A tartan twist
Frances Hopewell-Smith dines at the Greyhound Inn at Pettistree and declares she’ll be back before Hogmanay
Frances Hopwell-Smith eats out at Pettistree Greyhound and discovers a menu with a Scottish touch
HAVING in the back of my mind a venue for a family Christmas outing, I’ve come to the Greyhound Inn at Pettistree. Of course, I love having all the family to stay for the holiday. I love it when they arrive three days beforehand and stay until three days after. I love the jolly atmosphere, the familial traditions, the gentle rumble of suppressed irritation and the daily round of meals rolling from one to the next with hardly a pause in between. But even with my abundance of good naturedness and geniality there comes a time when a change of scene is not only advisable but necessary. I try to schedule at least one outing, usually the day after Boxing Day, when the noise of grinding teeth reaches level eight.
On the Eating Out grapevine I’ve heard good things about this pub and we (husband’s my companion, lucky him) get there nice and early one dark winter evening. Swinging into the drive there is that lovely sight of a quaint country pub, its windows alight with a warm welcoming glow. If I could add a gentle fall of delicate snowflakes to complete the picture I would, but it’s just chilly and a bit drizzly.
Stewart and Louise McKenzie, who run The Greyhound, have allocated me a predinner half hour to talk, and there’s Stewart, looking happily at home behind the bar, serving customers with Friday pints. Louise appears from the kitchen and we all sit at a comfy corner table by the fire. The seasonal decorations are understated and pretty and on the mantelpiece free-form wax spills over from countless white candles. There are candles too in wine bottles on all the plain wooden tables making the rooms look reassuringly unpretentious and homely.
As you might guess from his name, Stewart is from Scotland which is where he met and married Louise. She is originally from Cheltenham, but moved north with her parents at 16. They ran a hotel there and she was inducted into the family business right from the start. “I was front of house, which I enjoyed, but was always pestering my dad, who was the chef, to be allowed into the kitchen. I just felt drawn to the food side of things,” she says. “But he wasn’t at all keen and tried to dissuade me. Eventually I won and he trained me, so I learnt from him.” She got a degree in sociology and anthropology, but still hankered after a career in cooking.
“I started a catering business and did a lot of weddings, private dinners and so on, improving as I went along.” Stewart meanwhile, with a degree in physics and mathematical finance, was working for Morgan Stanley and the couple found they could rarely find time to be together. Stewart began to help Louise at weekends and they realised they made a good team. He said goodbye to Morgan Stanley and hello to the whirlwind world of catering, and to the happiness of being with Louise every day. Being young, enthusiastic and ambitious they decided to look for a pub or restaurant to run near to home in Scotland. It became clear quite soon that they would have to move further afield. Their research led them to Suffolk and to the small village of Pettistree. They married in 2012 and started the new venture in the space of a few months. Some honeymoon.
They both tell me how, over the last five years, they have been welcomed into the village and now feel a part of the local life, not least because they employ ten people from the surrounding area and keep the pub at the heart of Pettistree – a pub hub perhaps. They hold musical evenings when anyone can join in as well as regular special events which sell
‘I was front of house, which I enjoyed, but was always pestering my dad, who was the chef, to be allowed into the kitchen’
out almost immediately. They seem ideally suited to their respective roles and it shows in the smoothly efficient and happy atmosphere at The Greyhound Inn. Louise’s cooking is in the modern British – or should I say English – tradition, but with Scottish influences. Local ingredients for her obviously, and the same goes for many of the guest beers that Stewart features in the bar. He changes the list weekly, and has an eclectic range of malt whiskies, cocktails and Scottish gins which is constantly updated. Louise tailors her menus to the supplies available but keeps her Scottish favourites as permanent fixtures. We ask them for recommendations and they dash away to their posts.
‘Gin and beetroot cured salmon, with its rich pink colour, is delicate and served with dots of beetroot jelly and horseradish mayonnaise’
As suggested, we start with a tasting board of charcuterie. There’s pork apricot and pistachio terrine with marrow chutney, mackerel paté in a mini Kilner jar, beetroot and gin cured salmon and a neat pile of proper dressed salad leaves (not tipped out of a pre-prepared bag). The home made soda bread that goes with it is the most gorgeous my husband has ever tasted – ‘epic’ is how he describes it. The waiter tells us that the recipe is on the website but (more appealing to me) small loaves are sold at the bar. We’ve eaten everything except the board and it’s fair to say that all these components are excellent in their own right, and faultlessly executed. Louise has produced a selection of great tastes without over-fancifying any of them. The terrine is chunky but not heavy. The paté is smooth, full of flavour and topped with a Russet apple jelly. Gin and beetroot cured salmon, with its rich pink colour, is delicate and served with dots of beetroot jelly and horseradish mayonnaise.
Moving on to our main course, and avoiding the predictable, I have lamb two ways with baked polenta, and my husband opts for hake with black Venus rice. Oh my goodness, another success. The lamb is presented as slow cooked shoulder and crispy belly with chanterelle mushrooms, perfectly complemented by the rich sauce, polenta, carrot purée and an underlay of green vegetables. He says his hake is just right, with its surroundings of rice, samphire and a cream sauce of crab and white wine. Two more empty plates, thank you, and we admit to being rather full. Not wanting to be rude we decide to share a date and rum pudding with home made vanilla ice cream and shortbread. It’s a nod to sticky toffee pudding and is fruity, light and rummily scrumptious. The shortbread crumbles in my mouth in a sugary, buttery explosion.
By mid evening place is nearly full (50 covers, Stewart says) and there’s a warming Christmas holiday mood. Stewart is overseeing things behind the bar and Louise seems to be one of these miraculous people who never stops, is always smiling and manages to produce fantastic food without any fuss. We wave goodbye to her through the kitchen window and she sends someone out with a jar of marmalade she’s made – in her spare tim, e, I suppose.
That’s decided then. The Greyhound Inn is the place for my post-Christmas outing with the teeth-grinding family and I’ll trust the McKenzies to restore flagging spirits with their own special blend of fabulous food and Scottish charm. Thank goodness they chose to settle in Suffolk.