In a previous life I used to go to The Cricketers regularly from home in the parish of St. Mary Bourne. Returning to the area for the first time in 15 years for a funeral, the pub was high on the list for a family get-together the following day and, although it has changed considerably in the intervening years, it's still got character - and characters - and good food and drink. Today there is also a little cluster of wooden lodge style rooms to stay in - wish I'd known about them when looking for a B&B stay for the funeral - but maybe another time.
We arrived at 12pm on a Saturday to find the place largely empty, so although we had booked, we were able to take our pick of the tables. We always prefer to be in the bar for the atmosphere, so as there were to be eight of us, pushed a couple of tables together et voila. A member of staff came over clucking that we were taking up too much room for six people, but once we explained that two more were yet to arrive she was mollified.
Can't quite remember what everyone had, but heard no complaints so it must have been ok. I certainly enjoyed my haddock, chips (nice and crisp) and mushy peas with what looked like home-made tartare sauce and my wife thought her goats cheese and red pepper lasagne with salad was delicious. One of our party was a vegetarian and chose a large brown bap filled with something suitable and seemed to enjoy it, while another had scampi and chips and declared them very tasty.
Pancakes with ice cream and toffee sauce were my wife's choice for pudding (I opted for a glass of red wine instead as usual), although a slight mix up saw them arrive with toffee ice cream instead of vanilla, which was soon rectified. We weren't in any particular hurry, although needing to begin the long trek back to Norfolk sooner rather than later, but the puddings did seem to take an inordinately long time to arrive compared to the main courses; the kitchen can't have been maxed out as the place was practically empty.
Good range of drinks - Stowford cider on draught was good.
Although the fire in the bar was burning well on the opposite side of the room and the radiator on our side was hot when we arrived, by the time we left, around 2:30pm, it was cold and we were feeling distinctly chilly. Almost a pleasure to get back in the car to warm up, which is not a memory you want to take away from a 'cosy' pub.
We'd heard mixed reports locally that The Cricketers was losing its edge and of course many, if not most, establishments go through these up and downs over time, but on the whole we'd have to say the pub is still a worthwhile destination - and destination it is because it's out in the wild country to the north of Andover where road signs are minimal, road surfaces on narrow lanes are disintegrating and a satnav and OS map are probably a good idea, especially after dark.
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