Tried and Tested, The Greyhound on the Test, Hampshire
I was born in a place where saying hello to a stranger in the street was perfectly normal – a village sentiment that has no place in the big city, where a similar affection could wind up with you being pushed face first down an escalator.
In Stockbridge, Hampshire, the people are very friendly indeed.
It’s the kind of place you’d expect to see Miss Marple type old ladies pruning their roses, while the village vicar has an affair with the lady from the post office and kids play hop scotch. It’s idyllic England at its best, even on a cold October day. The Greyhound on the Test sits pride and place along Stockbridge’s handsome main High Street, flanked by greengrocers, pubs and fishing tackle shops. The best bit? No sodding Sainsbury’s Local in sniffing distance.
Throughout the inn’s 600 years of history, none of its years are more significant than since 2014 when The Greyhound won Michelin Pub of the Year and added three more bedrooms in the adjoining cottage, bringing the total up to ten rooms for guests who wish to stay the night.
Inside, it’s everything that can be expected from an old English pub: a rustic bar, open fire and beams so low they’ve had to be padded for protection for anyone who’s over four feet tall. To the left, the homely dining room is where breakfast is served for guests lucky enough to be staying the night – but we’ll get to that later. On the right is the main Michelin-guide Greyhound restaurant, our first port of call.
With some of the best English countryside on its doorstep, there’s no wonder the chef has very little problem sourcing some of the best ingredients for the menu. It’s that reason we guess why the menu choice is so large, with the only downside being physically capable of tackling a couple of the dishes.
With this in mind, an assiette of starters seemed the most appropriate option. A crispy duck egg comes atop a thick slab of Stockbridge mushrooms and served with a helping of duck fat brioche, while spiced tempura monkfish cheeks are served with a tangy sweet and sour sauce.
The selection of local meats and cheeses served at the Greyhound are curated with great care and attention. Alongside starters (greedy pig alert) there was a selection of Hampshire cured meats with traditional pickles and chutney. Very quaint.
Main dishes come from two menus – ‘large plates’ or ‘grill dishes’. The former is a classic pub menu – wild boar, roasted guinea fowl, smoked haddock, pork belly. The grill menu is the perfect selection of steaks, fish and burgers.
The crowd is a mix of locals from nearby towns and villages, as well as travellers, anglers and shooters. Steak is given a Greyhound twist and is served with garlic and confit shallot butter and Hampshire watercress.
The menu changes seasonally but the opportunist head chef Chris Heather has a special menu up his sleeve to make use of some of the really rare seasonal ingredients. We went off piste with a cottage pie, and they even managed to make that sexy. I don’t need to explain the complexities of the meaty mashy goodness but they get it spot on. Great drinks too – wine is the obvious dinner accompaniment and their selection is very well selected, but in my experience beer is just as good. Try the ‘Greyhound’ beer brewed specially for the pub by nearby brewers Ringwood.
If there’s anything that will be the decider of your internal “Shall I, shan’t I?” Pudding debate, it’s the woman on the next table saying that her dessert was the best thing she’s ever put in her mouth. We investigate (with care). She’s talking about the banana parfait, and she’s right. Served with a divine chocolate mousse and topped off with a caramelised banana and nougatine crisp, the dessert is a true testament to the chef’s skill and creativity.
Back in the day, inns were for travellers who spent their days on foot or horseback trekking through the countryside for days and days on end. Tonight, the clientele was two greedy city dwellers who could barely move after ploughing through half of the restaurant menu.
The bedrooms are an extension to the delicately tasteful interiors downstairs – think Farrow & Ball paint, Molton Brown toiletries, velvet cushions and crisp white linen. Ensuites are roomy, with roll top baths, cut stone sinks, thick soft towels and huge walk-in plunge showers. In the hallway, there’s an ‘honesty bar’ which is perfect for a night cap. Help yourself to a drink or snack and leave a couple of quid in exchange for the privilege.
The Greyhound is in perfect situ for many outdoor pursuits. It’s worth noting I’m a city boy through and through but I’ll take a whack at most things that come my way. Today, it was fly fishing.
By definition, fly fishing is an angling method by which an artificial ‘fly’ or insect is used as bait to catch fish. I imagine the whole experience would have been easier using actual bait but from what I gather, that’s not the point, and the trick is in the casting. While I’m no expert, a quick tip from me would be to not get completely wound up in your fishing wire, and to check the fly is actually attached to the line in the first place…
It’s not just fishing close by, Stockbridge is famous for clay pigeon shooting, cycling and horse-riding. The Greyhound on the Test are unique in both surroundings and offerings, and it’s the perfect blend of the two that makes it easy to see why it’s stood so long for so many years and will for more to come.
A quick drive from London will get you to Stockbridge in around 1hr30. Regular trains leave for Winchester from Paddington or Waterloo – and then it’s a cab ride from there.
Written by our man down south, Sam Johnson
The Greyhound on the Test
31 High Street
T: 01264 810833