitress was overly gorgeous, a petite classy blonde who looked like ‘deb of the year’, who no doubt has all the dads coming back for second helpings on a regular basis.

Photo shoot aside, while The Oxford Arms ticks all the boxes superficially, it’s what goes on in the kitchen that counts, but as Bryn Jones is both the head chef and owner, you’re already heads up before you sit down.

And one look at the specials board confirmed my expectations – the food looked spectacular.

In fact just playing back the meal in my head makes my mouth-water. But once seated there was no rush, the Oxford Arms being a relaxed, timeless sort of place.

And after staring hard at the menu for ages we forced ourselves to come up with an option before it got dark.

I went for a starter and pudding combo, unable to resist the treacle tart with banana ice cream taunting me from the specials board, while the others settled on a hearty main.

My natural smoked haddock and leek tart (£7) was sensational, which I accompanied with the indecently named triple cooked chips with bloody Mary dip (£3.50). But despite the dish’s success, I still had food envy for my friend’s beetroot risotto with goats cheese (£14). Not only was it perfectly autumnal, but the fleshy concoction was beautifully balanced, neither too sweet nor acidic, with just the right amount of beetroot (bizzarely I tried beetroot risotto myself elsewhere the following week and it was nowhere near as good).

One plate of that finished you off though, so to pay them back for their winning menu choice I stretched out my treacle tart and banana ice cream (£6) as long as possible, and it was worth waiting for believe me!

So there we are. A simple but perfect feast for a Wednesday lunchtime.

It wasn’t cheap mind you but the Country Life clientele didn’t seem to mind. And overall, it’s good value for money when you consider the quality of the food.

And with a menu this meteorological, all I can say is roll on winter.

* The Oxford Arms, Troy Lane, Kirtlington, Oxfordshire, OX5 3HA. 01869 350208