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The Cricketers, Clavering, Essex
Until 2020 this superlative country inn was run by Trevor and Sally Oliver - parents of a certain well-known celebrity chef - and it enjoyed a terrific reputation for its food and hospitality. Recently taken over by the East Anglian Chestnut Inns group, they had big shoes to fill but they seem to be managing beautifully, keeping all that was best about the inn's high grade yet also unpretentious pub grub but also sprucing some of the pub's décor, with the result that all of the pub's 22 rooms - a couple in the pub but mostly situated buildings next door and across the road - are now on a par with the quality of the food. It's a great place to both stay and to eat.
The pub is just 20 minutes or so from Stansted Airport, making it a much nicer airport stopover than the usual chains.
Located in the village of Clavering, just under 20 minutes' drive from Saffron Walden and Bishops Stortford.
By car: The Cricketers is just under 1 hour 30 mins from London, 45 mins from Cambridge and 2 hours 10 mins from Birmingham. Free parking.
By train: London Liverpool Street to Colchester takes around 1 hour. The hotel is a ten minute drive from the station. thetrainline.com
Style & Character
Perfect for dog-loving couples on a weekend break from London. The warmest of welcomes is extended to dogs and their owners.
Service & Facilities
The pub remains staffed by much of the team from the old days of the Olivers, who love the pub and know it inside-out. Very pet-friendly, with dog bowls, treats, blankets and beds all provided, along with a special doggie menu.
The Pavilion rooms are the most spacious and best equipped, with those in The Willows not far behind. The rooms are all named after famous cricket grounds.
Good Room, Better Room, Best Room
Facilities include: ensuite bathroom, TV, tea and coffee facilities, free Wi-Fi
Food & Drink
They still have the Olivers' old pizza oven, which they use for the slow-cooked lamb they often feature on Sundays, alongside veg wellington and various other roasts. Their pies are excellent.
The restaurant: Modern Bistro dining, including grilled sea bream and summer garden risotto. Open daily 11am-11pm. Mains from £17.50.