Muddy reviews: The Greyhound on the Test, Stockbridge
Romantic candlelight dining, superb service and contemporary creature comforts await in this 600-year-old fixture of the Stockbridge high street
Stockbridge is unlike pretty much anywhere else in the Hampshire, which is precisely what makes the small, idyllic town perfect for a weekend away and a true change of scene. Characterful listed buildings run all along the attractive high street while outdoor pursuits like English fly fishing and shooting make it a huge draw for the country set – including the occasional unofficial Royal visit from an off-duty Prince Charles.
Well-established among them and absolutely packed with history, the 15th Century Greyhound on the Test blends beautifully with its countryside setting. Since taking it over in 2012, owner Lucy Townsend has won a string of accolades from the likes of the AA, Sunday Times and Michelin, all testament to the great food, relaxed modern rooms and convivial atmosphere.
The pub literally oozes character, from the traditional oak ceiling beams in the restaurant (mind your head!) to the contemporary styling and cosy wood burning stove. In the rooms, too, traditional interiors are sympathetically modernised with creature comforts, while in the restaurant, the fantastic food and service are effortlessly on-point, making you feel relaxed and pampered from the off.
Outside, there are cosy candlelit garden bubbles, de rigueur for 2020, and a warming fire pit. Further down the garden, on sunny days there are seats to sit beside the tranquil River Test and watch the swans glide peacefully along.
Rooms are smart and comfortable, with decorative features accentuating the contemporary country vibe throughout the pub – think Farrow & Ball colours on wood-panelled walls and modern paintings of local fly-fishing scenes.
Our room, ‘Leet 3’, is tucked away up a narrow staircase. Inside, we discover a spacious bathroom with a deep roll-top bath, walk-in shower, robes and a few Molton Brown toiletries, all ideal for a grown-up getaway – although with a little notice, kids and dogs are very welcome here too. Making the most of being childfree for the night, in the morning I head straight to the tub for a blissful soak without the inevitable interruptions from our little one.
Safety restrictions mean the honesty bar between the rooms is temporarily on hold on our visit but there’s plenty of drinks to be had downstairs in the well-stocked restaurant, a Nespresso machine for a morning coffee and fresh milk brought to the room in a little glass bottle if you’d like it.
SCOFF & QUAFF
Dining by candlelight indoors, or outside in a cosy bubble, the atmosphere is comfortable, relaxed and pretty romantic. A world away from your typical run-of-the-mill pub fare, there’s an informal fine-dining feel created by the smart menu, convivial front of house team and faultlessly attentive service.
We kick off with a couple of G&Ts, some olives and dangerously moreish Hoxton Bakehouse sourdough, followed by starters of Stockbridge wild mushrooms and a Hampshire game and apricot terrine, which is elevated by an absolutely gorgeous accompanying dollop of quince ketchup.
For main, I take head chef Phill Bishop’s recommendation of a meaty pan-roasted South Coast cod loin with golden beetroot and smoked mussels which is all I hoped for and then some, albeit benefitting from some added veg in the form of a generous side portion of green beans and crispy onion.
Meanwhile, my husband tucked into a perfectly cooked-to-order steak with roast tomato, field mushroom and French fries, which also got the thumbs up. To drink, we paired a delicious glass of Bacchus from local Test Valley winery Somborne Valley (£8.95) with the fish and a juicy French Pinot Noir (£7.90) with the steak.
Puds were a special of warm, sponge-like date and walnut pudding with salted caramel and tonka bean ice cream, which I unapologetically stole a few spoons of. Delicious.
I opt for a mystery selection of four Greyhound classic sweet treats, quickly identifying the shortbread with a drop of lemon sauce, chocolate fudge and gooey warm chocolate brownie. Slightly stumped by the Turkish delight-style cube, I incorrectly declared the fruit it’s made from as damson, before finding out it is actually cherry. Back to foodie school.
For the bigger appetite, the Greyhound Full English comprises bacon, sausage, black pudding, mushroom tomato and a choice of eggs but we were literally too full after the previous evening’s blow out to even contemplate it.
Instead, we enjoyed fresh baked pastries, orange-juice squeezed minutes before, Southampton-based Mozzo coffee and a delicious yoghurt and granola pot with homemade berry compote, followed by Stockbridge mushrooms with perfectly poached eggs and smoked salmon with scrambled eggs, both served on more delicious Hoxton country sourdough toast – all of which set us up beautifully for the day.
OUT & ABOUT
Named as a Muddy Best Place to Live in 2020, Stockbridge is packed with independent shops stretching right down the High Street. Start with top-rated boutique, The Owl & The Pussycat, literally next door to The Greyhound on the Test, then move on to the likes of Cleverly Wrapped for gorgeous accessories, Newman’s Decorative Living for interior finds, Time and Tides Deli for gourmet goodies and Wine Utopia for a bottle or two.
For a day of calm by the river, speak to the team about chalk stream fly-fishing – you can even hire a personal guide to teach you the ropes. Otherwise, leave time for a walk along the River Test or a countryside romp just a few minutes away at the National Trust-managed Stockbridge Down. Further afield, there’s the Cathedral and shops at Winchester (20 mins), Highclere Castle, the fictional home of Downton Abbey, (25 mins), Mottisfont Abbey (10 mins), Stonehenge (25 mins) and Salisbury Cathedral (20 mins).
GOOD FOR: Romantic meals and a relaxed getaway. There’s plenty of walks, boutique shopping and country pursuits right on the doorstep, or use it as a base for nearby Winchester or neighbouring Wiltshire.
NOT FOR: A budget break (although dinner bed and breakfast packages are good value for the area). Children are welcome but parents of little ones might prefer somewhere with a less grown-up vibe.
THE DAMAGE: Rooms range from £180 to £260 per night for a two-person dinner, bed and breakfast package based on date and accommodation type. For non-residents, meals are £28.95 for two courses or £35 for three. Breakfast is £15.95.
The Greyhound on the Test, High Street, Stockbridge, SO20 6EY thegreyhoundonthetest.co.uk