CHEF-PROPRIETOR Anthony Pitcher has enthusiasm and talent in spades, and big plans for his pub. It is back at the centre of the community, as both a drinkers’ local and the place to get a decent meal.

You will find a few pub classics, but innovative Anthony has a quirky style that he loves to showcase, and it is generally going down well with diners who are returning for more of the same.

In five months The Lamb Inn in Crawley has been put back on the map with food that is distinctive and fun.

Certainly not run-of-the-mill, the menu evolves in line with what’s fresh, best and seasonal — so Anthony’s regulars can always find new dishes and tastes, along with cool little complimentary amuse bouches, to tickle the tastebuds.

Anthony, who co-owns The Lamb with his partner Harriet West, arrived in Oxford from his native Warrington five years ago when Jamie Oliver opened his first Jamie’s Italian in the city.

“I was commis chef, and it was hard work, a bit crazy but fun! Jamie and Gennaro Contaldo were heading up the kitchen team, everything was done on site and the place was packed out. Jamie’s Italian is a massive machine now, but it was great to be in at the beginning,” Anthony said.

He was part of the launch team for Jamie’s Italian restaurants in Bath, Bristol and Cambridge. But he wanted to return to Oxford, and got a job at The High Table in the Eastgate Hotel on the High Street. He rose quickly to head the kitchen team and put his stamp on the food.

He said: “We pushed our version of fine dining — modern, quirky, contemporary — and put on 12-course tasting menus for £50. It all went really well.”

But by then he had the opportunity to open his own place, found The Lamb — and he is enjoying the challenge.

I visited a couple of months ago, and life at The Lamb was shaking down nicely. Anthony’s friend Fraser Nicolson managed the launch with him, being instrumental in putting together a young, capable team front-of-house.

Fraser has moved on to his own pub project, but The Lamb is now in full swing, with the dining room fully booked most weekends.

The bar is kept for drinkers, but can be laid-up for meals when desired. There is more dining space in an extension to the pub.

Chris Ellis, who has a background in Michelin-starred restaurants, and Dave Konye join Anthony in the kitchen.

I dined with my friend Dee, and she immediately plumped for a rather adventurous starter — scallops with strawberries and white chocolate. I was dubious about this, but it was a very pretty plate of food and she proclaimed that it worked as a combination of flavours.

My starter was confit salmon, topped with a quail’s egg — a match made in heaven, and I enjoyed every delicious mouthful.

Starters were preceded by an amuse-bouche of lemon sorbet topped with a spoonful of caviar. I am not sure I actually ‘got’ this, but it was certainly different.

Dee played safe with steak for her main course. It came with crisp chips in a separate pot, one large mushroom and watercress.

It looked a bit lost on the plate and Dee said she would have liked more mushrooms and more salad. I had my favourite — lamb, pink and juicy, with fresh peas and a wonderful jus. It did it for me.

We dined on a Wednesday, and the dining room was full — very impressive for midweek.

Anthony tells me that trade has been ticking over nicely since then. I hope that his informal style and adventurous food continue to strike a note with West Oxfordshire’s discerning dining-out crowd.

The Lamb Inn, Steep Hill, Crawley, call 01993 708792 or see