The lovely thing about living in London is how easy it is to escape from: in under an hour you can be in the countryside, and by ninety minutes you are far from the madding crowds.
I had a long-standing invitation from The Greyhound on the Test in Hampshire, a 600year old pub, which promises a double whammy of attractiveness as far as I am concerned: interesting food and dog friendliness. Oh and it is Michelin Pub of the Year for 2014. You know, just a small award…It takes just over an hour and a half to the lovely small town town of Stockbridge from Camden, even less if you are driving from South West London, and it’s an easy motorway drive nearly all the way.
My sister hasn’t been having a brilliant time lately: she’s had an MS relapse, and she got her ATOS summons* in the post – I suspect that the two things are not unrelated, so I whisked her (and the fat rat) off to The Greyhound for twenty-four hours to eat some good food (I know she doesn’t eat properly), and write my supporting evidence for her ATOS submission.
We had planned some bracing lung openers and leg stretchers (for us and for the dog), but it started to rain as we arrived, so we settled for a late lunch and writing (me) and napping (Holly and Posetta). It’s worth noting that they serve lunch from noon-until 4pm, a fact utterly extraordinary to those of us who have tried to get fed in the country after 230pm on many occasions.
It’s not a huge building: downstairs are two large rooms, each side of the front door. A very comfortable parlour to the left, with a roaring log fire, and much squishiness of chair and, to the right, a dining room, bar, and back room that can either be opened up to the main room, or booked for private parties for up to fifteen people. Upstairs there are just seven (generously-sized) bedrooms.
But the food was what we were interested in. The daily set menu, at 2 courses for £11.95 seems like astonishingly good value to London eyes. There was a lot of anticipation:
And goodness was it worth waiting for. I think it was the best meal I’ve eaten this year. Maybe the past eighteen months. So. Very. Very. Good. Anyone who can elevate a purple potato salade tiede with cheese fritters to the level of cooking we received is a bloody culinary genius. It was one of those plates of foods that was composed of so many perfectly executed processes (from the tangle of sticky onions to the purees) that you would never, ever hope to replicate it at home, but that when you ate it, it felt like the most simple idea in the world. It was also unique for the level of care and attention given to a vegetarian dish.
After lunch we went upstairs to check out our room, sis to nap, and me to write my supporting documents for my sister’s disability assessment.
A bit like the food really: nothing extraneous, but with a huge amount of effort underpinning it, and an overall impression of ease and comfort. It’s all Farrow & Ball colours, with some lovely antique furniture, and a covetable button back headboard.
The Rat clearly approved.
Other things I liked were the generous provision of power points, ample tea and coffee making supplies, and an honesty bar on the landing.
Did you spot the room gift above? It’s the simple things…
That bar lasted about five seconds after we entered the room.
So often pubs with rooms are let down by their bathrooms. This one wouldn’t have been out of place in any smart London hotel.
We particularly liked the local toiletries, which smelt divine.
We had a late-ish supper downstairs in the dining room proper. It was a Sunday night, so not too busy, and P Bad joined us, sitting in her basket under the table.
We had another scrumptious meal: in particular, a plate of Stockbridge mushrooms with sage butter on toast was another dish that was far, far more than the sum of its parts. And then to bed.
We all slept the sleep of the just. That bed is deliciously comfortable and, even though we were in a room facing the main street, were not disturbed at any point by traffic noise.
Lil’sis’ pyjamas are Rosie for Autograph available Here
After manual extraction of sister and dog from the duvet, we did eventually manage to make it downstairs for breakfast.
We weren’t the only ones held rapt by the prospect of a delicious breakfast.
Although I am frankly amazed that she didn’t cotton onto what was going on above her head…
We properly loved The Greyhound on the Test: the warm welcome of the staff, Holly the lovely pub dog, the comfortable and well-appointed bedroom, the general air of hospitable calm and the frankly sensational food make this hands down one of the best places I’ve stayed in the UK in recent years.
31 High Street, Stockbridge, Hampshire. SO20 6EY. Tel: 01264 810833. Doubles from £100 B&B. (And, if you are of an angling bent, The Greyhound has fishing rights on the Test.)
Sasha, lil’sis and Posetta Baddog were guests of The Greyhound on the Test, for lunch, supper, bed and breakfast in March 2014.
*(For those of you abroad/unaware, this is the coalition government’s multi-million pound exercise in torturing the least able members of our society by arbitrarily making them prove they are/are not capable of work through a series of context-less hoop jumps.)