IT’S always sunny in Sutton Courtenay.

At least is is when I go.

That’s probably because the only time I ever go to Sutton Courtenay is to visit the Fish, with its glorious, spacious garden, perfect for long summer afternoons.

This also makes it the perfect place for socially-distanced dining.

So, with a dad in the so-called vulnerable age group, when Boris announced that restaurants were finally allowed to reopen, I immediately booked a table in the garden.

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When Sunday morning dawned, the forecast was perfect: 21 degrees with a light breeze.

So perfect we might not be the only ones with the bright idea to head up there.

When we arrived, the car park was almost entirely full; indeed, we got the very last space after letting the previous occupier out as we entered.

When we went to the garden entrance, there were new signs saying ‘Exit Only’, which is not a nice thing to see when you first arrive back at your favourite lunch spot.

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When we went around to the front door, we found ourselves immediately behind another party already waiting to be seated.

Poking my head around the door, the indoor seating area was completely empty, tables pushed to the side in a dispiriting way.

We could only assume that the occupants of all those cars were filling the garden. Perhaps we wouldn’t get a space.

Madame arrived, wearing a face mask like all public-facing staff, took us to out into the garden, and somehow it was still only half full.

About 40 people were seated at about a dozen tables, all well spaced out. In fact, the spacing looked to me exactly as normal; the perfect space for socially-distanced dining.

This is the miracle of the Fish.

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However, on the second weekend after reopening, things were never going to be quite that easy.

Delighted with our table in the shade of a parasol, we sat for five extremely happy minutes and noted how the waiting stuff, all in masks, were taking extra time to consider every single action.

After another five minutes, we started to realise that the special measures were clearly going to take their toll on timings.

After another few minutes, I flagged a waitress and asked if we could order, and she politely said something muffled along the lines that she would go inside and find out.

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Two or three minutes later, a different waiter came out and took our order, while apologising for the delay.

We put in our full order then and there, and he promptly promised that the drinks would be out imminently, along with some freshly-baked bread.

I couldn’t wait.

Another five minutes later, he brought some water for the table, and promised us that the bread was in the oven cooking and would be ready very soon.

Another five minutes later, he finally came gliding over with a basket of oven-warm bread, a ramekin of butter and a small bowl of olives, which I leapt on like a gannet.

If mentioning all these little five-minute waits sounds petty, a) it added up to something like half an hour to get a basket of bread, b) it wasn’t just us, we overheard apologies for the delay at a couple of other tables, and c) there are impatient people out there who need to be warned: if you go to a restaurant right now, the chances are that things aren’t going to be as smooth as normal. While these guys desperately try to make it all work, you might have to wait a bit longer.

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When Madame brought our wine, she apologised for the delay.

“Have you got quite a lot of new rules to follow?” I asked.

“We have a 10-page risk assessment we all have to learn,” she replied, “and every night after business we go through it and work out what worked and what didn’t, and re-write it.”

I said I hoped that reopening would be worth it, and she revealed that, on several nights that week, the place had been empty.

If ever there was a time to support your local restaurant, this is it. And, if you’re worried about whether they are taking enough precautions, I can promise you, they are.

Having said all that, after our slightly slow beginning, the rest of service was completely normal speed and above and beyond the Fish’s usual high standards.

To start, I had my usual: six Cornish Fowey oysters, served on a bed of ice cubes with a bowl of red wine vinegar and shallots and a slice of lemon.

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For my main, I had ordered the lobster thermidor, but they were out.

I’m very glad they were. My second choice of seared scallops with a cheesey leek risotto and Parmesan shavings (from the daily specials) turned out to be absolutely exquisite.

The scallops were perfectly cooked: plump, juicy, full of flavour and just singed around the edges.

The risotto was sweet, sticky and silky, with just enough tangy leek, and the thin shavings of Parmesan were zingy.

But the icing on the cake was a sweet balsamic vinegar over the scallops, which cut through all the heavy, fatty flavours, so that I just kept on eating and eating.

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Either side of me, the battered cod fillet and the moules mariniere were both disappeared with gusto. I also got to try one of the moules and it was just as plump, juicy and sweet as my scallops.

Stuffed as I was, I couldn’t face a dessert, so I just had a glass of the 10-year-old Sandeman port.

However, I did try a mouthful of the hot treacle sponge, which was beautiful.

I got laughed at when I said the crumb structure was perfect, but it was.

By the end of our meal, the slight delay at the start seemed insignificant.

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Indeed, the only other reminder of ‘the C word’ was when I tried to go to the gents’ and discovered they were operating a one-at-a-time policy. And, to be completely honest with you, I wouldn’t mind if that became a permanent feature.

After three months of eating on my own sofa and in the extremely lonely office cafeteria, eating out was everything I had been dreaming of, but more – it’s also a chance to show our favourite local restaurants the support that they desperately need.

And, when you’re ready, you couldn’t start at a better place than the Fish.