CONVERTING a pub into a restaurant is a risky business, with the soul of the building too often sucked out in the process.

As such, I was apprehensive about my trip to Beaconsfield’s Greyhound Enoteca, but I was relieved to be greeted by a bubbly, welcoming warmth from the recently revamped former boozer.

And the authentic Italian cooking nestled just as well alongside the bar and beams of the 17th century coaching inn, with a reassuringly expensive air which, happily, retains that comforting pub ‘feel’.

A large part of that is owner Raffael Mercurio‘s efforts to preserve the heart of the old building, with a tastefully restored interior and an informal bar area where customers can nip in for a pint.

And with three real hand-pulled ales on offer, the owners, who also run the Plough in Winchmore Hill, have done their bit to achieve that happy balance rather than incongruous overkill.

Welcomed with a an aperativo of superb, dry Italian bubbles, my girlfriend and I were led to our table by the bar on a bustling Friday night with the laughter of a couple of large dining parties filling the air.

The menu is short and concise, with a real rustic flavour to its choices and a separate selection from the charcoal josper oven, and a fully fleshed-out specials selection.

We started with a plate of antipasto misto (£15) to share, and of course the obligatory bowl of bread with rich olive oil.

The well-presented slab of meats and cheeses tasted as fresh and Italian as a warm Tuscan breeze, with saltiness of the high-quality pancetta and salami lingering pleasantly on the palette.

Resisting the lure of the seafood-laden specials board, I went with my instincts to order to the open raviolo oxtail ragu (£13.25).

This, as I had hoped, was packed full of earthy, rich, warm, deeply meaty flavours that could easily emerge from a backstreet Sicilian kitchen - real comfort food - with the slow cooked sauce topped with layers of al dente ravioli.

Washed down with an excellent Chianti, I felt genuinely guiltily indulgent in a way I always feel you should when dining out.

Tori opted for the special, a seafood linguine (£19.50) startling in its sheer size. Justified, then, in my stealing mouthful after mouthful, it became difficult to stop, such was its moreishness.

Credit to the chef for packing in a real taste of the sea, with prawns, clams and mussels hidden like sea-bed treasures amid the strands of expertly cooked linguine - a classic Italian coastal favourite, executed brilliantly.

To finish, we shared profiteroles (£6) which hit the spot with a smooth chocolatey sauce and a soft fluffy centre.

The service was particularly pleasing - friendly and informal with plenty of smiles on the faces of the busy circling waiters.

Formerly The Greyhound, its new Italian owners have added the Enoteca - a customary, informal Italian meeting place for wine tasting.

And this it has in spades, with a capacious wine list drawn from Raffael’s keen eye for importing varieties, which are also available to buy and take home.

With its charming but refined interior, large garden and a smart, separate upstairs aperitivo bar, the Greyhound Enoteca has a little bit of everything.

It verges on the pricey, but the overall impression is you’re getting your money’s worth.

Like its name, the eatery marries pub and an authentic Italian restaurant, with tastes of the Mediterranean in a thoroughly English setting.

It somehow sounds like it shouldn’t work, but after a hugely enjoyable night there, I’d say it most definitely does.

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