Arranging lunch meetings is all very well but there is always one proviso. It is that the venue has to be near the office to ensure a break of no more than two hours, hopefully including the walk there and back.

From Osney Mead, Oxford, my preferences tend to include The White House (very handy), The Fishes (a quick whizz through the woods) and, at a stretch, the delights of the Oxford Castle establishments.

I occasionally cycle as far as the city centre to the likes of Quod, but the distance eats into vital eating time, so to speak.

So I was intrigued to learn of a relative newcomer to my little stamping ground in the shape of The Oxford Retreat, formerly the Antiquity Hall pub on Hythe Bridge Street.

A brisk walk down the hill takes less than ten minutes, which is great.

Having dashed down on this occasion on what was promising to be a sunny September afternoon, I was slightly taken aback with the rather gloomy interior, and I had to peer across the room to spot my guests.

In fact, once my eyes had become accustomed to the dim light, they weren't hard to see at all, as there was no-one else in the place and the door slammed behind me with an echoing bang.

My first guest was querying why she had booked weeks ago but perhaps, I pondered, it was too early and the place would fill up later.

Sitting at the wooden table was pleasant enough, just down from the bar and within sight of the kitchen. The place still feels like a pub which is no bad thing - certainly the front area allows for drinks only, while there are bar snacks available, such as tortilla chips and garlic bread.

There was plenty of choice on the menu and there was also a specials board, so it took some time to make our final selections.

I eventually opted for the pint of prawns (£5.90) along with one of my guests, while the other picked the roasted vegetable brochette (£3.50).

I had expected the prawns to come covered in the advertised lemon mayonnaise but was disappointed.

In fact, not only was the mayonnaise on the side, but the prawns were still in their shells inside the beer glass.

So there we were trying to discuss serious matters while pulling the heads off prawns and covering our fingers with sticky juice.

They did prove tasty, though, and I finished mine, although my guest left some of hers, more from embarrassment, I suspect, than lack of appetite.

Next to me, however, the perhaps more sensible choice of the brochette featuring feta cheese and marinated artichokes, as well as the vegetables, had been well received. He described it as "delicious."

Matters improved significantly with the main courses. I had chosen the steak and red onion sandwich (£7.50) which came served with home made chips and salad.

The steak was tender, complemented nicely by the red onions and, despite its reasonable price, the portion was a good size and more than enough to satisy any remaining hunger pangs I may have had.

The herb battered fish and chips (£9) across the table were also well received, with particular mention for the chips which were, I agreed, excellent.

The third member of the party had chosen hake (£12) from the specials menu which he described as very good' and a rare find in a restaurant.

Throughout the meal we had enjoyed attentive service, perhaps enhanced by the fact that we still remained the only people in the place, apart from a couple in the bar, which had me wondering whether many people actually know it is there.

We decided to skip dessert and round off the meeting over coffee.

We asked for cappuccino but were told only filter coffee was possible and a requested mint tea was not available either.

I drew breath and ordered a filter coffee, only to be told a minute later that in fact the place had no coffee, and a delivery was coming in later - which of course was no use to us at all.

It meant the meeting drew to a rather hasty conclusion as we upped and left, and I had a metaphorically sour taste in my mouth.

Who had drunk all the coffee when there was apparently no-one in the place to do so?

It is not a question for me to answer and what had been a reasonable meal was spoiled in a rather embarrassing fashion. Attention to such basics would ensure The Oxford Retreat may be busier, even on a Tuesday lunchtime, than it is now.

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