Seldom do I head into the Warwickshire countryside with anything other than profound depression.
I’m sure that there are people who enjoy the company of sheep and regard the faux rusticity of much of the housing as the pinnacle of architectural achievement.
But it’s all too tame, smug and safe for me, for I relish the variety and buzz of urban surroundings.
Thus I headed with a heart that wasn’t racing with joy to The Crabmill, an oh-so-tastefully renovated old pub in a place apparently called Preston Bagot.
I’ve eaten several times at the Crabmill and its sister establishments in the tweely-named Lovely Pubs group and been underwhelmed.
My trepidation was wrong. At least about the food.
It’s moved up a notch since my last visit and was really rather good.
A starter of octopus with chorizo, leaves and pine nuts was very pleasant – the cooking of the cephalopod itself especially impressive since it was tender and flavoursome: no easy thing to achieve with such an unforgiving ingredient.
Corned beef hash was moist and came with two perfectly poached eggs and a hollandaise sauce with just the right spike of acidity.
Elsewhere at my table, there were murmurs of appreciation over well crafted and skilfully cooked pork and fish dishes.
With a small number of alcoholic drinks, we paid £140 for four.
Good value for food with a touch of class.
Good enough, even, to tempt me back into Warwickshire’s manicured countryside.
Warwick Road, Henley-in-Arden B95 5EE. 01926 843342.