HAVING passed The Lamb & Flag, in the centre of Hailey, many times since I began visiting my mother who is still recuperating at Middleton Grange Care Home, courtesy of the NHS, I decided it was time to call in for lunch.

I reviewed it once before in September 1994, after being told by friends that it was the perfect 17th-century village pub.

A little mongrel called Scrap, who was chosen from many dogs needing a good home at the Blue Cross Centre, Burford, lived there then with licensees Brian and Sue Burton. Their philosophy had been to turn customers into friends - it seems very little has changed, as this remains a really warm, hospitable, cosy little pub, which does what it can to serve the community.

This is evident the moment you walk though the door and notice all the silver cups and group photographs hanging on the left-hand wall, which include photos of ladies' and gent's darts teams, bar billiards teams, and teams who have played Aunt Sally in the pub garden at the back.

There are football teams connected to the pub too, who, thanks to the licensee's generosity, assemble at The Lamb & Flag after a local game to enjoy the free snacks that are prepared for them. As the barman said: "This is what local pubs are all about, and this is definitely a local pub."

I was intrigued to discover that the garden is also used for barbecue parties. A sign on the wall over the fire says that for just £50 the pub will supply the barbecue, the gas to run it, also the plates, dishes and utensils and holding fridges for the food. All the customers have to do is bring their food, and someone to cook it. As the garden has been designed with children in mind, and features a Mr Oak Tree climbing adventure frame and swings, it makes a great venue for an a la fresco family party.

Having ordered a half-pint of Abbot ale, I made myself comfortable on the table nearest the wood burning stove, which was giving out a great heat. I could have sat in the little restaurant area behind the fire, but the bar, with its flagstone floor and cottage style furniture, seemed far cosier.

This is one of those pubs where everyone talks to one another. It wasn't long before I found myself in conversation with the pub's birthday boy, who, it seems, celebrates his special day at the pub every year. And when I ordered the minted lamb pie (pictured) for my lunch, the friendly barman admitted this was his favourite meal too.

Apparently everything on the menu is home-made from freshly sourced produce, where possible, and this is a meal he enjoys often when he works a lunchtime shift.

Actually, the minted lamb pie (£8.45) was indeed very tasty. Fortunately, the lamb had not been drowned in mint sauce, just enough had been used to lift the taste of lamb without spoiling it. Little puff pastry leaves made up the topping.

Other dishes on the menu the day I called included peppered salmon fillet (£7.25), chicken chasseur (£7.25), pork steak with mustard gravy (£7.95), and vegetable and sweet potato strudel, at £7.25. The snack list includes a choice of three different cheese-based ploughman's lunches, at £5.25, several different filled jacket potatoes choices (£4.20), soup of the day (£2.95), and five different sandwiches, priced from £3.25.

When visiting The Lamb & Flag 14 years ago, I described the food as good and wholesome - very little has changed, despite the passage of years. It was my dog Apollo who accompanied me then. Dogs, I discovered, are still welcome in this pub, which stands in the middle of some excellent dog walking country. I must bring him with me next time, because dogs are also welcome at Middleton Grange.