As Autumn approaches, weekend’s away take on a new dimension. Roaring fires and cosy bedrooms become mandatory, and outdoor activities start to take a backseat. Cue – a pub with rooms. They tend to tick all of these boxes (alongside scrumptious food you don’t even have to step outside for) and Greyhound on the Test is a prime example.
Dating back to the 1800s, Greyhound on the Test has picked up a few awards in its time, including Michelin Pub of the Year in 2014 and Sunday Times Pub of the Year in 2015. It’s little wonder really as the owner, Lucy Townsend, has got some killer credentials. She spent her early career working under Michelin star chefs (Marco Pierre White to name just one), so standards are HIGH.
Stockbridge is just a couple of hours from London, and if you’re driving there’s a big carpark out the back. Situated slap bang on the river Test (it literally tinkles right past the property), we’re told this is THE capital for fly-fishing, attracting pros from all over the world. However the weekend we were visiting, the rivers were closed for cleaning, so everything was oh-so-peaceful.
Anyway, we arrived at not-so-sunny Stockbridge in a torrential storm (well it was Bank Holiday). Jumping past puddles, we rushed into the pub, almost hitting our head on the low beams as we made our grand entrance. We were shown to our first room (I say first, the hot water wasn’t working so they moved us to an equally beautiful room so we could have a piping hot bath). Painted in stylish shades of Farrow & Ball, our bedroom had an-almost Scottish den vibe about it, decked out with soft checked blankets over a super king bed.
The bathroom is the real show-stopper here though. Space is clearly not charged at such a premium in Stockbridge as they really haven’t held back. The roll top bath beckoned, with miniature White Company bath products a’plenty – including bath salts for ultra-relaxation – and enough fluffy white towels to use a different one on each limb. Tastefully decorated in neutral shades, it didn’t lack character with its stone sink and artfully placed Moroccan-inspired tiles. But it didn’t stop there, hidden around a corner was a huge shower, big enough for the whole family – should you so wish. There’s an honesty bar just outside, but really when you’re this close to the bar, why bother?
With it still blowing a gale outside, there was nothing much else to do but get dressed for dinner, which was thankfully, about five steps away. Head chef Chris Heather spent some time working in Australia, bringing back a love for Asian-fusion cuisine to this rural pub. Even though we were dining on a Sunday, and therefore from a limited menu, he just couldn’t resist bringing us a ‘pre-starter’ – a faultless dish of tuna sashimi, dotted with blobs of avocado cream and cubes of soy jelly. A reason to return to try the a la carte menu if ever we tasted it.
Alongside the ubiquitous roasts – local Hampshire beef and pork in this case – there was also a properly excellent veggie curry. Presentation wasn’t forgotten here either – springs of coriander and flaked almonds topped the creamy, coconut roasted squash and chickpeas and was served separately to the wild rice. Veggies and meat-lovers alike will be delighted. We had to take them up on their offer of a bread refill (who can resist Hoxton sourdough?), especially served as it was here, with paprika butter. Huge bowls of comforting soup and my pint of shell-on prawns demanded that time slow down, and we spent a pleasurable few hours savouring the quality ingredients as intended. Portions nearly defeated us so we had to take the Hampshire cheese board back to our room with us – it was just too delicious to waste.
Breakfast followed a similar vein, quality ingredients, locally sourced, taking precedence. A pretty table for two had been set up for us, groaning under the weight of cereals, juices, fresh fruit, fruit salads, fresh flowers and our favourite papers (thoughtfully remembered from the day before). Instead of smoked salmon, you’ll find delicious Test Smoked Trout accompanying your scrambled eggs, and Stockbridge wild mushrooms piled on top of toast with a runny fried duck egg for good measure.
The weather being a bit cheerier than the day before, we mooched down the pretty high street to see what it had to offer. There’s a really lovely little bookshop that we’d highly recommend sticking your head in (SO much more satisfying than an Amazon spree) and across the road Stockbridge Town Hall were hosting an antique fair, goods spilling out onto the street. Pub owner Lucy, also owns Wine Utopia, the independent wine shop sandwiched in between outdoor pursuit clothes shops. We pass a well-stocked deli and stock up on artisan treats for the journey home.
The UK boasts many a pub with rooms, but none other have Lucy at the helm. If you’re looking for an autumnal staycation, this might just be it.