The Dish Detective has the day off, as does their partner. Rather than spend the day doing something useful – and/or arguing – we decide to stay in the countryside and head to Curdridge to reconnect with pubs after a four-month hiatus.
(Thank goodness the pubs have opened, by the way, and praise that next Monday we’ll be allowed in if we choose. The Dish Detective doesn’t want to be accused of being a dipsomaniac but found the sight of pubs closed much more harder to bear than shops closed. You know something is serious when pubs aren’t opening. It’s a good omen of bad luck, unlike shops closing when it could just be a public holiday).
National Pub and Bar Awards 2022: Hampshire Cricketers Inn pub named one of the…
The Cricketers has a huge garden – not quite a cricket ground but wonderfully spacious, as well as ample parking. We are going on a hot day, although you feel the wind when the sun comes up. Lots of birdsong, but no cricket; the pub’s website later tells us that it moved from a different site in the village, the original being near the ground. Never mind; the Dish Detective has had several pints in the Shepherds Crook near Fratton Park over the years and has never seen a sheep there, so he’s not one to bring names against establishments.
At the time of visit we had no pubs to compare the Covid rules system to; now we have been to a few more and the cricketers are getting good results. You are greeted outdoors by the front door and told to choose a table; you order food at the front door and it comes out. Toilets are indoors but a good one way system is in place. Everything is neat and clean and there is plenty of disinfectant.
There are also a lot of people. We are there on a weekday early at noon, arriving shortly after noon, and more than two-thirds of the approximately 15 tables are occupied, with more people arriving throughout the hour. The garden being so large means there are ample spaces between each table – as well as an excellent climbing frame. Distance really isn’t a problem.
We choose a classic burger and a pint of Tribute, and a steak ciabatta and some thick fries, again with a Tribute. The burger (£14) is great; to be honest pubs in the last 10 years have gotten their act together on this and it’s a surprise when any gastropub can’t do it right. But the merit is there: good quality meat, a good amount of cheese rather than a token amount, and onion rings that you know didn’t come out of a packet.
The ciabatta (£12) is also excellent – again high quality meat, the bread avoiding the chewing that can overwhelm some ciabattas. It may be pricey, but it makes for a real meal, rather than a “just” sandwich. It seems wrong to mark the pub’s debut of 2021 with anything other than a burger, but when we return the Dish Detective are sure to investigate the asparagus and pea risotto (£12.50) if it’s still at menu, attracted by the bran of marinated fennel, spring onions and Old Winchester cheese. This definitely sounds like a dish to toast to the warming of the year.
Also the DD must add that the pint tasted fantastic. Tribute is a decent enough beer, fair enough, but it definitely tastes like ambrosia. It maybe disappears too quickly, and another is ordered (I drove there so I drove out the way back, a very fair deal).
We visit the toilets before leaving, and so see the interior on the theme of cricket. We haven’t been there before but the pub seems to have everything for hot and cold days. We would like to spend a long afternoon here. Thankfully, starting next week, we’ll be able to do just that, and it’s just up to Dish Detective to urge everyone to support pubs when they return. God knows we missed them. Please, where you can, make the effort.