CHRISTOPHER GRAY enjoys a super lunch on a sunny day at The Kitchen in Farnborough

The Kitchen, in Farnborough near Banbury, has gone instantly into my list of favourite places to eat after the delicious lunch Rosemarie and I enjoyed there last Friday.

It is a pub that will probably be familiar to my readers in the north of the county, though it is in fact just over the border into Warwickshire.

Originally called The Butcher’s Arms, it was bought 16 years ago by chef Anthony Robinson and his wife Jo who refashioned it in luxurious style and renamed it The Inn at Farnborough.

Luxury and good taste come easy to the couple, Anthony having worked both at the Savoy and Dorchester Hotels. They also run an up-market outside catering company, Indulgence

My recollection of a review visit to the Inn early in their days there focus both on their personal charm and, unusually, the humidor packed with large Cuban cigars.

With a childish liking for a deliberate malapropism, I christened it a ‘thermidor’ which is how I have continued to refer to these pieces of equipment in the years since. Now, of course, they are rarely seen. The Robinsons’ went long ago.

A more recent change, one accomplished just a year ago, has been the restyling of the place, with a bright new décor, as The Kitchen.

As they say on their website: “We always had a dream … to do something different . . . to bring a new concept in country eating house dining. The Kitchen is all about food, fun, family and friends.”

Food is all prepared on the premises by Anthony and head chef Dan Peacock. Supplies come from ‘local food heroes’ and in some cases from the pub’s expanding garden.

Gardener Emma was busy tending the plants when Rosemarie and I drove up. Also out in the sunshine were Anthony and Jo, eager to show us the delights of the lovely terraced grounds, with its heated decking area for outdoor eating.

The large pizza oven on the decking will no doubt soon be fired up. Beside it, is a green egg shaped smoker clearly already in use today. Some mackerel has been done, says Anthony, and pork belly is now under way.

Inside the pub, we are greeted by manager Emily Griffiths, shown to a table looking over the garden, and presented with menus.

We had already noted with approval the bowl of water for dogs and the pumps for two real ales, Purity Ubu and the same brewery’s Pure Gold. Despite the emphasis on food, the place maintains its ‘pubby’ identity, particularly in the evenings.

The menus change all the time, as would be expected where seasonality is a keynote.

‘Small plates’, so called – though some dishes can also be large – include guinea fowl paté, English onion soup, and Oxford blue bubble and squeak with poached duck egg.

Among the ‘large plates’ are ox cheek, guinea fowl and ham hock pie, and stone bass.

From the charcoal grill come sirloin steak, sticky spiced pork chop, burgers and Cumberland sausage.

There are also specials of the day. Could I resist the Berkswell cheese tartlet, with wild garlic dug in the village? (Foraging is another practice popular here.)

I could not, and very delicious it was. Served hot and with superb crumbly pastry. The chicory and peashoot salad also featured purple petals from a pansy in the garden.

Rosemarie, meanwhile, was warm in praise of her “essence of shellfish” which featured a very large peeled prawn (almost a langoustine) and chopped scallops in a creamy bisque-like sauce.

To mop this up were two types of bread (olive and pesto and poppy and pumpkin seeds) already supplied with whipped butter. This had been baked (as can be seen in the photograph) in little flower pots. A clever touch – as was the long strip of cucumber in the water flask. This tasted good, too.

My main course was one of the most delicious things have eaten in ages, being wild rabbit and cider hotpot, containing black pudding and topped with gorgeous golden slices of potato. Served with it were carrots and broccoli.

For Rosemarie there was a slab of juicy tender Old Spot pork belly from the smoker outside. It came with a mustardy juice, buttery potatoes and watercress and apple salad.

Amazingly, she had room for warm doughnuts with plum jam and chocolate sauce. I passed.

The Kitchen, Main Street, Farnborough, near Banbury, OX17 1DZ. Tel: 01295 690615,

Opening hours: Monday and Friday 10.30am-3pm, 6pm-midnight; Thursday 6pm-midnight; Saturday10.30am-midnight, Sunday 10.30am-11pm. Closed Tuesday and Wednesday.

The people: owners Anthony and Jo Robinson, chef Dan Peacock, manager Emma Griffiths

Do try the . . . garlic and Berkswell tart, £8; Essence of Shellfish, £13, wood smoked Old Spot pork belly, £18, rabbit hot pot, £17, doughnuts, £8