Reviewing the Cherwell Boathouse on its 25th anniversary, I identified this popular North Oxford restaurant as a venerable institution for foodies – a term recently coined at the time – alongside, among others, the Elizabeth and the Luna Caprese.

Now that its Golden Jubilee is reached, the rivals have all gone, leaving this significant survivor of the 1960s (just!) to sail serenely – or more properly punt proudly – into its sixth decade.

The brainchild of the late Anthony Verdin – whose eldest son John is now at the helm, for which read pole – the Boathouse began, somewhat shambolically, as a nosebag for the intelligentsia.

Its customers were the academics, trendy and otherwise, resident in the rambling Victorian properties beside it, while the waitresses were very often their daughters, ‘gels’ of Oxford High School in some cases.

They worked with more enthusiasm than expertise in delivering the borscht, beef stroganoff and zabaglione so typical of the period.

A friend of mine, present on night one, was dismayed to find a plate of lamb deposited in her lap. Best not to libel ‘the gels’; this was Tony himself, who in early days shopped, cooked, served and washed up.

A cheery amateurishness continued into the 1970s when I got to know it under manager Dudley Winterbottom. He was later to emerge as a London institution, in charge of the Chelsea Arts Club, in whose delivery from the doldrums Tony played a part.

Spartan as the Boathouse was – with draughts whistling around its bench seats and trestle tables – the food was a joy to eat, a quality maintained, indeed enhanced, in the years since.

This is reflected in framed award certificates in the entrance lobby-cum-bar of the smart building fashioned for the new Millennium. Some honour its range of wine, once supplied by a business run by Tony and his brother-in-law Jasper Morris, a noted oenophile.

Tony died, sad to say, five years ago, though his presence lingers at the Boathouse, not least in a fine portrait in oils right behind us as we take our seats for lunch at a window table overlooking the sun-dappled Cherwell.

‘We’ are Rosemarie and myself, with our hostess Araminta, Tony’s widow, later to be joined for the main course by his son Johnny, hotfoot from the University Parks and his weekly game of footie.

We rendezvoused with Araminta outside and met long-serving employees Bob Dowling, who makes the punts, and Roger Forster, who hires them to punters (geddit?).

Inside, a whistle-wetting G&T accompanied menu inspection and ordering, after which the first of chef Paul Bell’s eye-catching dishes soon arrived.

Mine was elegantly presented sea trout gravadlax – moist pink elipses of fish, with croutons, pink grapefruit, citrus salsa, and curls of cucumber on the side. Perfect.

For Rosemarie there was a pretty bowl of chilled cucumber soup with mint yoghurt, while Araminta had pork kromeski, a bacon-wrapped croquette in Russian style, with coriander and sweet corn salsa.

She continued with one of the menu’s robust meat dishes: pork fillet with confit garlic and apricot couscous, courgette and pork jus. Rosemarie had the other: roast rump of lamb in thick pink slices with almond beignet, redcurrants, runner beans and jus gras (fatty juice from the roasting pan).

The newly arrived Johnny went to the day’s set menu for pheasant breast wrapped in pancetta, with potato fondant, chervil root purée and pheasant ballotine.

Fancying fish, I dived for the fillet of turbot, whose deliciousness is evident in the picture on the left, with aubergine caviare, chickpeas and heritage tomato sauce vierge.

A selection of superb cheeses (Flower Marie soft ewe’s, Cricket St Thomas semi-soft goat’s, and Lincolnshire poacher hard cow’s) completed my meal. Rosemarie had chocolate trifle, Araminta a delicious alliance of Turkish delight and champagne sorbet.

We drank in classic Burgundian style: the white (chardonnay, naturally) was Sylvain Loichet Ladoix 2014, and the red (pinot noir) was Beaune Premiere Cru Les Pertuisots 2012. Classy, non?