IT ALL starts with a piece of fresh dough. As the chef kneads and pummels and massages it into a thinner and flatter shape, the Italian stone bake oven fires up behind him.
With the wood crackling and charring under the intensity of the heat, the chef starts to launch the dough from hand to hand like an intergalactic flying saucer.
A phantom cloud of flour fills the air around the preparation table, creeping slowly across the open plan dining room.
A large selection of fresh ingredients are scattered over the pizza base before it is slipped into the oven.
It’s theatrical, entertaining, captivating.
While the pizza cooks, 300 yards down the road some of the meat dishes on the menu graze in a nearby field – bringing a whole new meaning to local food. And that’s because fresh produce is the order of the day at the Grey Hound.
Where possible, ingredients are bought through producers and suppliers in and around the Test Valley area.
The pub itself offers a welcoming handshake – with its plum and white coloured walls, dark stone floor and wood furniture it has a sort of Habitat catalogue feel to it.
The sumptuous leather seating and on-tap Peroni make it feel cool and trendy but strangely homely.
There is a large selection of beers available as well as a wine list long enough to supply one of Silvio Berlusconi’s house parties.
The Grey Hound also offers a tipple of grappa, a potent peasant spirit derived from the bits of grape left over after wine making.
Grappa is served post-dinner because the high alcoholic volume works as a brilliantly boozy indigestion tablet.
Come Friday night the atmosphere in the Grey Hound is busy and excitable.
As regulars chat in the bar area, couples and families take their seats in the restaurant.
Despite its rural location the Grey Hound has become increasingly popular since it first opened its doors two years ago.
In fact, it has recently been named as one of the top three Italian pubs in the country in the Great British Food Awards 2011.
A meal at the Grey Hound may start with just a piece of fresh dough, but by the time you leave the staff endeavour to make sure you walk away with something more than that.
With high quality food, good wine and top-notch service you leave with a belly full of experiences and memories.
Except, of course, if you have had a grappa too many – then you leave with an expensive taxi ride home!
The Grey Hound,
(01794) 301 714