Restaurant Review: The Greyhound on the Test
In what some might say was an uncharacteristically thoughtful and romantic gesture, I arranged to take my partner to The Greyhound on the Test, Michelin’s 2014 Pub of the Year, for dinner and an overnight stay as a birthday surprise. We met under the clock at Waterloo, a traditional meeting place for romantic encounters, and even spending the hour-long train journey to Winchester on the floor (get your seats early) seemed more like a whimsical adventure than a pain in the bum. After that it was a 20-minute taxi drive down dark country lanes to Stockbridge, home of The Greyhound on the Test.
We received a very warm welcome and picked up a couple of cucumber-enhanced G&Ts to take up to our room. The long upstairs landing gave us a good idea of what we were in for, with its endearing (and tempting) honesty bar lining the wall, green wellies outside the rooms, and the kind of knick-knacks you’d expect in a 600-year-old building. Inside the room was utterly charming, with low Tudor-style beams, plush antique furniture and one of the biggest beds I’ve ever seen. After collapsing on that for a short while, it was back downstairs to eat.
The decor theme continued in the dining room, which oozed country-pub charm. It was pretty much empty when we arrived, but seemingly in the blink of an eye became surprisingly full for a mid-week evening. This place seems to be a regular haunt for local young professional types, and by 10 o’clock the joint was respectably jumping.
To start with we were given some bread made by Hampshire company the Hoxton Bakehouse, so if you thought you could escape east London-style “artisan” bakeries by leaving the capital, you’d be wrong. I kid, of course; with deliciously nutty slices like these, there’s no reason why you’d want to. We had arrived the very day before the Greyhound was due to switch to a new menu, so we were given a special preview of the delights to come. My partner started with the buffalo carpaccio, which we were told was sourced from a local farm mere miles away. Served with celeriac remoulade, it was delicate, tender and tasty, with a richer flavour than you tend to find with its beef counterpart. I went for the jasmine-smoked chicken served with pea puree and a chicken bon-bon; I’m a sucker for anything that has that bonfire-smoke flavour, so this was a definite highlight.
After such adventurous starters, we were taken down a more traditional route with a classic chateaubriand served for two – although unusually, it was served on a bench. Two enormous chunks of the beef arrived atop a steel-legged platform, flanked by bowls of broccoli and two perfectly rectangular, golden-brown slabs of dauphinoise potatoes stacked on top of each other like a piece of modernist architecture. In fact, the whole thing looked like an edible tribute to Frank Lloyd Wright’s iconic Fallingwater building – right down to the small cascade of scarlet liquid that began to leak from the bench but was quickly mopped up by our friendly and apologetic waitress. However, as the sign of a good chateaubriand is tender and above all juicy meat, my carnivorous date and I weren’t at all concerned. Our only disappointment was that we couldn’t finish it all, as the portions were so generous.
My dessert was a couple of home-made sorbets – a lip-puckeringly sharp passion fruit, offset beautifully by a creamy pear. My date went with a rich and decadent chocolate ice cream. We then retired for a pint and a half by the huge, roaring fireplace in the Greyhound’s cosy bar, and with the firelight setting the whole room in gold tones and the last few revellers providing a background of semi-raucous chatter, it was as perfect an end to the evening as it sounds.
We awoke to coffee and more Hoxton bread, followed by a quick wander around the Greyhound’s gorgeous riverside garden. We then discovered that our taxi to the station, kindly arranged for us by staff the night before, had let us down; fortunately one member of staff, a true gent, offered to give us a lift. He drove us back along the aforementioned country lanes, now dappled in sunlight, telling us about the barbecue fishing trips that the Greyhound puts on in the summer. They do weddings too, so if you’re at that certain stage in your relationship, the stage is set for some serious hint-dropping.