By Marc Evans

Being an occasional food reviewer for the Oxford Times is a bit of a cushy number. Barely a week goes by without a new pub or restaurant opening, revealing a new chef or unveiling its latest menu, and it’s up to us intrepid gastronauts to tell you whether it’s any good or not.

Much as our web masters would like us find the worst places and give them a stinker of a review – such is the online appetite for bad news – with the standard of cooking I’ve encountered in the county recently, I can’t see that happening any time soon. And my most recent visit, to check out the summer menu at The Crown Inn in the picturesque West Oxfordshire village of Church Enstone, was no exception.

Recently taken over by Victoria and George Irvine, it ticks all the boxes you are looking for in a Cotswold gastropub. Quirky but tasteful decor, contemporary art on the walls (courtesy of George himself), craft beers, plenty of gins, plus a menu featuring some traditional favourites alongside innovative, modern cooking. And, for the In Crowd, all just a David Beckham free kick away from Soho Farmhouse.

On a warm summer’s afternoon, we headed for the garden, a beautifully engineered space which managed to feel cosy and spacious at the same time. The number of dogs out for the day with their owners made us wish we had brought our own black Lab – but thankfully we didn’t, as he soon would have been drooling uncontrollably.

Choosing a starter was, for me, the easiest decision of the day. Even as someone who is not that keen on cauliflower, sauteed scallops with pancetta and cauliflower puree (£9) sounded heavenly – and it was. The scallops were perfectly cooked, caramelised on the outside, moist on the inside, and with their tasty coral still attached. The crisp, salty pancetta and creamy cauliflower were the ideal accompaniment. The piece of Romanesco broccoli didn’t add anything to the dish, but I ate it anyway as an example to my teenage daughter to always eat her greens.

My wife was hugely impressed with her smoked trout, herb new potato salad and beetroot carpaccio (£8), immediately asking for the supplier of the fish. A classic combination of flavours, perfectly executed, with a caper dressing. Both starters went well with the homemade bread with rosemary olive oil (£3) we ordered and which our daughter proceeded to demolish, with the help of some excellent balsamic vinegar.

Luckily, she saved some room for her cheeseburger with all the trimmings (£13.25). A cracking bit of beef, well seasoned, and served with gherkin, tomato and lettuce, in a brioche bun with a tangy BBQ sauce and crispy, skin-on fries.

With the temperatures approaching Mediterranean levels, I found the lure of the moussaka (£16) irresistible.

The sauce was rich and deep, the meat was not fatty as lamb can often be, and all the elements – the bechamel, the cheese, the slices of potato and aubergine – combined wonderfully. There’s something immensely satisfying about this Greek favourite, in much same way that lasagne and cottage pie manage to transform minced meat and carbs into something magical, courtesy of some kind of culinary alchemy.

The Greek salad was advertised as a garnish, but was a full-blown side dish – and exceptional too. Salty feta, juicy cherry tomatoes, crunchy radishes, plenty of black and green olives and crisp leaves in a tangy dressing.

It didn’t stop me casting a few envious glances at my other half’s Barbary duck breast, though, a juicy piece of meat, complemented by a cherry jus with dauphinoise potatoes, Romanesco and pak choi (£18). Hearty cooking with a delicate touch.

Desserts had a boozy theme – mine a chocolate and Amaretto mouse (£6.50), rich but not cloying, and served with raspberries and a shortbread biscuit – and my wife’s Limoncello cheesecake with summer berry coulis (£6.50). Both could have been improved with a bit more of the advertised alcohol (but, then again, what couldn’t?). But they rounded off an excellent meal in superb surroundings.