Restaurant review: Cricketers of Redbourn
PUBLISHED: 11:51 09 April 2019
Brian Arnopp Images
Sitting on the common in the heart of the village near St Albans, this award-winning traditional pub has a restaurant worth getting in line for
If you’re a fan of food taken in comfortable and unpretentious surroundings, a glance at the new spring menu at The Cricketers of Redbourn will tell you much of what you need to know about this village pub and how it is keeping up with the times. In line with host Colin Baxter’s wishes, it’s still very much a local, as attested by the regularly crowded bar area at the front of the building, and the fact The Cricketers is the reigning Hertfordshire Life Food and Drink Awards pub of the year. Move into the back room however and you find a modern and stylish 24-seat restaurant – ‘sleek’ is the way Colin describes it on his website – with food and presentation to match.
Now in their 11th year in charge, Colin and his wife Debbie, both children of parents in the trade, say they swore never to go into the business but it happened anyway. Debbie’s parents ran the Coach and Horses in Evesham and whenever they were away she and Colin ran it. Having caught the bug, they found their first pub in Lincolnshire. The brother of one of the customers was from Potters Bar and persuaded the couple to check out opportunities in Hertfordshire. As Colin says, ‘We looked at hundreds of places but when we saw The Cricketers and its location on a village green, that was it.’
Their background, including a stint at the well-known Tally Ho! bar in Corfu, now a residential site, stood them in good stead as the building, in Colin’s words, ‘needed work’, but they persevered despite the fact the first month they took over marked the start of the last UK recession.
From the start, the couple were determined to keep The Cricketers as a village pub but they were interested in food too and the restaurant, commanded by head chef Fahri Bhajram for the past five years, emerged from that. Word of mouth followed, with the result that booking is now highly recommended.
The listing for the restaurant has six starters, seven mains and five desserts plus cheese. It’s familiar, but look closely and there are interesting touches. Along with beer battered cod and chips and burgers, the Classics list includes fillet steak linguine with trimmings; the starters on the full menu include poached trout flakes and asparagus with citrus dressing. Skrei cod, available only at certain times of the year and a Scandinavian delicacy, highlights the main courses and a lavender, honey and lemon brulée tart with fresh blueberries beckons from the dessert line-up.
Then there are the specials, listed prominently on a blackboard in the bar as well as being described by staff in the restaurant. For my visit, my partner and I concentrated on these except with one of the mains, as a way to show the expertise at work. We could not fault the food, and the attractive way the dishes were arranged on the plates was an unexpected bonus, in line with another of Colin’s rules, that ‘you never get a second chance to make a first impression’.
As usual, check out the accompaniments as a clue to what the chefs can do. Goat’s cheese mousse (£7.90, bottom left) with grocco frito, roast beetroot, yellow radicchio and raspberry gastrique was a refreshing starter, while the prawn and squid skewer (£8.50, bottom right) came with an inspired mix of samphire plus mango, coriander and lime dressing. For mains, one of the ‘Cricketers Classics’, calf’s liver with bubble and squeak, crispy bacon and onion gravy (£12.90), a favourite with my fellow critic, filled the bill to her satisfaction while my hake fillet (£16.50, left), served with wild rice and bok choi in teriyaki sauce with finely-diced red chilli and garlic, was adventurous and tasty. A shared panettone bread and butter pudding (£7.50) with redcurrant gel and Cornish vanilla ice cream rounded it all off with a flourish.
Dinner for two was £53.10 including drinks, plus service. This is an independent review by our food and drink editor. The restaurant was not told it was being reviewed.
The Cricketers of Redbourn. East Common, Redbourn AL3 7ND. 01582 620612. thecricketersofredbourn.co.uk
Three of a kind
Richard recommends three more Herts pubs with a flair for food
Tucked away down a country lane, one of a batch of Herts pubs recently refurbished with more space and expanded menus. Its Lobster and Devon crab fishcakes are popular.
57 Cole Green Lane, Hertford SG14 2NL. 01707 330202
Large bar area and comprehensive menu in a former stately home on the Gorhambury Estate on the edge of St Albans. Typically seven starters, 17 mains and seven desserts on offer.
Garden House Lane, St Albans AL3 6YZ. 01727 229090
Village offshoot in an historic building of award-winning St Albans restaurant Dylans at the King’s Arms. Braised beef shin and roasted Cornish sole among the dishes.
Sleapshyde Lane, St Albans AL4 0SE. 01727 823720