A tar­tan twist

Frances Hopewell-Smith dines at the Grey­hound Inn at Pet­tistree and de­clares she’ll be back be­fore Hog­manay

EADT Suffolk - - Inside -

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.

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