WE’RE in the area so why not, I say as we roll up to the Champany Inn in blazing Sunday sunshine, passing through their cottage-style gardens into that dark low, beamed bar; bric-a-brac hanging here and there, maps, teak, faded newspaper articles, the full 18th-century atmospheric boo-yah.

It’s not changed, we agree, as we’re led into the hexagonal dining room, tapestries hanging from the walls, and then onto a wooden table so old it actually creaks as we sit down.

Steak is what you come here for as if anyone would need reminding when those flames flare and an orange glow fills the square window – silhouetting a lone chef in communion with the kitchen’s huge charcoal grill.

This was, I’m sure I read, the best steak restaurant in the world, once too the holder of a Michelin star; beef then so righteous that I’m sure they used to tell you the cow’s name.

“No starters, thanks,” I say to the waiter, who is perhaps (given the unadventurous starter choices and the volume of what’s to come) used to hearing this.

“No thanks” too, to the bone-in sirloin or rib-eye, or even the T-bone all hovering about the14oz and £40 mark. Let’s go completely mad and have the hand-cut strip-loin, priced at £14.55. Hang on. That’s £14.55 per 100 grammes.

What, uh, size of cuts do these come in, I ask nervously of the lady who serves us, fingers on my credit card.

“They start at 500 grammes and go up,” she replies. Quick bit of mental arithmetic follows. Ooft. That’s £70 bangers. But go on. And we’ll have garlic mushrooms (£6.90) and glazed carrots with fennel (£6.45). The chips come with the steak anyway.

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The last time I was here, Debs says, we ate in the Chop House next door and Luca was in one of those bouncy tiny baby seats. He’s 20 now.

The last time I was here, I counter, I had the Chateaubriand, which was, back then, an eye-watering £70 and cracked when cut due to the glaze they put on their meat.

That, along with a steak I once had at that Bradley Ogden’s in Las Vegas, remains probably the greatest piece of meat I have eaten.

“Didn’t they used to ban mobile phones at the table in here?” we ask each other as a phone goes off out in the middle of the floor. The loud ring tone is cut off.

But silence doesn’t follow. Instead the call is put on speaker phone and a lady has a chat at full volume. Changed days.

The Herald: Champany Inn interior Champany Inn interior (Image: Gordon Terris)

Changed days too for the Chop House, which remains closed, with reopening promised soon, and its menu added to the traditionally more rarified one in here.

Through that picture window I can now see our steak flaring, being picked up with a giant fork, being plonked back down, blue flames licking, juices dripping, searing smells travelling appetisingly right over here.

“Would you like it sliced before being taken to the table?” we’re suddenly asked. Then it’s here. Sliced across the grain, more than enough for two, resting, tantalising.

Oh, I had forgotten this: they do side dishes very well. I taste first one, then another, then a whole lot of the mushrooms tossed in garlic butter.

I have a few of the chips and am surprised at how double-cooked, goosey-goosey fat-cooked, they taste.

Debs and I share the last of the crisp, yet licoricey carrots. Now is the time for the strip loin.

The meat really is buttery soft, full-flavoured, textured. Superb. And the exterior is seared – no, make that charred. “Is it meant to be,” I ask a passing waiter, “this, er, blackened on the outside?”

Oh yes, he says, the Davidsons (the owners) brought Braai cooking from South Africa here. Honestly? I don’t remember it being this charred before; I don’t remember it having that bitter burnt tang.

But then I don’t remember eating this early in the day either – when the coals on that grill are still showing black.

TEL: 01506-834532

MENU; It’s all about the steaks, hand-picked, hand-cut, cooked on a flaming grill, once said to be the best steak restaurant in the world too. Starters a bit too old skool. 4

SERVICE; Pleasant, fairly reserved, we were Sunday lunch walk-ins and there was a reasonably relaxed tone. 4/5

ATMOSPHERE: Wonderfully atmospheric inn, dripping with history (not least of this restaurant), flaming Braai on the go, nice place to spend time. 5/5

PRICE: Very good quality steaks hit the £40 mark, but the hand-cut, top quality are more like £70. For 500 grammes. It served two. 3/5

FOOD; They keep the cooking very simple and when it comes to the side dishes it really pays off, the Strip Loin was unimpeachable quality, the meat itself fab but there was a strange burnt bitterness to the outside. 6/10

Total: 22/30