It was a puzzling visit from start to finish, beginning with the name. Artist Residence, also known as Mr Hanbury’s Masons Arms, is a new pub in South Leigh near Witney, bought and done up by some guys from Brighton. They run similar venues in London and Cornwall and obviously couldn’t agree what to call it.

It joins the numerous ‘hip’ restaurants and pubs opening up around Soho Farmhouse. And while this media-hyped Great Tew influx is encouraging, Soho’s members might notice that Oxfordshire has lots more to offer if they care to stop their black Range Rovers elsewhere and peer out of the tinted windows occasionally.

We were there for Sunday lunch and entered the charming and tiny, dark pub via some new veg beds on the way in. I was therefore surprised to learn that ‘most’ of the menu’s produce was secured from those four raised beds. I’m sure in the future, as is the trend, this will be the case, but at the moment it seems unlikely.

We didn’t get off to a brilliant start after ordering drinks and discovering that my Bloody Mary was whisky based. On complaining, the barman shrugged as if I was a geriatric trying to enter a rave and said: “That’s how we make it, with bourbon”. Get with the programme grandma – vodka is so last year.

His second attempt tasted exactly the same, so I gave up and asked for some tea instead, which took up most of our tiny table for four so that when our starters arrived they had to be squeezed alongside. We ate with our elbows tucked in, watching in amusement as the chefs continually rang the bell to signal that the food was ready which was then studiously ignored.

The waiting staff were all elsewhere with iPads doing something much more important than serving the customers. Eventually after much huffing and puffing about how many drinks he had to make, the barman went to find them. He couldn’t possibly serve the food himself, of course. A blue-shirted, jean-clad waiter would then be brought back triumphantly only to disappear again by the time the next bell rang.

There were no children’s menus and as the starters were rather grown-up we ate our hot smoked salmon, quinoa, dill, oyster mayonnaise and kohlrabi starter (£7.50) as fast as possible. The heritage tomato salad with consomme, ewes curd, basil and olives (£7.50) was lovely but the tomatoes were a tad hard.

By now the waiters were congregating behind the bar, none of them taking the blind bit of notice, even though our table was as crammed as The British Museum at half term.

“It’s a bit crowded over here isn’t it?” our waiter commented, arriving with our mains. “Perhaps you could clear the tea or the starters then?” Mr Greedy suggested, as his right eye developed a tic.

It was therefore a while before the £19 main course of roast beef, Yorkshire puddings and roast potatoes could be placed on our table, as the wonderful extras of green veg, gravy, and cauliflower cheese had to be fitted on as well.

Enormous portions of the 32

day-aged rump of beautifully cooked beef, manoevered onto medium sized chintz plates, then hung over the edges, adding to the problem, so that however delicious the food, it turned into a bit of a bun fight. The veggie option of wild nettle gnocchi, tender stem broccoli, king oyster, leek (£14) was rather tough, the potato needing to be softer and more forgiving.

The pudding was a highlight however, from buttermilk panna cotta, charred apricot and gin jelly, to poached pineapple with coconut and granola and the strawberry, marshmallow and strawberry sorbet with lime curd. All enormously accomplished desserts for £7.

Mr Hanson and his artists are hoping to extend the premises to include extra guestrooms and a cafe/deli in the near future and when this is complete I can foresee it will be a more balanced, extensive, relaxed environment.

In the meantime, if Mr Hanbury and his artists stopped trying so hard, and realised that we don’t need rescuing, I’m sure the venue will settle down into being an accomplished place in its own right because all the elements are already there, the food leading the way.

Artist Residence

Station Road, South Leigh OX29 6XN

01993 656 220