The Dish Detective has a day off work, as does their partner. Rather than spend the day doing something useful – and/or arguing – we decide to get rural, and head to Curdridge to reacquaint ourselves with pubs after a four-month hiatus.
(Thank god the pubs have opened, by the way, and praise be that come Monday we’ll be allowed inside should we choose. The Dish Detective doesn’t want to be accused of being a dipsomaniac but has found the sight of shuttered pubs a lot harder to bear than closed shops. You know something is serious when pubs don’t open. It’s a proper augur of doom, unlike when shops close, when it could just be a bank holiday).
The Cricketers has an enormous garden – not quite a cricket pitch but wonderfully spacious, plus plenty of parking. We go on a warm day, albeit one in which you feel the wind when the sun goes in. There is plenty of birdsong, but no cricket; the pub’s website later tells us that it moved from a different site in the village, with the original being near the pitch. No matter; 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 is not one to hold names against establishments.
At the time of visiting we had no pubs to compare the Covid-rule system to; now we have been to a few more and the Cricketers scores well. You’re met in the open air by the front door and told to choose a table; you order food at the front door and out it comes. The toilets are inside but a proper one-way system is in place. Everything is neat and clean and there is plenty of sanitiser about.
There are also plenty of people about. We are there on a weekday early lunchtime, arriving not long after midday, and more than two-thirds of the roughly 15 tables are occupied, with more people arriving throughout the hour. The garden being so big means that there are wide spaces between each table – as well as an excellent-looking climbing frame. Distancing really isn't a problem.
We choose a classic burger and a pint of Tribute, and a steak ciabatta and some chunky chips, again with a Tribute. The burger (£14) is great; to be honest, pubs in the last 10 years have got themselves together on this and it’s a surprise when any foodie pub can't do it properly. But credit where it’s due: good quality meat, a proper rather than token amount of cheese, and onion rings that you know haven’t come out of a packet.
The ciabatta (£12) is also great – again, high-quality-tasting meat, with the bread avoiding the chewiness that can overtake some ciabattas. It’s perhaps pricy but it makes a proper meal, rather than ‘just’ a sandwich. It feels wrong to mark 2021’s pub debut with anything other than a burger, but when we return the Dish Detective is definitely going to investigate the asparagus and pea risotto (£12.50) if it is still on the menu, lured in by the sound of pickled fennel, spring onions and Old Winchester cheese. That definitely sounds a dish to toast the warming of the year with.
Also, the DD must add, the pint tasted fantastic. Tribute’s a decent enough beer, fair enough, but this really tastes like ambrosia. It disappears possibly too quickly, and another is ordered (I drove there so got out of driving back, a very equitable agreement).
We visit the toilets before leaving, and so get a glimpse of the cricket-themed interior. We have not been in before but the pub looks like it's got everything for both warm and cold days. We’d love to spend a long afternoon here. Thankfully, as of next week we’ll be able to, and it just remains for the Dish Detective to urge everyone to support pubs as they return. God knows we've missed them. Please, where you can, make the effort.
Tel: 01489 784420