If you have not visited Stockbridge in Hampshire before, you are missing a great day out. Straddling the River Test, just north of Romsey, famous for its trout and otters, and home to less than a thousand lucky people, it is one of the best kept foodie secrets we know. There is a very wide and long high street which is home to great delicatessens, restaurants, homeware shops, chic boutiques, pubs and even a greengrocer (an extinct species, you may have to look that term up in Wikipedia). If you lived in Stockbridge there would be very little reason to leave, everything is right on your doorstep, and if you can’t find it here you probably do not need it.
From the website and its exterior you will think very little of The Greyhound at the top end of the High Street, but once inside you will know you have arrived somewhere very special indeed. Make a reservation, do not rely on luck, because this Hotel and Restaurant is extremely popular, and with reason.
It is the perfect place to come for a leisurely Sunday lunch, for a diner-a-deux, for birthdays and anniversaries and for somewhere to take a foodie, deserving friend.
There are flamboyant bistro posters on sage green wals, high backed leather dining chairs, scrubbed wooden tables and squashy sofas with plump cushions and piles of magazines and newspapers.
Outside there is a really charming courtyard garden, colourfully planted with terracotta pots, rambling roses and hanging baskets. There are fresh lilies, agapanthus and snapdragons in vases, fresh lemons in wooden trugs, an old butcher’s block as a side table and old sepia, framed photographs of how Stockbridge used to look. How remarkable that this stalwart community has kept the marauding supermarkets and branded coffee chains out of its milieu, preserving the quintessentially English charm of this quiet, peaceful corner of Hampshire that the property developers have not destroyed.
The Greyhound is at the heart of this community, and it knows how to serve it well. It offers the very best of local food, and the cooking, presentation and standard is of the very highest calibre. The competition on this High Street, we are sure, is fairly intense, but, without doubt, this is the eaterie of choice.
Like all good Menus, the selection is short and appropriate to the weather and the venue. Of course fish is going to feature prominently as is the great wealth of local meat. The spicy potted shrimps are served with a meltingly soft and sweet shallot jam and very fine Melba toast. The Greenfield pigs’ trotters are cooked to create little succulent nuggets of flesh mixed with apple and then moulded into croquettes, served with seared scallops and marinaded beetroot. This is extremely well done, with just the right contrast between the crispness of the croquette and the sweet softness of its accompaniment. We also recommend the tiny smoked haddock scotch eggs, cooked to perfection with runny yolks that mingle so well with the pickled mango and coriander salad.
Do make sure you order the mixed green salad, it is one of the very best we have ever tried: a very plain white Villeroy and Boch dish filled with a mix of micro herbs of varying depths of colour and pepperiness, dressed in a very delicate vinaigrette. Sublime.
The main courses are equally deserving of praise. In particular the pan fried local trout fillet with parsnip puree, caramelised violet artichokes and glazed baby onion is very well done, with great though given to each individual component of the dish. Those artichokes would make a very creditable starter on their own.
The wild mushroom and sage linguini with aged parmiggiano are very creamy and flavoursome and the crispy confit of duck leg with braised red cabbage and carrot puree comes served with a red wine sauce that makes the heart sing.
The puddings are what make The Greyhound a destination: from crème brulees, to fondants, panna cotta, tarts and fruit, whoever is working in the pastry section has very gifted hands. There are no less than nine homemade ice creams: cinnamon, pomegranate, chocolate ripple, honey and toasted almond, coconut, white coffee, vanilla, pistachio and strawberry. There are also four homemade sorbets: mango, blood orange, raspberry and blackcurrant. Do make room for a pudding, the courses here are very rich and generous and if you miss out you will regret it.
The cheese selection is well picked: Old Sarum, Old Winchester, Bath Soft, Isle of Wight Blue, Tunsworth and White Lake. Do try the Old Sarum in particular, as it won the 2007 British Cheese Award, and it has a very soft, moist texture, with a deep blue taste and a grey rind. The Bath Soft is at the opposite end of the spectrum, with its full fat cow cheese taste, it is so deliciously creamy it spreads like soft butter on the fresh, homemade bread rolls.
It was a triumph of a lunch, accompanied by a bottle of Domaine des Trinites 2009 Rose wine, recommended by the very friendly waitress. There were only three waitresses, serving quite a full dining room, and we could tell that many were local regulars. There are rooms on top, so if you over indulge and cannot make your way back home, you have every excuse to saunter upstairs for an afternoon siesta, oh comfort and joy.
If the owners of The Greyhound were to update their website and the exterior of the building, or even decide to tune into the social media circuit, then it might well become overrun, and its reserved excellence might be put in jeopardy. We love it just as it is.
31 High Street
Hampshire SO20 6EY
Telephone: 01264 810 833