Cricket Inn bowled this maiden over

The Cricket inn's Head Chef Marco Caires with some Early Bird dishes

The Cricket inn's Head Chef Marco Caires with some Early Bird dishes

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It’s got a great reputation, the Cricket at Totley.

Deservedly so. Nestled on a picturesque country lane next to rolling fields, this quintessentially English pub has top Sheffield chef Richard Smith umpiring.

It’s a jewel in the crown of the local BrewKitchen group, a local foodie pub chain run by Richard and Thornbridge Brewery.

Hearty, homemade food cooked from seasonal ingredients by head chef Marco Caires draw south-Sheffielders in their droves.

I’ve never been; I assumed you’d be on a sticky wicket if your budget was slim.

Not so. The pub has a bargain of an Early Bird menu - two courses for £12 or three courses for £15 when you eat between noon and 7pm Monday to Friday.

We dashed through the rush-hour traffic on a Friday night and go there at 6.45pm, just in time to get our orders in.

Decision-making didn’t take long - there are three choices of starters, mains and desserts on the blackboard. The most difficult bit was keeping our eyes from wandering right, to the chalked-up daily specials. They sounded fabulous; pork three ways with black pudding mash and apple and cider gravy at £17, and seabass with crab and lemon mash, buttered asparagus and tiger prawns - a whopping £25.

Sticking to the left, I opted for a chorizo and olive salad, a simple little affair, yet flavour-packed, nicely scattered on an oblong plate. Black olives and fried hunks of smoky chorizo nestled amidst balsamic-dressed leaves and diced red pepper.

The husband’s broccoli soup (with hand-made bread) was a verdant veggie delight. Use of creme fraiche instead of cream brought out the flavour of the broccoli and gave the soup lightness.

Service was slick - though a bit too prompt. Main arrived in no time. We’d barely supped our drinks - a pint of Thornbridge Brother Rabbit (£3.70) and a splendid house merlot (large for £5.50) and taken in the surroundings.

Originally a farmhouse, the building became a pub when the Totley train tunnel was built in the 1800s - and one previous owner was a relative of Richard Smith’s.

It makeover has carefully added style while retaining character. We’re in the dining room to the left, all vaulted ceiling, smudgy walls, big gilt mirrors and a huge French crystal chandelier. Manager Martin Winn reckons it was once used as the village morgue.

The husband had seized the opportunity to have fish and chips. A big square of cod, so fresh it tasted creamy, came in a feather-light batter with a pot of proper marrowfat peas. Strange chips, though - long, skinny, brown and limp as an Ibiza clubber’s at 5am.

I had big, succulent, pan-fried chicken breast with perfect wholegrain mustard mash, buttery slivers of savoy cabbage, a smattering of peas and a glistening coat of proper gravy; comfort on a plate.

From the choice of three puddings we sampled a curd tart that was too crumbly and classy Swiss ice cream, gladly paid £39.25 for a three-course meal with drinks, and were on our way home by 9pm. We early birds need our shut-eye.

The Cricket Inn,

Penny Lane, Totley S17 3AZ

Tel: 0114 2365256

My star ratings out of six:

Food: 4

Service: 4

Value: 5

Atmosphere: 5

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