Having successfully managed the bus ride we met up with Doug and Paul T at The Cricketers, Durley.
On arrival at the pub we were greeted by Sean the barman, a very capable and pleasant young man whom we have met before at The Barleycorn. Despite that previous encounter, he seemed pleased to see us, and offered us a beer. He really shouldn't encourage us.
We started with a pint of Black Sheep Bitter 3.8% (£3.20/pint), which went down very well. Later we moved on to sample the Old Speckled Hen 4.1%. We didn't have to wait too long before we were shown to our table and presented with the pie, and it was a bit of a surprise:
It turned out that we were about to sample our first ever pasty! At this point Pieman made one of his rare interventions to remind us that our mission statement (enshrined in big letters at the top of our constitution) is "Committed to the tasting and enjoyment of savoury hot pies, puddings and pasties". Despite this, some of us were a bit taken aback, but full marks to the chef for being a bit adventurous.
The pastry was a lovely short crust pastry, but there was possibly a bit too much of it. The filling was diced beef with swede and potato (and maybe a few other vegetables) - in other words a traditional pasty filling, and it was very tasty, but there wasn't really enough of it. The high ratio of pastry to filling made the whole thing rather dry, so we had to ask for some extra gravy, which was readily forthcoming, and served separately in a jug, just the way we like it. The accompanying vegetables and chips were very good, but the portions were rather small. Despite these criticisms, we all managed to clear our plates (except for one gentleman who left some of his pastry) so the meal was obviously good:
Certainly the Cricketers and its sister pub The Robin Hood both pride themselves on offering high quality food* and there was nothing wrong with this meal - it just didn't quite conform to our exacting standards.
We managed to find room for puddings. There was a choice of Mango Sorbet, Caramel Ice Cream, Treacle Tart, or Eton Mess, which was very good:
The general ambience of the pub was very good. It's clean, has nicely up-market furnishings, and has no distractions such as music or fruit machines. The gardens are extensive and lovely to sit in on a fine summers day. The service was very good, although we did have to go to the bar to order extra drinks, and unfortunately the pub closes at 3.00pm (although Sean did let us sit out in the garden a bit later than that as we waited for the return bus). Value for money was reasonable, with the pie costing £10, and the total bill for 6 people (including puddings) was £132.70. Unfortunately the days when you could watch cricket at The Cricketers have long gone, but there is a nice cricketing mural inside hte pub.
The return bus journey was uneventful as we had all been paying full attention to the bus driver on our way out. It being such a nice day, the lure of the gardens at The Crown proved too much for us, so we had a couple there. We were joined there by the delightful Leslie before moving on for a few more at the Bunch of Grapes.
Scores (max. 5 in each category, 25 overall):
- Pastry 3.992
- Filling 3.375
- Beer 4.033
- Ambience 4.083
- Value 4.142
- Overall 19.625
This score puts The Cricketers 2nd out of 5 pubs visited so far this year. There's no doubt about it, we prefer pies to pasties!
* The Pork Belly at The Robin Hood is excellent