The Cricketers in Hartley Wintney

20130602_123804_1 My grandfather ran a pub in country New South Wales for most of his life. He often invited his regulars to the back of the living quarters where they would sit, talk, eat and drink beer in the afternoon heat. He called it ‘Club Bar Devere’. It was that close quarter contact with the locals that was the key to his success. I saw a glimpse of him today in the new publican at the Cricketers in Hartley Wintney, Hampshire.

Mark Thornhill together with his wife Penny & Daughter Amelia took over the Cricketers in March 2013 following their success with the Bell in Fetcham. The Cricketers has an enclosed private courtyard that leads into the kitchen and that’s where Mark hosts a BBQ and wine night for the locals.  The BBQ fires up and, I’m told, one too many bottles of wine get drunk far too quickly.

The Cricketers which looks onto the village cricket pitch had been neglected over the past few years. Mark’s initial changes included a new lick of paint, restoring the beer garden furniture and planting plentiful pots of fresh herbs used by the small kitchen. All the changes seem so obvious yet lift the atmosphere, it’s a place where you want to stay – and we did.

The core Sunday lunch will remain fixed with the favourites: beef, chicken and pork and all are served in deceptively small-looking portions. Lift the Yorkshire pudding lid and you enter a Narnia of Sunday lunch, today beef and pork (all local). It turned out the sides we ordered, creamed leeks and braised red cabbage were overkill, but that didn’t stop us finishing it all – yet it almost finished us.

This all followed the starters of smoked mackerel (yes, smoked on the premises) salad with tomatoes and white onion and scallops in a skillfully balanced dill butter. I’m not one to decline pudding but was, in a rare event, tempted to. That soon passed once Mark said that the commis chef made the best lemon tart in the world. I ordered it out of cynical curiosity – I finished it wishing for more of its crisp, wafer thin pastry and glossy lemony custard that had a texture similar to a well made posset, the cherry-amaretto sorbet on the side complemented. It was without question the best I had eaten. Ever.

Lemon Tart
Photo by Janie Stamford (@janiestamford)

If I was a Hartley Wintney local I’d rejoice. The rest of us will simply have to make the pilgrimage – Johnny Depp did.


Despite having every intention to pay for lunch, Mark refused to accept it. So by circumstance we dined as the Thornhill’s guests.

Published by Brett

Brett is an experienced lawyer and business executive who focuses on commercial outcomes. He has worked across three sectors in England & Australia advising and leading initiatives in digital, media and technology

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