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The Cricketer's (Clavering, Essex)

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Address: Clavering / Nr Saffron Walden CB11 4QT / Essex, CB11 4QT

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      19.01.2012 10:59
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      An interesting country pub-restaurant

      The Cricketers in Clavering, Essex is an upmarket country pub-restaurant (the emphasis is on restaurant - I think virtually the whole pub was turned over to dining tables) and also a B & B. I elected to come here for lunch to celebrate my birthday last year. They have plenty of parking, and there are some more informal tables outside. We had booked for the main restaurant though, and they were able to accommodate us even though we had arrived a bit early. Saying that, I would recommend booking at weekends as it seems to be very popular. The restaurant is owned by Trevor and Sally Oliver, Jamie's folks.

      I would describe the décor as 'contemporary-rustic'. There were traditional touches such as copper pans on the beams, but the floorings and fabric covered furniture are all bang up to date. I was seated on the banquette and had a lovely soft cushion behind me, should I want to lean back. There was a good distance between the tables, so you were not sitting on top of each other. We were presented with the a la carte menu, a Specials menu, and an extensive drinks menu. I had a glass of wine and my friend a sparking mineral water, having had a beer in the garden before. We were brought a complementary bread basket, and some olive oil and balsamic was poured for us to dip into, which was a nice touch while we perused the menu.

      For his starter, my friend selected the ducks liver, which were served like a bruschetta with balsamic (£8.50). He had only had calves liver before, but thought the duck livers were very nice, quite strong, and he was glad of the sweetness of the balsamic. I had the vegetable antipasti (£8.75) which was served on a rectangular wooden board and contained a salad with artichokes, courgette ribbons, peppers, mozzarella, sun-blush tomatoes, olives and crunchy sourdough 'toasts' that tested the strength of my teeth. I thought my starter to be on the large side and could be shared if you wanted something lighter, but it was well presented and thought out.

      For main course my friend went for a dish on the specials board - swordfish and chorizo on a bed of sautéed new potatoes, when ordering he was asked if he wanted new potatoes or chips, thinking this was an option he went for the new potatoes. Also he was offered salad or vegetables of the day (Broccoli, carrot, red cabbage) and he plumped for the salad. I went for the tomato and onion tart (£14.95) and was given the same options, although I went for chips and vegetables. This is included in your main course price and is not enthusiastic upselling by the waitress, but I am not sure it is entirely necessary. The swordfish, as already mentioned, was served on a bed of sautéed potatoes, so he didn't really need any more, although managed about three quarters of the potatoes and about the same for his salad, which is impressive as he rarely leaves anything. My tart itself was quite disappointing, the emphasis was on the red onion than the tomato unfortunately, I would have preferred it the other way round. The tart was served on roasted butternut squash slices with wilted lettuce and a tapernade dressing and this aspect was very good. I didn't eat any of my additional vegetables as I didn't need them, and I ate a handful of chips, as the main dish was quite sweet, so enjoyed the salty contrast and crunch of the chips. The chips were all home-made, roughly peeled, and well cooked, but not exactly a healthy option. Had we know about the sizes we may have passed or at least opted to share.

      We had no room for dessert after this, and took our leave after settling up - it worked out at about £30 per head, which included two courses, one round of drinks and service. Service was good - efficient, polite yet friendly and the wait between courses was not too long yet nor were we rushed. The restaurant in kiddie friendly as we saw staff handing out activity books. I visited the ladies, and there were two cubicles (apparently so had the men's), whilst clean and well stocked, I thought them quite small for an establishment of this size, but it is possible that there are others around the other side. Overall I do recommend visiting here, however I do think it was rather pricey and a return visit would be dependant on a suitably special occasion.

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