Katherine MacAlister embraces spontaneity after a family emergency, and comes up trumps for taste

Nothing went to plan on Friday. My carefully organised day off was instead spent in Witney Hospital’s trauma unit fixing my daughter’s broken toes.

Bless her bloodied socks, she ran into a concrete block on the way to the trampoline, stubbing them and breaking two in the process. So there we were being strapped up and afterwards wondering, as I always do, where to have lunch.

Unless I reviewed the hospital canteen sandwiches – which wasn’t a bad idea actually because the ones served at the Friends’ café were delicious – we would need to go exploring.

So suitably strapped up, we wound our way home and as our stomachs started rumbling, decided to fly by the seat of our pants and eat at the first place we found.

Because while I usually plan my reviews as meticulously as Hercule Poirot, there’s nothing wrong with living dangerously is there?

Half an hour later I was revising my theory as I drove around village after village trying to find somewhere decent to eat.

All I wanted was a nice garden and some home-made food, nothing fancy, but a tall order in these neck of the woods it would seem.

Four pubs later we struck gold, glimpsing the tantalising thatch and gardens of the George and Dragon in Long Hanborough from the road. The pub was friendly and well kept, the menu hopeful and the garden beckoned us into the sunshine.

Putting our feet up, we downed our iced orange juice and sodas and felt much better. With the fervour and hunger of the wolf huffing and puffing at the three little pigs’ door, we studied the menus which looked fantastic.

The lovely waitresses told us everything was cooked on site, something of a rarity these days, and thus encouraged we decided to try something a bit different from the usual lunchtime staples of sandwiches, soup or ploughman’s.

My daughter opted for the chicken korma with rice and poppadum off the children’s menu, while I opted for the smokie (£13.95) as a main course. There was the usual array of sandwiches, jackets and traditional options such as scampi or ham, egg and chips, but today having narrowly escaped death, we were feeling a bit more adventurous.

Seated at the iron tables in the courtyard behind the beautiful 17th-century pub, we patted ourselves on the back for holding out until we found somewhere that suited.

And this was obviously a pub well loved by the locals. There were lunchers from the Mini showroom over the road ordering the famous towering burgers, among the mums, work colleagues and pensioners who make up the midweek lunch crowd.

Despite our contentment, I still wasn’t overly expectant, but what arrived blew all my preconceptions out of the water.

The children’s chicken curry was home-made with a South Indian, fresh zingy sauce and a portion to satisfy any growing pains. Generous chunks of chicken, and fragrant, exotic ingredients all served in a white china bowl with a poppadum and rice, was at £5.25 enormously impressive, and a far cry from the usual chicken nuggets and chips-style kids offerings.

But it was my smokie that really took my breath away, arriving in a large white bowl, swimming in a beautiful creamy, cheese sauce that had my arteries cowering in terror.

It’s the smoked haddock that usually makes or breaks this dish, often being stringy, dry or chewy. This, however was generous, smooth, chunky and so delicious I ate most of it with my eyes closed, only opening them to dip the bread into the intoxicating sauce.

I don’t want to big up the George and Dragon into something it’s not with my lavish praise, because it doesn’t pretend to be gastro, but it is instead a great, refreshingly unpretentious, friendly pub with staff in the kitchen who really know what they are doing, which in my book counts for far more. I might have to be spontaneous more often.

George and Dragon, 133 Main Road, Long Hanborough. 01993 881362 or georgeanddragonwitney.co.uk