On a sunny Saturday evening of the sort to which we are now pleasingly accustomed, we decided to sally forth in search of novelty to the prosperous town of Banbury.

The place is easily reached in a 20-minute, modestly priced train ride with Cross Country. We even had seats – not always the case with this company.

Rosemarie and I, with neighbours Paul and Drew, were heading for historic Parsons Street, home to some of the town’s oldest hostelries, including, most ancient of all, the 15th-century Olde Reindeer.

Our initial target this time, though, was a bar of (I suppose) Victorian vintage, the Wine Vaults, where we planned to rendezvous with Banbury-resident pal Abby – which we did, over delicious cocktails, mine a classic dry martini.

Then it was along the road to our booked table at the Old Auctioneer – the town’s third oldest building, just predating the 1628 fire which, of course, it survived.

Its interior is pleasingly antique and large enough to seat some 120 people in the assortment of inter-connecting rooms. There is also a pleasant outdoor area, which you can see in the picture.

The table to which we were shown was the very one, given choice in the matter, that I would have selected myself. Large, circular and beside a window, it scored additionally for me for being in the buzz of the bar.

Diners filled other tables, while standing customers clustered along the serving area with its hand-pumps dispensing a range of beers, including their own Old Auctioneer bitter.

While Paul powered into a pint of Theakston’s bitter, the rest of us made inroads into the first bottle of the appealing South African chenin blanc as we set about consulting the menu. This is a necessarily lengthy business, for the choice is an exceptionally wide one.

The Old Auctioneer styles itself “the home of comfort food”. Some might consider this a tad disparaging by seeming to suggest dishes plain, filling and perhaps boring. This is far from the case.

The place prides itself on the sourcing and handling of its wares.

The beef, for example, is 28-day dry aged in a Himalayan salt chamber – me neither, but you get the idea – and cooked over charcoal.

The pizzas go into a wood-fired oven from which they are served directly when ready – leading to a menu note that this might not be at the same time as other dishes ordered.

The one food thread not explored by us was the ‘Wing Sauce Pilgrimage’, which offers a kilo (or half) of chicken wings tossed in chilli butter and served with a blue-cheese sauce.

Otherwise this was an eclectic feast, beginning for me with a trio of nibble-style dishes – plump nocarella olives, sun-dried tomatoes and balls of mozarella.

Rosemarie dived into the sizzling garlic prawns with chilli, and Paul the garlic mushrooms with panka and aioli. For Drew and Abby there was a shared dish of tortilla chips with melted cheese, sour cream, guacamole and queso rojo.

Just as enjoyable were the main courses. Mine was an excellent pizza with torn chicken, smoked bacon, barbecue sauce and onions.

Ever the burger fan, Rosemarie was most inpressed with the 250gm house job, served in a brioche bun with home-made coleslaw and fries.

Paul chose rib-eye steak, cooked medium and served with cheesy-topped potatoes, Drew had flaming fajitas with king prawns with accompanying guacamole, tomatilla salsa, and cheese, sour cream and pico de gallo, and Abby impressed us all in polishing off barbecue lamb and chorizo espetadas. The meat came on two big skewers, the chunks of chorizo interspersed with pieces of red pepper and onions. Salad, chips and home-made tzatziki were the accompaniments.

From a list of puddings perfectly fitted to the comfort food image, a number were picked for joint sampling.

Most visually outstanding was the strawberry pavlova tower, with the fruit piled high into meringue and topped with ice cream and cream.

Caramelised apple crumble and Toblerone and butterscotch cheesecake were super too.

THE OLD AUCTIONEER, 44 Parsons Street, Banbury, OX16 5NA. T: 01285 270492, W: oldauctioneerbanbury.com

Food served: 11.30am-9pm Mon-Thurs, 11.30am-9.30pm Wed and Thurs, 11.30am-10pm Fri, noon to10pm Sat and noon to 9pm Sun

The people: general manager Charlie Hunt, kitchen manager Vaggelis Ziagkas

Do try: sizzling garlic prawns £6.95, nachos grande £6.50, BBQ chicken pizza £12.25, ribeye steak £27.50, king prawn flaming fajitas £16.50, strawberry pavlova tower £5.95