Muddy eats: The Greyhound Inn, Letcombe Regis
Best-selling author Clover Stroud dons the Muddy elastic-waistband reviewing trousers before getting fully acquainted with the menu at this friendly Ridgeway pub. The cheddar soufflé is the one, apparently.
“Nestling” is the right word to describe the location of Letcombe Regis, the pretty village that’s home to The Greyhound Inn, since the village sits at the foot of the glorious grassy hills of the north Wessex Downs. The ancient Ridgeway, known as Europe’s oldest road, runs like a chalk ribbon across the hills, so it’s no exaggeration to say that this is an idyllic location. The village is also close to Lambourn, heart of the racing world, which gives the area a sense of sporting derring-do to go with its thoroughbred looks.
Until 2014, the pub was a scruffy spot that’d changed hands rather too often and was feeling a bit unloved, until it was bought by local couple Martyn Reed and Catriona Galbraith. Approaching the project with as much business acumen as love for their local, they embraced everything The Greyhound had to offer, giving the place a facelift but without sacrificing its original character. The couple clearly adore the place, and have thrown their heart and soul into it, running regular live music events, pizza evenings and special cook ups. Their enthusiasm for the project shines through. This is a Greyhound wagging its tail very enthusiastically.
What strikes me on arrival is that everyone in the pub seems to be laughing. In fact, everyone is having a thoroughly good time. There’s a clutch of locals at the bar and visiting couples, whose spanking white trainers gave them the distinct look of having stepped straight off a train from London in (relatively) nearby Didcot.
There were also a party of cyclists, exploring the famously beautiful Vale of the White Horse and rewarding themselves with hearty platefuls of grub, and another party of walkers, who were covering the entire length of the Ridgeway from Avebury to Ivanhoe Beacon. The interior is understated but comfortable, with obligatory Farrow & Ball paint livened by splashes of colour in printed blinds and comfortable chairs.
SCOFF & QUAFF
Thoughtfully put together, the menu is modern British but with some quirky touches. It’s divided into specials, snacks, then the usual starters, mains and pub classics, with an impressive cheese selection to close.
On a neighbouring table, a party were tucking into carrot terrine with goat’s cheese, cod loin with onion compote and samphire, and smoked burrata with braised spelt and hazelnut pesto, which all looked superb, but we plumped for twice-baked Leonard Stanley Gloucestershire cheddar soufflé (above) with smoked haddock chowder and Wye Valley asparagus with Brixham crab, coriander and fennel.
The latter was clean and tasty but it’s the cheese soufflé that was a real hit: how often have you seen a 6-year-old and a 15-year-old bickering over the last mouthful of haddock chowder?
My younger daughter had sausages and mash from the children’s menu, while my teenager devoured a lamb burger with sweet potato fries (above). I had free-range chicken supreme with baby leeks, celeriac puree and gravy, which has just the soothing, soporific effect I was hoping for.
We shared strawberries and cream and lemon posset with candied fennel for pudding, and my girls declared it the best supper in a pub they’d ever had. You can’t really get higher praise than that.
OUT AND ABOUT
A walk along the Ridgeway is obligatory if you visit The Greyhound, and don’t miss out on Uffington White Horse, the 4000 year old chalk horse that gallops across the downs, just a few miles up the road. If this ancient landscape really entrances you, you could venture further afield to the ancient standing stone circle at Avebury too. Wantage is the nearest market town where there’s a good book shop, a lovely leather shop for the best belts and, if you have children in tow, The Vale and Downland museum is absolutely charming. Oxford is just up the road, and it’s worth a spin through Lambourn too, to catch sight of a string of racehorses if you are lucky.
There are eight comfortable, tasteful bedrooms – a local architect helped reconfigure the interior very slightly to make the most of the lovely beams and characterful, ever-so-slightly wonky walls. All have en-suites, Hypnos beds, flatscreen TVs, DAB radios, tea and coffee facilities (with fresh milk – important!) and – I’m sold – homemade biscuits.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Anyone who loves the great British outdoors, and wants to explore it from a really welcoming and comfortable base. Several of the rooms at The Greyhound are family rooms, and there’s also a gorgeous double that’s been used for wedding nights, so this is a romantic spot, too.
Not for: Anyone hoping for a minimalist interior and/or total anonymity. This is a friendly hangout where locals are happy to share their knowledge of – and clear love for – the local area.
The damage: Bar snacks start at a very reasonable £3, with starters rising to £6 and main courses at £15-18, which is pretty much standard for this part of the world. There’s an extensive wine menu, but dinner for my two girls and myself came in at £55.90, which didn’t include alcohol (I was driving, shame.)
The Greyhound Inn, Main Street, Letcombe Regis, Wantage Ox129JL. Tel: 01235771969
Words: Clover Stroud