Where? - The Cricketers Arms, 69 Cruikshank St. Port Melbourne.
Price? - $23
Website? - http://www.thecricketersarms.com.au/
Reviewers – Cale, Dale, Fridge, Lee, Matt, Nikki, Tony, Stefo[/info]
**EDIT** Just got word that the owners sold the pub and it shut doors on June 28 2016, and that the Cricketers is currently closed for renovations ... Stay tuned for more info once it re-opens!
The Cricketers Arms call themselves "Port Melbourne's best kept secret" - and I don't think they're too far off.
If you went purely from the unassuming exterior you would expect nothing more than a quiet backstreets local with a collection of regulars sipping on after-work pots while keeping an eye on the TV. And if you stop at the front room of the Cricketers thats exactly what you will find.
However if you push through the public bar, out the back you will find a gorgeous little dining room, beautifully furnished and serving some damn good looking meals - beyond that is the expansive courtyard, complete with outdoor bar, retractable roof (with plenty of heaters for poor-weather evenings) and plenty of seating. Seeing the dichotomy between the front bar and the back area is definitely worth the visit alone.
We arrived at the Cricketers and took our seats out in the beer garden, I was worried that the poor weather would leave us cold and damp, however with the retractable roof and abundance of heaters you could easily forget you were outside at all.
Shortly into our first pint a lovely couple came to our table, selling tickets to a meat tray raffle - I loved this, (although we didn't win) it added some entertainment to the night, as well as gave the place a fantastic inviting country pub feel.
Before ordering we realised that Thursday night at The Cricketers is "Spit roast night", I couldn't help but felt left out as hungry patrons lined up at the spinning meat, loading their plates high with goodies (a full range of sides, roast potatoes, corn, bread rolls etc). It looked phenomenal, however we were there for one thing. (**EDIT** Just found out that the Spit Roast Night is no longer a thing, oh well! Good thing the parma was great. Is that a spoiler? oh well, yeah... its pretty awesome.)
We placed our order with the friendly bar staff (everyone who worked at the cricketers was great. The staff were welcoming, in high spirits and happy to have a laugh with the patrons - great to see in a place like this)
I picked up a bottle of "Cricketers Arms lager" from the outdoor bar and we awaited the arrival of our dinner. As my empty stubby hit the table our meals arrived.
It was a little dark at the table, I shifted across to a more well lit area and tried to snap a better shot - Neither turned out stellar, but its the best I could get on the night.
I'm always a fan of quality over quantity in my parmas, and the parma at the Cricketers is definitely one of those. The schnitzel, while not being massive, was the paramount of quality. Hand crumbed and herbed, pure chicken breast - probably the juiciest parma we have come across to date!
There was quite a bit of schnitzel nudity, which is probably the only negative to the dish - the toppings were amazing (which I will get to in a moment), and although the schnitzel itself was delicious on its own I would have loved to have enough toppings to cover it all.
The napoli was fresh and tasty, the 4 cheese mix was inspired, carrying a fantastic flavour through the parma and the choice of pancetta instead of straight ham is inspired. - it added just enough flavour so you knew it was there, but didn't overpower the dish - a risk that is often run when using a different cured meat, such as prosciutto.
This was an outstanding parma with only a couple of very minor issues, however the good absolutely dwarfs the bad leaving a parma you'd be silly not to try.
The beer battered & herb dusted chips were almost as good as the schnitzel. Pure chip perfection that I didn't want to end. The starter's menu offers the same chips with a choice of gravy, garlic aioli or mustard mayo - it'd be worth the visit just for these.
Compared to the rest of the meal the salad was a little uninspired. It was of a higher quantity than most of the garden salads we come across (the shaved carrot was a lovely touch) but in the end it was still just a garden salad.
For $23 I was more than happy with the meal we received. Compared to last week's lukewarm garbage that ran at $22 this dish is manna from heaven. There is a $15 parma night that runs on Wednesday's that is definitely worth checking out, although I cannot attest to how the cheaper variety compares to the full priced version.
I unashamedly love this pub, a quaint little backstreets local that I could see visiting regularly if I didn't live on the opposite end of Melbourne. There's so much more I want to try on return visits - The spit roast, the bowl of chips, the steak sandwich... hell everything on the menu looks appetising!
"Port Melbourne's best kept secret" isn't far off...
Parma - 8.69
Chips - 8.56
Salad - 6.60
Value - 7.31
Total - 7.97
The search continues...