A Perfect Setting
Few places in the UK have more instantly recognisable postcard landmarks than Dorset; Lulworth Cove, The Cerne Abbas Giant, Millionaire’s Row in Sandbanks and Portland Bill to name a few. One of the most famous and historical sites has to be the imposing hilltop relic, Corfe Castle and as you arrive from Wareham and drive around the foot of that steep hill, you’re greeted by one of the most beautiful villages on the South Coast. At night, the castle is lit up and right now, the Christmas lights are up in the village and it looks spectacular. It’s almost impossible to drive through without stopping. As you follow the winding road, into the village, one of the first things you’ll see is The Greyhound Inn. This just so happened to be our destination as we’d been invited to give them a try and share our thoughts with you guys.
On a cold December evening, a picturesque pub with its fairy lights visible through the sash windows looks so inviting. Inside, the Greyhound is very pretty, warm, cosy, welcoming and friendly. The staff clearly feel very at home there themselves which immediately relaxes you and they have a natural rapport with the customers.
Not Just About the Food
The menu offered plenty of variety and specifically, a couple of items you just don’t see enough in restaurants nowadays which left me with a tough choice. For me it’s important that a menu has a theme and that the chef commits to it fully, along with the restaurant staff. The Greyhound is a really great example of what I’m talking about. Hearty, wholesome home-style cooking. Rustic, fresh and local, and at the same time, classy and aesthetically pleasing.
Kicking Things Off
For starters, we opted for the Asian Style Pork Belly Bites and the Salt and Pepper Calamari. The spices used in creating the Asian part of the Pork Belly dish seem to resonate with Christmas as we use very similar ingredients in making mince pies, mulled wine and other festive favourites, so while this dish would be warmly received and appropriate all year round, it felt like a bit of a seasonal starter.The fat on the pork had been nicely rendered and the meat was tender and well cooked. The salad aspect of seasonal leaves add a contrasting bite of bitter, freshness against the hot pork and fat. The pickled carrots add some crunch and zestiness which is a clever addition and the chutney brings a bit of tart sweetness which completes the combination. It’s the English equivalent of the sweet and sour aspect you might associate with Asian cooking. Well thought out and well delivered.
The Calamari needs to be uncomplicated but done right. If it’s overcooked, it’s ruined and it doesn’t take much to do that. If it’s undercooked, well, we don’t want to go there… As with most seafood starters, a bit of fresh greenery makes the best base. You need something to dip your calamari in and in this case, it came with a very tasty, homemade Garlic Aioli. Given this was a salt and pepper batter, the aioli was the right way to go. The calamari was bang on. Crispy on the outside, firm on the inside and not a hint of overcooking. This was as good as I’ve had anywhere.
The menu is full of traditional offerings and variety. For me the two standout dishes were the Wild Boar Butchers Faggots and the Pan Fried Liver and Onions. There were plenty of other things I wanted to eat, but you just don’t see liver or faggots on enough menus nowadays. Years ago, these were staple foods. Post wartime they would have been very popular as they were cheap, nutritious, filling and ingredients that were readily available. Shopping and eating habits have changed and liver in particular is a bit like marmite in that very few people find themselves sat on the fence when it comes to their opinion. Plenty of people do like it though and I was so pleased to see it on this menu. However, faggots are also a big favourite of mine and I love wild boar so this was an opportunity not to be missed.
So many things about this dish excited me. Firstly, the presentation. Visually it was very attractive. The fresh garnish and parsnip crisps gave a homely meal a restaurant look. The faggots were sourced locally from Jurassic Coast Meats. Music to my ears. The mash was lovely and creamy. The vegetables were cooked perfectly. They were an important part of this meal. Just as they would be if you were cooking them at home. So often in a restaurant, vegetables are treated like a necessary accompaniment that do not deserve to star on the plate and therefore don’t receive the love they should. Their inclusion actually ends up detracting from the dish which raises the question, “why bother?” There seems to be such a fear amongst chefs nowadays that vegetables will be overcooked and mushy that they’re served having been politely introduced to some hot water, and extracted like a head of state who’s just been identified as the target of an imminent assassination threat. Warmed through but essentially still raw. Vegetables are not just a token gesture.
On this occasion however, the vegetables were cooked through, perfectly seasoned and naturally sweet. Not an afterthought by any means, a delicious and absolutely worthwhile contribution to the meal in their own right. The red wine gravy was brilliantly balanced and full of flavour which is exactly what you need with the densely packed faggots.
Sarah ordered the Four Hour Slow Braised Pork Belly. Another locally influenced dish with the braising being done in Purbeck Cider. Very flavoursome, tender and as with my meal, very filling.
Portion sizes were very generous, just like you would have at home. I’m glad that I’d been sensible at lunchtime and not eaten too much because this was a delicious meal that I needed to leave room for. Especially if I was going to manage a dessert from an equally appealing selection.
In the end we had to share a pud as we were pretty well stuffed by now. There were some great choices on the menu and I was leaning towards the Sticky Toffee Pudding but as we were sharing, we found common ground over the Baked Ginger Pudding. We could have had custard or stem ginger ice cream but as we were so full already, we thought the ice cream may be a bit more refreshing. The ginger pudding was very light and spongey yet packed with flavour. Pieces of stem ginger gave a nice punch and the sauce it was soaked in was rich and sweet. I could eat it again right now.
One more thing which pleased me was the inclusion of local ales. Boondoggle from Ringwood Brewery and Dorset Knob from Jurassic Brewhouse, which are both great inclusions.
The Greyhound is one of the best examples I’ve come across of how a menu, chef and staff can be in sync to bring the whole experience together. This could just be a natural chemistry they have, or a strategy but either way, the overall feel is one of bringing a homely feel to dining out. The guys that were working are worthy of a mention. They had a wonderful camaraderie and appear to really enjoy their jobs and interacting with the customers.
If I was to sum up the experience in one sentence, it would be: ‘top quality home style food, in a relaxed homely atmosphere, without the washing up’. A trip to the Greyhound Inn is a must.