Restaurant review: What's the food like now at The Greyhound, Lavenham?
PUBLISHED: 18:30 16 May 2019 | UPDATED: 06:51 18 May 2019
Our food and drink editor took a trip to Spain (via Lavenham) to try out the tapas-style menu at this recently taken over village pub.
Let's make no bones about it. This pub came to a bit of an abrupt ending recently under previous management. But no sooner had the keys been handed back to Greene King, than Stock and Bailey (caterers with wine bars in Sudbury and Colchester) swooped in to save the day, keeping the historic building open as a tapas bar.
First impressions were excellent. The welcome from the managers, one of them in role for less than a week, was absolutely cracking. Very friendly, knowledgeable, willing to help and please. Really, the pair of them were a breath of fresh air.
That, I'm afraid, is where the good news ends, because between the two of us, my friend Justine and I couldn't find much positive to say about the food, which is a damn shame.
The menu is short, which usually bodes well, and filled with both sharing platters and tapas dishes ranging in price from a very reasonable £4 up to £8 per head for paella.
After a bit of guidance we decided on a selection from across the breadth of the menu and were told we could mix and match the paellas and even take any leftovers (should we have them) home for lunch the next day. We awaited, tummies rumbling, anticipation building, for the dishes to arrive. Served, as in Spain, a la minute (ie as they are ready).
To start, a trio of appetising looking bowls/plates arrived. Tempura squid with aioli, meatballs with a tomato and rosemary sauce and Serrano ham croquetas. Sadly appearances were deceiving. The squid was rather anaemic, its batter barely clinging to the seafood, the overall result being overcooked. It appeared they'd been fried too long at too low a temperature to achieve that crisp, juicy finish. They also had more than a liberal sprinkling of large salt flakes. Albondigas (or meatballs) are a true tapas classic, usually baked into a very rich, olive-oil and tomato heavy sauce. While the meatballs here were inoffensive enough, and seemed to be made with decent meat, they were far too dense. And the surrounding sauce was thin, watery and lacking in flavour. Rather than the rosemary promised on the menu, the dish had been taken to Italy - the predominant taste being basil, which had no right being there.
As for the croquetas. They had the requisite crisp exterior and molten middle, but neither of us could taste the ham. In fact, we could discern little more than a hint of nutmeg and the oil used to fry these balls of roux. They needed to bring something more to the party. Seasoning was a big issue.
Next to arrive was a half-half paella of part chicken and chorizo, part seafood, and a pretty-looking rectangular platter of red mullet on top of paprika roasted peppers. Tucking into that first, we found the mullet a little off-tasting. It didn't smack of freshness, with a bit of an aftertaste, and was overcooked. The peppers underneath were vinegary and at odds with what's usually a very delicate fish.
And onto the paella. Anyone who's eaten the real deal knows it's only ever served at lunchtimes, the restaurants in its home city of Valencia cooking down the vegetable base and rice slowly over wood fires for an explosion of flavour and moreish crusty underside - the best bit. It's very hard to replicate this in restaurants unless they're dedicated to serving paella alone. The Greyhound's version looked colourful, with nicely charred edges. The rice was well-cooked. Chicken pieces were juicy and tender. And high quality cooking chorizo had been used. But it was, again, very underseasoned, and the seafood in that half of the pan was overcooked and missing the fresh vibrancy of an authentic paella. Where were the rings of squid, the whole prawns, or the mussels?
The kitchen, we think, forgot about our final tapas bowl of patatas bravas and, perhaps, we should have said forget about it. Pleasingly roasted, and with what was apparently a vegan, chickpea-based aioli on top, the patatas were drowned at the bottom in about 3-4cms of what tasted exactly like Frank's Hot Sauce. Anyone who's eaten that will know how our mouths felt after a few bites.
Feeling a bit sorry for the kitchen's offerings so far, we thought we'd see if they fared better with desserts. Alas, no. From the menu of just three options, there were pre frozen churros with an almost inedible split very very bitter dark chocolate sauce, and a crema catalana which, although it had a lovely lemon undertone, was suffocated by a jaw-achingly thick hat of caramelised sugar. The shortbread on the side was limp and tasted stale.
There is much room for improvement but we hope they put in the work to their recipes to hone them better. This could be a cracking pub and great meeting place to visit with friends over nibbles and drinks.
The décor is very elegant and simple at the bar end, with lots of exposed wood, and a brickwork lined snug. A further dining room at the back is conservatory-style with lots of glass and jungle print upholstery. You can peek in the open kitchen at this end.
Several real ales on the bar. And a nice wine list. The Provence rose was delicately fragrant, while a glass of Spanish Albarino opened up with juicy green apples and bright citrusy notes - an ideal partner for tapas.
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It's limited on the road but you won't find it difficult most evenings to get a free spot nearby.
Classy, spotless and fresh-smelling.
It was £60 for two glasses of wine, half a shandy, five tapas dishes, paella for two and a couple of desserts. Had everything been cooked as we hoped this would have represented pretty good value for money.
The best part of the experience. Well done to the managers who couldn't have done more, and shone brightly for their employers. A real asset. When we told them the purpose of our visit at the end of the meal and explained our critique of the food they took our comments with grace and a keen desire to do better. You can't ask for more than that.
I really hope they make a few tweaks to the menu/recipes here. Tapas should be packed with flavour and excite the tastebuds with every bite. At the moment they're just not on the mark, but I look forward to going back, hopefully with some improvements in place.