Gastropubs are the desert mirage for the peripatetic drinker (or pubhopper, if you prefer). Wandering through an unfamiliar part of town these days it’s quite possible to spot what looks like a solid boozer, ideal for slaking your deadly burning thirst, only to find when up close that it’s all napkins and cutlery and not right at all. Ragged and thirsty you trudge on, cursing the devilish chimera…

My main reason to disapprove of gastropubs is not really this dirty trick played on the unsuspecting pub prospector. It’s not even that the food is often overcomplicated, overpriced and uninspired. It’s more that a lot of these premises were perfectly good pubs and have been put beyond use*. Too often they’re snob holes and have stamped out any vestige of what’s best about a really good pub: a sense of inclusion, of welcome.

But what if a gastropub takes over an intolerable premises like Bar Citrus on The Cut? What if there’s a really comfortable bar area which lets you ignore the diners? What if the food they serve is simply and beautifully cooked but with adventurous ingredients? What if the staff are so friendly that you couldn’t feel intimidated if you tried? Wouldn’t it all be OK?

Yes. I was in the Anchor and Hope last night, which is the new venture involving the squirrel-cooking marrowbone munchers from St John, amongst others. I ate a lovely big savoury bowl of tripe, almost cassoulet-style with a tomato sauce involving sausage and pancetta and goodness knows what else, accompanied by delicious chips. My lovely assistant chose braised hare which was so strong and delicious it was like eating pate off the bone. We loved it. Not so much that it forced me to change my mind about gastropubs, naturally, but enough to make me think that this is the exception that proves me right.

(*Not as far beyond the pubhopper’s use as the old Crystal Tavern in Surrey Quays, which has been converted into some kind of church which calls itself the Christ-All Tavern, obv.)