A review of the Cricketers in Clavering September 2011
We all have those mornings when we wake up and the bed monkey (as our family like to call it) has played havoc with your hair over night. No matter how many times you brush your hair there is simply nothing you can do to rectify the birds nest creation on top of your head. In my experience these days usually go from bad to worse. You burn the toast for breakfast. You get stuck in traffic and are consequently late for an important meeting. You spill coffee all over your clothes (or worse your boss’ clothes) giving him or her yet another reason to tear you off a strip…
Perhaps the staff at the Cricketers in Clavering, (which is owned by Jamie Oliver’s parents) were having one of these days on the Sunday in September when we decided to take my mother out for her birthday lunch. Our initial impressions of the Cricketers were good. We received a warm welcome when we entered the ancient beamed bar and were led to a round table overhung by a swanky chandelier complete with lilac crystals to compliment the plush purple velvet banquettes. The smart décor indicated this would not be your run of the mill gastro pub.
Like a curtain call in reverse we were to meet many of the key players in our performance prior to the meal. Over a ten minute period several staff paid frequent feverish visits to our table to enquire whether we were ready to order. One chirpy waitress suggested we may like to enjoy a selection of nibbles and dips while we perused the menu. Enter a plank of limp acidic pickled vegetables accompanied by a gloopy grey dip and a bowl of spicy nuts. None of us could tell what the dip tasted of but it was reputedly stilton flavoured. This and the vegetables remained largely untouched but the nuts were thankfully morish and eagerly devoured. Eventually we found time between interruptions to wade through the extensive menu which includes standard pub grub fare such as steak and kidney pie and a number of specials.
Billy ordered the roast beef. “We’re out of beef I’m afraid,” grinned our cherubic waiter, “I probably should have told you that when you sat down.”
Whether they had had an unprecedented run of roast beef orders between 12 and 1pm on that particular Sunday or someone had just simply run off with the entire roast we will never know. He settled for the sirloin steak instead and my mother for one of the specials, the slow roasted duck with pear and vanilla sauce.
Like cinema goers waiting for the lights to dim and the feature presentation to commence we waited patiently for our meal to arrive as the pub began to fill up with diners. When it finally arrived my pigeon breast encased in crisp buttery puff pastry served with wilted chard and a Madiera jus was tender despite being a tad overcooked. The delicately anise spiced chutney was a perfect foil for the pork pie and scotch egg on the English classics plank enjoyed by my mother. But the true farce was yet to unfold.
We were given an extended intermission before our mains allowing the memory our starters to sail off into the sunset. Yet another young waitress appeared with Billy’s steak accompanied by crunchy roast potatoes that were durable enough to be used in a test match at Lords. My confit of rabbit fusilli with wild mushrooms and sage(which Billy had for a starter) was presented by another waitress. We waited for the duck to arrive. Perhaps it had been sent on a mission to retrieve the missing beef? We beckoned one of the leading ladies over.
“We’re waiting for the duck” we say.
A puzzled look crosses her face. She scurries to the bar to consult her fellow players. Much gesticulating and shrugging of shoulders follows. Behind her appears yet another waitress brandishing a bowl of potatoes and vegetables to accompany the missing duck. She realises there is no main on the table for these side dishes to partner, gasps and quickly retreats to the kitchen (cue canned laughter). Enter a new character onto the scene, a more seasoned waitress, who points to the general direction of her younger, less experienced colleagues and the kitchen and informs us “It’s like the blind leading the blind in there”. The duck on our order has been overlooked and it seems that will take a long time to prepare. She suggests my mother should have a steak instead but brings her another glass of wine as a consolation prize.
“Would you like chips or roast potatoes and a salad or vegetables with that?” enquires our new waitress.
“Chips and a salad,” replies the deflated birthday girl who had really been looking forward to the duck.
Billy pipes up “I didn’t realise we had a choice of accompaniments”.
The waitress rolls her eyes, “Didn’t they ask you what you wanted?”
“No,“ replies a forlorn Billy. “I’d much rather have had chips.”
By now Billy has finished his overcooked steak (the canon ball potatoes have been abandoned). My plentiful rabbit pasta (which would have benefited from more of a sauce than a little melted butter to counteract the dry nature of the meat) has beaten me. My mother’s steak is finally delivered by one of our original waitresses complete with roast potatoes.
“But I ordered chips,” says my exasperated mother.
“Did you?” she replies nonchalantly. The potatoes and vegetables are removed and replaced by greasy chips and a salad. By now my mother has lost her appetite.
Fearing further mishaps we pass on dessert and ask for the bill. The matriarch waitress returns and won’t hear of a tip being left. The manageress is absolutely fuming about our lunchtime fiasco we are told although she is conspicuous in her absence. We leave largely disappointed with our meal and pray the bed monkey doesn’t follow us home.