I’VE never been one for posh dinners. Seven course meals, with an unpronounceable sorbet to clear your palate for a meat dish that takes all of 30 seconds to gulp down.

Simple food, cooked well and eaten with friends has always seemed preferable to dinner at Raymond Blanc’s Oxfordshire mansion Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons.

In autumn 2012 I wasn’t doing much. Working at a theatre bar, applying for jobs and writing unreadable essays about walking in the East Anglian fens.

Two things have stayed with me from that brief period of rustication at my parents’ house.

First, that I will never - ever - ask for a coffee during the interval rush at a theatre bar.

More philosophically, that the best meals can be boiled down to three simple ingredients.

I was too much a cheapskate to buy TV cook Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s book Three Good Things on a Plate when it was published in September 2012.

But I did read his column in the Guardian. I’ve still got it somewhere, stuffed in a Nigel Slater cookbook.

The very best dishes revolved around three key ingredients, he said. It might be scallops, bacon and peas. Or, more simply, baked potato, beans and cheese.

While Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s occasional nude sunbathing in his greenhouse left me baffled, his rule of three made a lot of sense. I’d spent three years at university subsisting on bread, cheese and chutney. And I was still alive, just about.

It took me slightly longer to understand the Somerset chef’s other key bit of wisdom.

Simple is often best.

An odd philosophy to come from an Old Etonian with the accent to match, but it’s true.

Helen Browning and Tim Finney are clearly cut from the same cloth as Fearnley-Whittingstall.

The organic guru and the former BBC journalist run the Royal Oak pub in Bishopstone, a chop house in Old Town, the meat brand that carries Browning’s name and Eastbrook Farm a few miles east of Swindon.

I’ve spoken to Browning a couple of times for stories and, for a former National Trust boss, found her refreshingly down to earth.

Finney is blessed with the kind of voice that’s thrown itself across the playing fields of England for centuries and the sarcastic silliness that made Monty Python such a disappointment to their mothers.

I’d eaten at the Wood Street chop house before. On a sweaty summer day I’d cycled from Old Town to Bishopstone for the annual pig race, organised in the picture-perfect lane outside the Royal Oak, and munched my way through a hot dog at the pub.

I was curious to try the Royal Oak’s evening menu.

It was a Thursday. My day off. I’d half-promised to report on a public meeting that evening.

But most of the day had been spent at court, then speaking to a family for another story. I’d already done 10am to 5pm. Surely I was allowed some time off?

Which is how I found myself hurtling towards Bishopstone an hour or so later, my friend expertly accelerating into the country lane bends and another migraine-struck pal desperately trying not to be sick into footwell.

Inside, the Royal Oak is not unlike any posh-ish gastro pub. Wood everywhere, the odd velvet sofa.

The menu is simple. Half a dozen mains, all but one of them meat or fish-based.

Everything’s reassuringly straightforward: tagine, fish pie with spinach, pork chops with mash.

The chop, when it eventually arrives, is perfectly cooked. It’s enormous, the pig it came from must have been a beast.

The meat glistens, while the fat is beautifully caramelised - blackened in the pan. The saltiness from the butter I presume they’ve cooked it in perfectly complements the sweetness of the fat. There’s a dollop of pesto on top. Not too much, but just enough to complement the chop.

And the chop sits on top of a bed of mash, which feels like stepping into a warm bath when you sink your fork into it.

It’s those three good things Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall was on about: meat, greens and potato.

There’s a happy sound of munching from the six-strong table. Two have plumped for the fish pie, which is creamy, cheesy and powerfully fishy. The white wine cream in which another’s mussels have been cooked makes a salty sauce in which to dip chips.

Pudding is a disappointment. I ordered the bread and butter pudding, thinking another huge plate of glutinous stodge would send me to a happy early grave.

But when it’s brought to the table, it’s a sticky toffee pudding. Perfectly adequate and cloyingly sweet. But it’s not the custard sweetness I was after.

The waitress seems adamant it’s what we ordered.

I don’t complain. After consuming the best part of 1,000 calories of top-of-the range organic pig I simply lack the mental dexterity to argue.

PRICE: Mains, £14-£28

Where: Royal Oak, Cues Lane, Bishopstone

Telephone: 01793 790481

Parking: Ample, round the back