Most people are familiar with the village of Hambleden, near Henley, even if they have never ventured within 50 miles of it. Its unspoilt brick and flint cottages, its church with lych gate and its village pump have supplied a backdrop to big budget movies like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and 101 Dalmatians and to dozens of television programmes including Poirot, Down to Earth and Band of Brothers.

As with any gem of a village, Hambleden boasts a gem of a pub. The Stag & Huntsman, which belongs like most of the surrounding buildings to the 2,850-acre Culden Faw Estate, has just undergone a tasteful refurbishment. I had my first experience of the new look — which is really an old look — at a delightful opening party at the end of May laid on by its operators Hillbrooke Hotels. The amusing cartoon (above) was part of the invitation. What grabbed me about architect Ptolemy Dean’s design was the way it preserved the various separate rooms of the old pub, while supplying extensions — including new bedrooms — entirely in keeping with them.

My favourite areas, though, remained the public bar, pictured on the right, which is the haunt of many of the locals, and the little bay-windowed room at the front of the building where, standing side by side at a long counter, customers cannot fail to get to know each other. Rosemarie and I made a number of new pals there during our visit.

Last week, we returned to try the food. It proved a very happy outing, made much more so by the generous offer of the manager Claire Hollis to put us up for the night. Our room, called Henley Hill, would be more accurately styled a suite, being composed of a bedroom, sitting room and bathroom, all very tastefully tricked out.

Descending for our dinner, I made the usual Three Bears journey around the various bars (you can eat where you choose here) before settling, as Rosemarie always suspected I would, in the dining room. Actually, we already had a table reserved for us by the window, which was perfect in all respects save for the occasional puzzling whiffs of something chemical — paint thinner? petrol? — that occasionally wafted our way. I meant to ask about this later but forgot. Strangely, it had completely vanished by the next morning when we had a delicious breakfast — kipper for me, eggs benedict for Rosemarie — at the same table.

The Stag & Huntsman’s dinner menu (actually, it’s the lunch one too) is not especially extensive but reasonably well planned. Starters double with what are called ‘nibbles’ and include some dishes (home-made corned beef, scotch eggs) ideal for a place run on pleasingly ‘retro’ lines.

Main courses range from the veggie mushroom duxelle tartlet, through beer-battered whiting with hand-cut chips to the emphatically non-veggie confit belly of pork, ribeye-steak and lamb’s liver and bacon. There are also sandwiches and salads. Puds are limited to three (pear and ginger cake, bread and butter pudding, and chocolate and hazelnut tart), plus ice creams and sorbet.

Rosemarie opted to order soup, which she had established at the bar was to be leek and potato. But soon our young waiter returned from the kitchen to advise (or rather, from his tone, to warn) that the variety was now carrot and ginger. Crispy haggis fritters with beetroot relish were hastily selected instead — and turned out to be excellent. Having already kept hunger pangs at bay with a dish of marinated olives and cornichons, I went for the starter of chargrilled asparagus (still with a bit of crunch), hollandaise sauce and “crispy hen’s egg”. This last, I thought, which was coated in cheese and breadcrumbs, was not a happy addition — an over-egging of the starter, so to speak.

Talking of over-supply, I could easily have managed without the side order of sautéed spring greens that I asked for with my main course of crispy confit of duck leg. This was because there were already unadvertised greens (slightly too al dente for my taste) between the mashed potato base and the duck leg, juicy in its crisp skin. Crispiness might appear to be a feature of many dishes here, incidentally, but the three already mentioned are all the menu lists.

For Rosemarie (and for me, when she ran out of steam) there was a very generous portion of steak and kidney stew in a rich Guinness gravy, with little herb dumplings, mashed potato and more of those greens. Like much of the food here, this was what might be styled wholesome and nourishing, ideal for anyone planning to tramp the many beautiful footpaths in the area.

The mocha chocolate and hazelnut tart (with a lovely crisp base) completed my companion’s dinner. I enjoyed cheeses — Cotswold ‘cheddar’ (in style), Oxford Blue and Bûche Affinée goat’s cheese. Then we headed off into the public bar for beer and conversation. This confirmed our impression that the lovely village of Hambleden is full of very pleasant people, many of whom are related. No wonder that everyone who leaves — I was more than once informed — can’t wait to get back. This now includes us.