In May this year, the Mason Arms in South Leigh re-opened with a new lease of life as part of the Artist Residence collection of quirky restaurant-hotels. Renamed Mr Hanbury's Mason Arms in homage to the inn’s past, the venue has been embraced by the community of the Cotswolds Oxfordshire village who are glad to have a pub again after four years, and once again become a popular destination for foodies. Michael Purton spent the night.

The décor of the Mason Arms’ pub and dining room is a perfect metaphor for the establishment. The traditional style of a 16th century country pub – oak panelling, rustic beams, flagstone flooring, an open fireplace and densely-patterned wallpaper – is embellished by wall-mounted neon signs such as a slanting cross and the all-caps question WHAT DID I DO LAST NIGHT? in gaudy pink. This mixture of heritage and modernity could clash horribly but the designers, Justin and Charlotte Salisbury, who are also the owners of the venue and Artist Residence chain, have pulled off the style with aplomb. The seamless combination of old and new is what gives the Mason Arms its charm. You’re in both a village pub where locals are playing cards over a pint and an upmarket restaurant with food crafted by a chef with Michelin star credentials and artwork by the Connor Brothers.

When I visited with my partner and baby son, we were welcomed by Charlotte and Justin’s sister, Lavender, also a co-owner in the business, who were very much hands-on with the running of the Arms and delighted by how warmly the village had welcomed the re-opening of the pub. After taking in the spectacle of the aforementioned décor, we were shown to our room – one of just five – the Farmhouse Suite, which combined classic features with modern comfort; a brushed copper Catchpole & Rye roll top bath, Tudor-style tapestries, oak panelling, a super-kingsize bed, a Roberts radio and vast flat-screen TV and an en suite with a rainfall shower. With the luxury of the room, as well as a personalised greeting card on the coffee table alongside cookies and a travel cot already assembled in the corner, we instantly felt at home.

Before dinner we explored South Leigh, a small village which can be taken in on foot and boasts a stunning church, St James the Great, which dates back to the 12th Century and is home to renowned 15th Century wall paintings. The church and the pub are pretty much the only attractions of the village and there isn’t much passing footfall, so for the restaurant and hotel side of the business to succeed, the Mason Arms will have to become a destination venue. This has been the case in the past; during the reign of the previous landlord, who ran the place as a gastropub with a French menu from 1995-2013, celebrity chefs Raymond Blanc and Marco Pierre White were fans and there was a helipad for wealthy guests. After we’d finished dinner, I had no doubt that the food at the Mason Arms was definitely worthy of visiting from afar.

The kitchen is run by Leon Smith, who worked under Michelin Star chef Tom Aikens in London before, aged 21, he made his mark as Senior Sous Chef of The Pony and Trap in Bristol with Michelin starred Josh Eggleton, as well as at The Royal Oak at Paley Street, another Michelin starred gastropub in Maidenhead. Clearly he is now ready to be the man in charge as the menu he’s created at the Mason Arms, for the restaurant which is called Mr Hanbury’s Dining Room and also the pub, is an exquisite collection of pub classics with haute cuisine touches.

To start, I had the BBQ squash with violet artichokes, blue cheese and pear and my girlfriend had the heritage tomato salad with ewe’s curd, basil and olives (both £7.50). For our mains, she chose the Cornish plaice with fennel, pak choi, broccoli, clams and spiced hazelnut granola (£23) while I opted for the Mason Arms burger with triple-cooked chips and coleslaw (£15). For dessert, I went for rice pudding (£8) and she decided to have a second glass of Prosecco – apparently she counts that as dessert. Every dish was superb. Leon Smith has evidently learnt from his stellar experience and he and his team at the Mason Arms deliver faultlessly for both those after a quick pub meal and demanding foodies, while using fruit and veg grown in the garden there and locally-foraged mushrooms and herbs.

Breakfast was also served in the dining room and, with the morning sun streaming through the windows, we could better appreciate the assorted artwork on the walls (the Artist Residence name isn’t arbitrary, you see) which includes pieces by Harland Miller and Dan Hillier, and sits on a backdrop of intricate wallpaper by William Morris and House of Hackney. The food at breakfast was equally impressive, with the choices including a Full English, porridge, pancakes and various egg dishes, and the barista coffee was particularly good.

The place’s new name, Mr Hanbury’s Mason Arms, pays tribute to its fascinating past. The farmhouse-turned-pub was originally given to the butler of Lord and Lady Mason of Eynsham Hall, hence the name The Mason Arms. Mr Hanbury is a fictional character who features in many of the artworks inside, and is partly inspired by the previous landlord, a big personality who refused to abide by the smoking ban back in 2007. The new owners clearly respect the Mason Arms’ history and, judging by their successful restaurant-hotels in London, Brighton and Penzance and our excellent experience in South Leigh, this historic country inn has a bright future.