Review: The Cricketers

Sometimes you just know something is a bad idea.  Sometimes I wish I listened to my gut instinct instead of my growling stomach.  As we approached The Cricketers an A-board caught our eye, advertising the ethos of the pub - "Real Chefs, Real Food, Real Ale".  I should have ran for the hills at this point but instead, obeying the hunger, I ventured inside. 

If you've not visited the pub before it's rather plush inside, the name coming from the view of the Swalec stadium to the rear of the building and the cricketing theme continues inside with bats, balls and other paraphernalia adorning the walls.  The whole feel is somewhat cliched in terms of its gastropub credentials:

Open fire - check
Chalk board menu - check
Overpriced tea and coffee - check
Overcomplicated dishes which have to name every component - check

That said, on a frosty day, the fire is very inviting and we soon found a comfy spot by the bar.
Despite the fire, the whole place was on the cold side.  Not to worry, we thought, food will warm us up.

After perusing the menus (for there are three: bar snacks and nibbles, the main menu and the obligatory chalk board specials) we opted for two of the specials - Pork and Saval Cheese Schnitzel for Andy, Homemade Lambs Liver Faggots for me.

As we waited for our food, several families with small children came and went, cementing the venue as a family friendly pub for Pon'Cantonites. 

Twenty minutes later and our food arrived.  I'd been intrigued by the promise of faggots served with a pistachio mash and wondered if it would be bright green, reminiscent of pistachio gelato that I'd had at Italian ice cream parlours.  My mash looked decidedly.... well... potato-like and, on tasting, turned out to be plain mashed potato.  The pistachios were instead in the faggots.  I took a bite, anticipating a heady mix of liver, fatty bacon and spices.  Instead all I could taste was dry liver and nuts.  I doubt so much as a pinch of salt had been added to the mix and they tasted nothing like the caul fat-wrapped beauties that I can remember my Welsh grandmother proudly serving me as a child. 

Andy's dish was similarly disappointing.  The inclusion of Welsh cider-washed saval cheese with the pork escalope was a nice touch but the whole thing had split open when cooking and again was overcooked, dry and tougher than old boots.  Thoroughly disappointing as it was the execution that had let down some fine local ingredients.  I thought back to the sign and wondered just where the "real" chefs were that lunchtime and why the "fake" chefs had been left in charge of my lunch?

Feeling somewhat dejected, we declined dessert and paid our bill, £19.15 for our mains and 2 small glasses of coke. 

Needless to say, this maiden was not bowled over.


gourmetgorro said…
Hi there,

Thanks for another enjoyable post. Coincidentally I've just posted my own review ( of the Cricketers and had a more positive experience. Although some of the dishes were on the average side I had a really top notch steak and some of the best chips I've ever eaten in Cardiff.
Glad you and your friends had a slightly better experience than me! Your steak did indeed sound good and it's often hard to find a chef who has the skill to cook it to perfection.
I guess my gripe is that somewhere marketing itself so heavily as a foodie venue should be better, or at least have realistic expectations and price itself accordingly. Andy's dish was poorly executed but the flavours were there. Mine was just bad and the whole recipe needs to be relooked at.
Given that there are several similarly priced pubs in the area doing pretty much the same thing, The Cricketers really needs to raise its game before it goes the way of Y Cadno...
gourmetgorro said…
Yes, the faggots do sound pretty grim - worse than a packet of Mr Brain's. Where would you recommend for a better "gastropub" experience in Cardiff?
Yep not a patch on Mr Brains!

As for gastropubs (I hate the term to be honest) The Conway is pretty good. Similarly priced to The Cricketers but better food & bigger portions.
@rachaelblogs said…
What a shame! That place caught my eye the other day when I was wandering around so good to know someone whose been there and experienced it.

I don't really buy the theory of "oh it was an off day" if you're serving food and providing that service it should be consistently good!
Anonymous said…
You dont know what you are talking about. The Chriketers is a nice welcoming friendly place, you clearly dont know what you are talking about, with the food. The food is not over priced, you're damn bad luck really, shouldnt have such high expectations, you were not promised anything to even be a judge.
Thank you for your insight oh darling anonymous poster.

I agree that the serving staff were friendly and welcoming but as I've written nothing to the contrary I'm slightly confused as to what your issue is.

As for not knowing about the food, I can only review what I ate. I may have, as you suggest, been unlucky but I also agree with Rachel that you expect a venue to be consistent in its level of service and standards.

The food is priced at a premium compared to other venues and the marketing reflects the ethos of being a quality venue.

To quote from the website
"We believe in the quality and integrity of our food as something special and to savour....(we are) very serious about doing it properly and serving you efficiently; buying the very best ingredients, as organic and local as possible; and preparing and cooking with skill and attention".

The meal I had did not fit this brief and I was therefore left disappointed.
Anonymous said…

I've also had top notch food experiences at the Cricketers, the chips there are some of the best I've ever tasted and the beer is fantastic! Did you know it won the award for best food pub in Wales 2011? Very well deserved from my experience - it's sad to see yours wasn't the same.

Have you been back recently? I understand they've recently had a new head chef.
Also nice to see they've gone from a 1 to a 5 on their food hygiene rating.

I don't make a point of re-reviewing a venue but if I do visit The Cricketers I'll be sure to post a message under the comments here letting you know if my experience has improved.

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