Restaurant review: Enjoy fine food in generous portions at this fabulous country pub

Perched on the edge of the Berkshire Downs and approached by winding road up to the Ridgeway, the pretty village of Letcombe Regis feels awfully remote. It's not, of course, being only about a mile away from Wantage, but its elevated position and the emptiness of those gently rolling chalk hills give it a feel quite unlike anywhere else in Oxfordshire. Huddled among this cosy cluster of cottages is a gem of a pub, The Greyhound.

An old fashioned boozer which had fallen into an unloved threadbare state, the 18th century hostelry has been given a new lease of life. Taken on by locals Catriona Galbraith and Martyn Reed, it was re-opened in 2015, with an impressive menu and eight good bedrooms. Since then it has been busy attracting punters to this quirky Downland village, and hoovering up accolades in the act.

Gongs have come from The Good Pub Guide, The Good Hotel Guide and the Michelin Red Guide - which awarded it a coveted Michelin Plate - judged by the same criteria used for starred and Bib Gourmand restaurants. Read more: MasterChef's Steve gets a grilling on TV Much of that is down to head chef Liam Whittle, recently acquired from the Holly Bush in Witney (and an acolyte of Heston Blumenthal at he Hind's Head in Bray).

Liam, a bit of a rock star among Oxfordshire chefs, professes to use only "the very best locally sourced produce" to create his stunning seasonal menus - which will, more likely than not, have changed between each visit. That was all it took for me to brave the horizontal rain of a dark winter evening and head out to this welcoming oasis of warmth.

Immediately offered a drink at the bar - which was well-stocked with proper local ales (despite the hip stripped-back decor, it's still very much a village pub), we chatted about everything from beer to greyhounds (collection boxes on the bar raise cash for the pub's retired namesakes). Then it was to a table in a snug corner. It being a filthy night out, I was in the mood for hearty comfort food, but our fabulous Polish waiter Maciej had suggestions of his own - and I was all ears.

He neatly ranked meat and fish dishes according to size, taste and popularity and revealed which were the biggest crowd-pleasers - which began with a cheese souffle. I was advised it would take a little longer than the other dishes to arrive, but reassured that it was well worth the wait. And so it proved to be.

My friend tucked into an extraordinary venison tartare - which initially brought on a bout of epic food envy. It was reportedly delicious, served the most wonderful shade of ruby red, and melt-in-the-mouth juicy with a subtle, rather than powerful, gaminess. It came with an unusual but perfect smoked egg yolk, pickled elderberry capers and walnuts, mushroom ketchup and sourdough toasts.

Read more: Heston Blumenthal takes inspiration from burned bread at museum The envy lifted when my twice baked Leonard Stanley Gloucestershire cheddar souffle (GBP8), arrived. So light it practically required anchoring to the table, it was smooth, delicately textured but robustly cheesy.

It was served on a rich and deeply more-ish smoked haddock chowder. I wanted more and would happily have forgone my main course for another round. That would have been a truly horrendous schoolboy error though, as I'd have missed out on another of Maciej's recommendations: a magnificent whole grilled plaice - which took up the whole of a very large plate, its tail poking over the edge.

It was thick and meaty - thicker and more substantial than you'd expect from a fish so svelte and slender as a plaice - and was so fresh the fish flaked from the bone. It came in a luscious sauce replete with roe served with heritage potatoes (GBP16) but that delicate, subtly sweet fish was so substantial and satisfying, the potatoes went entirely uneaten. My friend also struck gold with lamb rump.

This arrived pink and juicy alongside roasted baby heritage carrots, beetroot, spiced carrot puree (GBP21). Again, it was enormous. Chef Liam clearly has no truck with the idea that fine food has to come in tiny quantities.

I finished with chocolate fondant, salted caramel ice cream GBP7.50 - this was another marvel... served warm and yielding, revealing, when opened, a lake of rich chocolate loveliness which mingled with the ever-so salty ice cream to create a taste of heaven. Mt friend's cheese board (GBP9) of local creations, such as Greystone's single Gloucester, Tuxford & Tebbutt stilton, Simon Weaver's Cotswold organic brie and Cerney Ash unpasteurised goats cheese, was impressive, and oh so grown up, but little competition.

We rolled down the hill towards home, smiling, satisfied and glowing despite the weather... and vowed to return. EAT: The Greyhound is in Main Street, Letcombe Regis, Wantage.
BOOK: Call 01235 771969 or visit thegreyhoundletcombe.co.uk
OPEN: Tuesday to Saturday: 10am-11pm; Sunday-Monday: 11am-10pm
STAY: The Greyhound has eight rooms, ranging from GBP95 - GBP155 per night on a B&B basis for two people. Infants up to three years free of charge.

A cot is available on request.

Children up to 12 years can stay on pull-out beds for an additional GBP20 a night.

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