I ran into the chef John Burton-Race in a pub in South Devon not long before Christmas. I recognised him at once though I had not seen him for 25 years.

Actually, this is not strictly true, for in common with most people I had seen him, as a consequence of his television fame. If this had not always been in the programmes themselves — including French Leave, Great British Menu and, of course, I’m a Celebrity — then certainly it was in the associated newspaper publicity, not all of it favourable on account of his colourful private life.

But neither I nor this column ‘does’ scandal or celebrity. John’s achievements in the kitchen are what interest me, and these have been many and distinguished. He was working with Raymond Blanc when I first (and last) encountered him. Having cooked with the French ace at the Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons in Great Milton, he went on to run (and gain Michelin star status) at Le Petit Blanc (previously and again now Gee’s) in Banbury Road, Oxford. After moving in 1986 to open L’Ortolan, at Shinfield, near Reading, he gained two Michelin stars there, an achievement he was later to emulate at the John Burton-Race Restaurant at London’s Landmark Hotel. His New Angel at Dartmouth gained Michelin stardom in 2005.

During our pub meeting in Devon, he told me he was shortly returning to work in this area as consultant executive chef at Sanctum on the Green, in Cookham Dean. This recently renovated hotel is a sister to the lavish Sanctum Soho which opened in 2009. It is owned by Mark Fuller and business partner Andy Taylor (manager of Iron Maiden), who also own two Geales fish and chip restaurants in London and the Embassy Club, where I was wont to shake a leg (sometimes my own) in the late 1970s.

John promised an invitation to dinner there would follow. True to his word, one duly did for Sunday evening, with the added attraction of an overnight stay. This meant (besides an exposure to creature comforts of a type I would like to become used to) that I did not have to turn down either the Campari and orange juice that preceded the meal or a share in the Perrier-Jouët champagne that accompanied it.

With cooking in the capable hands of head chef James Barber and sous chef Jamie Hibbert, John was able to be both our host and companion at table. This meant much gossip as well as gourmandising.

The à la carte menu on offer was of elegant construction, with five choices (which always seem to me to be about right) at each stage. The things we didn’t have included the starter of warm goat’s cheese salad with truffle honey (though I was to have truffle honey — sensational! — with the gorgeously ripe, wagon-wheel-size Brie de Meaux later) and the roasted fillet of beef with fricassée of snails, smoked bacon and bone marrow.

My starter, in what I suppose would be considered comfort food style, was a portion of beautifully moist ham hock with piccalilli and pea shoots which (had I been paying) would have cost £7. On a more lavish scale, Rosemarie went for the tian of beautifully fresh Dartmouth crab, with chunks of gloopy avocado, smoked salmon and pink grapefruit (£12.50). John had fish soup with cheddar rouille and garlic croutons (£6).

Undecided between the main course fish choices of Dover sole bonne femme and roast turbot, I eventually opted for the former (£25). The pair of fillets were perfectly cooked, with the white, winey sauce finished under the grill; but this did not stop me enviously eyeing John’s huge chunk of roasted on-the-bone turbot with hollandaise (£28) — cut from a fish that had cost £150, he told me. Rosemarie, in a firm switch to comfort food mode, had spiced and braised pork belly, creamy mashed potato, black pudding and crackling. After that, she needed no pudding, but did join John and me on the cheese (£8.50).

If prices here seem high, it is reassuring to know there is an excellent value set menu (£15 for three courses; £12 for two) offering (for example) grilled mackerel or game terrine, followed by roast cod or slow-cooked duck leg, and chocolate tart or rice pudding.

For information on Sanctum on the Green — an easy drive from Oxford — call 01628 482 638 (www.sanctumonthegreen.com).