Wylde World: The Greyhound Inn, Letcombe Regis
Report and photography: David Newton
They say every dog has its day, and The Greyhound Inn – the pub-with-rooms in Letcombe Regis, Oxfordshire – deserves many happy days, if our recent visit is anything to go by. Situated in a sublimely picturesque – not to mention historic – part of the English countryside (nearest town is Wantage), The Greyhound was refurbished three years ago by husband and wife team Martyn Reed and Catriona Galbraith, who have lived in the area for 20 years. The couple work together behind the scenes handling the accounts, staff, etc, while Gallic ex-pat Lidia Dhorne is the charming, front-of-house face of the inn.
We were drawn to The Greyhound because we felt a trip out to the countryside was long overdue, we’ve got a dog… and we love good food! As we wanted to stay overnight and enjoy Oxfordshire for longer than a day-trip, we were delighted to find the pub is wonderfully dog-friendly and three of the bedrooms upstairs allow four-legged guests to accompany their two-legged owners (as long as the pooches don’t end up on the beds). We were stunned to find a full meal (meat and kibble) for our Basset Hound, Rupert, had been left on the table in the room (we had the Lambourn suite), not to mention dog bowl, poo bags and towel. This place is not so much dog-friendly as dog-loving!
So far, so pooch-tastic, and, after freshening up, following the one-and-a-half hour drive from London, we decided to take Rupert and go and investigate one of the other reasons for visiting this particular establishment; it’s in easy reach of one of the UK’s most stunning man-made landmarks; the 3,000 year old White Horse of Uffington. A truly awe-inspiring – and bizarrely modern-looking – rendition of a huge galloping horse carved by prehistoric man into a hill, the deep grooves filled with dazzling white chalk.
With that ambition ticked off successfully, we repaired to The Greyhound with appetites raging, to sample the wonderful-sounding dinner menu. Reading the online descriptions of the food available here was a major draw, and we were not disappointed (major understatement). New Zealand-born Phil Currie is the head chef here and is turning out food that easily rivals – and betters – many high-end London destination restaurants. Our starters were the heady sweet potato, coconut and coriander soup – essentially a creamy laksa – and my divine twice-baked cheese soufflé, that came with kale salsa verde and rarebit onions; brilliant and aromatic.
Moving on to the mains: my guinea-fowl with garlic buttermilk purée and roast lettuce (the latter sounding bizarre on paper, a big hit on the palate, above) was the best thing I have eaten for ages; inventive and traditional at the same time, each mouthful exploding with flavour. And with the chill winds of Autumn starting to blow outside, it was so seasonally right. My companion’s Salt Marsh lamb neck rack, with potato and bacon terrine and shallot purée (below), was another Autumnal triumph… juicy pink meat teamed with familiar-but-with-a-twist flavours. Phil’s partner Lidia was on hand to give enthusiastic info about any aspect of the meal – including wine recommendations – which really adds to the sense that this team are heavily invested in creating something memorable here.
I finished with the Blackberry trifle (above); a deconstructed take on a Brit classic, that deliciously departed from granny’s standard dessert and entered the realms of haute cuisine. Can’t see granny sprinkling her garden flowers over her trifles, somehow! We ordered from the main menu (see below) but it’s also worth mentioning that the pub has a weekly Midweek Fix menu (see next pic) that, if you are OK with just the one choice of main course and dessert, offers ridiculously good value for money (£12.50). We overheard the couple on the next table telling Lidia that they had come in specifically for the offer, and, upon finishing, immediately booked for the same time the following week. Recommendation indeed!
One thing I noticed during our meal was that, even though the food, wine and service at The Greyhound is unquestionably high-end and rarefied, it is all delivered in cosy, comforting surroundings of a proper British boozer. There are real live locals at the bar and the reassuring buzz of a popular neighbourhood hangout, but with no blaring TV screens, fruit machines or too much noise. That really is an art to achieve; we’ve been to country pubs that, although serving destination-level food, are shunned by the locals. The Greyhound has found, and would be wise to hold on to, the Holy Grail of rural gastro-pubs; a perfect balance of quality and authenticity.
Meal over, we retired to the Lambourn suite upstairs, a cosy combination of the plush and the rustic. I loved the marbled bathroom with its old-school-yet-fresh fittings. A sucker for a good soak in a bubble bath, I enjoyed the Bramley toiletries on hand. Another nice touch; the digital-but-retro Roberts radio by the bed. And the bed…wow! There’s no way they went out and bought brand new linen just for our review… but the sheets and duvet cover were sublimely cool and crisp with that fresh-out-of-the-pack feel. If that thread count is under 800 I’ll eat one of the pillows! In Lambourn there’s a cute little second bedroom-cum-sitting room tucked away, that can easily sleep one more adult or a couple of kids.
Next morning we rose refreshed and went down to sample the Greyhound’s full-English breakfast. It’s a corker… I know from bitter experience how hard it is to get one right, with everything piping hot right at the same time. No such troubles here: it’s a symphony of eggs – any way you like them – bacon, sausage, beans, black pudding, tomato and mushroom, plus toast made from the pub’s own choice of delicious home-baked breads. Washed down with a pot of tea – Earl Grey for me – what could be more perfect?
We bade a fond farewell to The Greyhound after breakfast and spent a bit more time in the sublime local countryside. Try to get up onto one of the nearby hills; the views are spectacular. Great food in a homely, properly friendly historic inn, that has got it so right. With any luck, this Greyhound will run and run… and run.
Main St, Letcombe Regis, Wantage OX12 9JL
Tel: Phone: 01235 771969
Book rooms here
Monday: 3:30pm to 10:00pm (bank holiday Mondays: 11:00am to 10:00pm)
Tuesday to Saturday: 10:00am to 11:00pm
Sunday: 11:00am to 10:00pm
Lunch is served:
Monday: no lunch (bank holiday Mondays: noon to 3:30pm)
Tuesday to Saturday: noon to 2:30pm
Sunday: noon to 3:30pm
Dinner is served:
Monday to Thursday 6:00pm to 9:00pm (bank holiday Mondays to 8:30pm)
Friday and Saturday 6:00pm to 9:30pm
Sunday: 6:00pm to 8:30pm