Bunnings & Price are a pub chain that is starting to make inroads in the area. We'd been to one of theirs, The Old Orchard, a couple of times, and quite liked it but we'd heard that The Cricketers was better and more consistent. The menu at both is way too long for everything to be freshly made, unless their wastage is obscene, but I think we chose pretty well.
It was a Sunday when we visited The Cricketers, so I had a roast. I was very pleased to see crackling - why do so many places serve roast pork without? - and aside from the somewhat overcooked Yorkie it was very good.
A bit further afield from us was The Woolpack, in Stoke Mandeville. Even though we'd seen their website, I think we were both a bit taken aback by how un-pubby the dining room was. It's certainly had the full modern British gastropub makeover, and aside from the spelling mistake on the mirror behind the bar, it looks great.
My main again could have done with more attention to detail. Spitroast chicken with aioli, Asian slaw and frites.
The chicken itself was lovely. It was perfectly cooked, moist and well-seasoned. The head of sticky, sweet roast garlic and half lemon on the plate were also very welcome. Everything else was misguided.
Why would roast chicken with roasted garlic, aioli and lemon juice also need a pool of over-reduced gravy? Why would delicious skin-on chips need a dusting of some crumby seasoning that made them taste like those nasty frozen oven wedges? And why on earth would you think that a slosh of fish sauce on oxidised vegetables would make an "Asian slaw"?
It's a bit out of our regular stamping grounds, but I would definitely go back to The Woolpack. When it was good it was very good indeed - the less-good bits showed how good the rest was. I also suspect that we may have got them on a day when they were cutting corners a bit, so I would like to give them a second chance.
The Royal Standard of England, on the other hand, is an old favourite that keeps drawing us back because it is genuinely lovely.