Just over a month has elapsed since the opening of No 1 Ship Street and discerning diners – to which add lunchers and breakfasters – are already celebrating a valuable addition to the Oxford restaurant scene.

This is, let me stress at once, a characterful business whose appeal, in part, derives from its not being part of a chain.

The operations of the blessed Jeremy Mogford apart, our city centre is not one in which individual enterprise flourishes in catering; nor does it look likely to when the new Westgate erupts upon us. (The position, I realise, is quite different in the suburbs.)

A depressing parade of familiar national names is passed as one strolls towards No 1 along either George Street or Cornmarket.

How pleasing it feels to be approaching a place with a style of its own, fashioned by proprietors Ross Drummond and (also head chef) Owen Little, both men with strong local links.

After five years as general manager of the wildly individual Crazy Bear in Stadhampton, Ross recognises how much people value the personal touch.

His and Owen’s bright idea for No 1 has been for a place with two faces – a ground floor restaurant offering solid, well-sourced brasserie dishes and, above, a bar for champagne, cocktails, oysters and sharing plates.

Oh, and gin – a spirit I have always loved and am just getting used to finding everyone else loving too. Barman Ian is dispensing some of the best stuff in 35cl measures with mixer for £4 in a Gin Club deal between 4pm and 7pm from Sunday to Thursday. See you there.

So what if it’s a Saturday when Rosemarie and I visit for dinner? I’m still having a gin, and in a week when I met and boarded Flying Scotsman, it has to be Oxford Dry Gin, from Spirit of Toad, which emerged from a copper still made by the man who built the locomotive’s boiler. As noted before, it’s great.

As a Tabasco Club member, I naturally had to have an oyster, too, liberally splashed with the fiery sauce.

Just one? Moderate in all things, I was saving myself for a dinner which I suspected would test my talent for temperance. It did.

Taking our places at a corner table in the restaurant below, I felt a sudden blast of heat to my right as I connected with the chair. That was a member of the waiting staff flambéeing my neighbour’s fruit brulée. This was a sight I hadn’t seen in years.

Another was the wooden platter bearing 70 quid’s worth of dry-aged rib of beef, plus bone marrow, being placed ready for the attention of two hungry customers ahead of me. This took me right back to Quincey’s, in Little Clarendon Street, in the 1980s, when this dish was a trademark offering from chef Michel Sadones.

Soon waitress Rudi began delivering our food, beginning with excellent bread and butter, both produced by Owen’s team on the premises.

So was the smoked trout that featured in lavish quantity in my well-dressed salad starter, alongside mixed leaves, sweetish pickled cucumber and not a little dill.

For Rosemarie there was a classic fish soup, a thick creamy bisque, stuffed with lumps of salmon and white fish, with croutons, red pepper and aioli.

She continued with confit chicken, beautifully tender and flavoured (though a tad salty for me when I tasted a bit). This came aboard a juicy layer of peas, little gem lettuce leaves, baby onions and diced bacon.

My main course was every bit as impressive, as can be seen above. It was a beautifully fresh Torbay sole (aka witch flounder), served with sliced new potatoes, samphire and a delicious caper butter sauce.

We ordered, additionally, garlic greens and green beans with anchovy butter, well-judged and (for once) non-boring sides.

Reliable Picpoul de Pinet (Domaine de Creyssels) was our wine choice. The bottle lasted right up to Rosemarie’s deep-fried white chocolate custard, with blueberry compote, coconut and lime, and my cheeses (Isle of Mull Cheddar, Stitchelton Blue and Innes goat log) with oatcakes and tomato chutney, both from Owen’s skilled hands.

No 1 Ship Street, Oxford, OX1 3DA, telephone: 01865 806637. no1shipstreet.co.uk

Opening times: 8am-10pm daily (no downstairs restaurant Sunday night)