Grace Tessier, Peach Pubs’ only female chef in its 20-strong estate, took up her duties at The Fishes in North Hinksey at the beginning of last week and by Wednesday was cooking at a special event showcasing the new autumn menu.

It is a measure of her confidence – and indeed competence – that the event went off swimmingly.

A succession of flavoursome, well-presented dishes emerged from the kitchen to the delight of the assembled gourmets. They had paid what seemed a very good value £35 a head, with wine thrown in.

Grace, a New Zealander – I guessed Aussie at first, of course! – took up her head-cheffing duties after three years at Peach’s highly rated Thame pub, The Thatch.

There has just been a refurb there, incidentally, with the older part of the building given – as a press release tells me – “sumptuous new booths clad in damson leather and plaids”. Oo-er. There are also “plush indigo velvets” and wall coverings in “rich plum”.

All this cries out to be investigated, of course, so I shall be reporting back in due course.

The Fishes stands in no need of a revamp at present, looking spick and span with the homely decor of the bar – where cases of stuffed fish line the walls – taking on an airier feel in the conservatory overlooking the garden.

This gives on to an ancient footpath leading towards Osney Mead, and my office, just a pleasant ten-minute walk away.

The country setting belies the fact that The Fishes is within the city’s ring road – just.

Long before this busy stretch of carriageway was there, North Hinksey was served merely by a village lane. The poor state of this prompted an interesting social experiment in 1874 by the great Victorian art critic John Ruskin.

Believing that his students – among them Oscar Wilde – would benefit from a spot of manual labour, he sent them out as a road-building gang.

It seems likely that they would have slaked their thirsts in the pub. This would not have been in the building we know, but one further back on the site.

The present building – which I first used as a boozer offering bread and cheese for half a crown – took on a pronounced foodie character with the takeover by Peach in 2005.

In common with all Peach properties, though, it maintains a properly pubby feel in the bar area, which is where our four-strong group chose to start the evening, with large Tanqueray gin and tonics all round.

General manager Sam Terry left it up to us when to move to our table in the conservatory so, gins finished, we headed off.

A dish of green olives placed before us turned out to have a kick in their tail, in the form of fiery red chilli. Happily there was water and wine (Gavi di Gavi from La Lugarara vineyard of top maker La Giustiniana) to cool things off.

The trio of starters arrived together. The star item in everyone’s view was the potato blini topped with Brixham crab mayonnaise, sour cream and a spring onion dressing.

I was firmly in favour, too, of the mushroom and butternut squash tart, in a rice-based case livened up with Cheddar cheese. What, I wondered though, was the white binding among the sliced mushrooms? Inquiries of the kitchen revealed it to be egg and cream cheese.

The third offering was from the either/or section of the menu, featuring dishes that come in two sizes. This was a warm salad of smoky free-range chorizo with croutons and sherry dressing. Oh, and a topping of a lightly poached egg, which I pushed aside, not being keen on yolk erupting over things.

Pan-fried cod with puy lentils, glazed leeks and salsa verde was one of the main courses, much enjoyed. The other was Merrifield duck, served in pink slices (without the necessary crisping of the skin) and as filling for a “shepherds pie”. This had a curious sweetness, which was pointed out by a number of diners. Celeriac and parsnip have now been dropped from the potato mash, demonstrating the value of an evening such as this.

Sweetness more to our taste came in pear and almond tart and a glorious passion fruit cheesecake, a fitting end to a fine meal.

The Fishes, North Hinksey, Oxford, OX2 0NA, tel. 01865 249796,

The people: general manager Sam Terry, head chef Grace Tessier.

Opening times: 9.30am-11pm Monday to Thursday; 9.30am-midnight Friday and Saturday; 9.30am-10.30pm Sunday

Do try the . . . crab and potato blini (£10.50), chorizo and poached egg salad (£7.75), pan-fried cod with puy lentils (£16.75), duck breast and shepherd’s pie (£22), pear and almond tart with clotted cream (£6.25), passionfruit cheesecake (£6.25)