Facts ’n’ stats
Pub name: The Cricketers Ormskirk
Senior staff: Licensee - David Speak, executive chef – Tom Wells, head chef Karl Quirante
Business model: Freehold, food-led pub-restaurant
Wet:dry split: 60:40
Address: 24 Chapel Street, Ormskirk, L39 4QF
Karl Quirante won Best Young Chef at the Great British Pub Awards in October last year under the guidance of head chef and joint owner Tom Wells.
Here, licensee David Speak tells The Morning Advertiser all about the site and encourages guests to look at the memorabilia around the walls because they provide fascinating glimpses into the history of the town, the county and – of course – their cricket clubs.
The Cricketers is a food-led pub restaurant based on the edge of the west Lancashire town of Ormskirk, providing a stylish and welcoming atmosphere for a wide range of customers.
Originally dating back to the early 20th century, the Cricketers was very much an old school ‘spit and sawdust’ wet venue, complete with a small bar, snug and games area.
In the early 2000s it experienced a significant refurbishment, which saw it doubling in size with upstairs accommodation turned into restaurant, and an extension housing a kitchen and another substantial dining area.
With a nod to our cricketing roots (the pub is located around the corner from the fantastic Ormskirk Cricket Club – hence the name), we created three themed areas of the pub.
The light and airy conservatory extension is known as ‘Pavilion’, we have the traditional bar area complete with log burner and then a classy upstairs dining area called ‘The Club lounge’, which is often utilised as a large private dining area for special occasions.
Dotted throughout the venue are framed Ormskirk Cricket Club photographs from the past 100 years, collated for us very kindly by the now sadly deceased Ormskirk Cricket Club supporter and local historian, Ken Lea.
Running a pub must be in my blood. My grandad ran a fantastic boozer, the Warners, in Accrington, Lancashire. Having worked in the industry prior to, and throughout my time at Newcastle University, I worked in pubs.
I had a brief foray into another industry in a graduate management role following university but was quickly drawn back into pub management.
My uncle owned a canal-side venue – the Ship at Lathom, a pub close to Ormskirk where I worked. Quite quickly, he purchased the Cricketers, which I established and ran for six years before the opportunity arose to purchase from him in 2018 (just in time for the fun of covid).
Joint owner and current executive chef Tom Wells headed up the kitchen as we quickly established ourselves as a quality-led pub-restaurant, as well as a significant part of the community.
Despite a temporary reinvention as a tapas restaurant called O’este in 2013, I arrived in Ormskirk and oversaw a further refurbishment as we went back to our roots name-wise, but reinvented and reimagined, the Cricketers. This time, the Cricketers, while being a pub at heart, also aimed to showcase the finest locally sourced food.
Over the past decade, we have cultured great working relationships with a variety of local producers and suppliers. Current favourites include the Ormskirk institution of Scott’s Butchers (which recently celebrated 100 years in business), and award-winning Butcher Farrells of Mawdsley and sourdough experts Lagom Bakery.
Running the kitchen is Tom who has overseen that operation from 2013. He has 20 years’ experience in kitchens and there is little he doesn’t know.
An incredible flair for creating inventive and interesting dishes, one of Tom’s biggest skills has been the development of upcoming talent. The proof is very much in the pudding, with four chefs who worked under him, now heading up successful kitchens in the area.
Then there is current head chef Karl Quirante who just recently had us all bursting with pride when he picked up the Best Young Pub Chef of The Year award. Born in the Philippines, but raised in west Lancashire, Karl has developed an absolute passion for cooking with a complete mastery of balancing Asian flavours in creative special dishes while showcasing local ingredients and more traditional dishes expertly.
This has allowed Karl to develop, under Tom’s tutelage, from commis chef to his current role in just four years. Both Tom and Karl are fully engaged with our customer base and know the importance of creating dishes which both appeal and inspire.
We have a long serving, hard-working, yet endlessly positive front of house team, who know the importance of both a warm welcome, and an attentive service for the customer.
At its heart, like all ‘proper’ pubs, is a cosy and traditional bar, where you can sit and enjoy a great pint from one of our four handpulls, which regularly rotate the best beer on offer from a wide range of north-west breweries, such as the fantastic Neptune, from nearby Maghull, or Reedley Hallows over in east Lancashire.
There are also fine wines ranging from a beautiful easy drinking Garnacha to a scrumptious Chateauneuf du Pape. Or you can make a selection from our range of fine malts.
Currently, we are updating our no and low alcohol range because we’ve seen a significant increase in that market. A current favourite is our alcohol-free grapefruit, pumpkin spice and thyme daquiri. Delicious, flavourful and eminently sippable.
Our aim throughout the food and drink side is to continually improve our offer, responding positively to changing trends, while always keeping our principles of high quality and inventive at the forefront of our plans.
What’s on the menu?
Sample dishes from the winter menu
Lightly battered haddock goujons, tartar sauce, dressed leaf, crispy capers, lemon - £9.50
Sticky pork pancakes, Vietnamese-spiced pork jus, pickled vegetables, coriander, sriracha aioli, fresh chilli and peanut salad - £10
Cricketers’ bang bang roasted cauliflower, sticky chilli sauce, pomegranate, sesame, candied peanuts - £9
Pie of the day, buttered seasonal greens, hand-cut twice-cooked chips - £18.50
Pan-roasted Goosnargh chicken, spiced squash puree, crushed oriental potato cake, chicken thigh karage, buttered greens, Thai broth - £19.50
Chestnut mushroom goulash, sauteed peppers, potatoes, rich paprika sauce, braised rice - £15
Classic sticky toffee pudding, salted caramel sauce, vanilla ice cream - £7.50
Coconut and pineapple crème brulee, coconut shortbread, spiced pineapple - £7.50
Affogata, vanilla ice cream, crushed amaretti biscuits and toasted almonds - £8.25
Although the classics, such as our fish and chips, fly out the door, the kitchen team have also created some less familiar pub meals, such as the now unanimously popular Vietnamese Pork Pancakes. A riff on the more familiar Chinese style Duck pancakes, this spiced and braised local pork, shredded down and served with an array of pickled Asian vegetables and a chilli and garlic-spiked aioli, hits the spot with a perfect marriage of spicy, savoury and sweet flavours.
Food led events have also helped raise the profile of the Cricketers as a go-to dining option in the area.
Our monthly ‘supper club’ sees our kitchen team take terms in creating a one-off themed three-course menu on the last Thursday evening of each month.
One for the open minded, no menu is provided in advance, with just a rough theme and very good value price point of £25. They have been incredibly popular sell-out events. Customers love the surprise and variety of food that has been on offer, whereas for the kitchen team, it is very much an outlet for their creativity.
Our aim, since inception, was always to become a real part of the community. As well as providing the perfect venue for an afternoon or evening out, we also wanted to help the town of Ormskirk grow and develop. This has led to us regularly hosting meetings for local businesses, as well as taking a key role in organising events for the town.
We worked with Ormskirk Cricket Club to develop The Ormskirk Beer Wine & Food festival, ran pre-Covid at Ormskirk Cricket Club, complete with a temporary bar of 90-plus real ales, as well as a stage showcasing the best local talent, and food stalls creating a wide range of delectable dishes.
In more recent years, we engaged a number of other Ormskirk-based hospitality businesses and developed The Ormskirk Moor Street Night Market, which allows us to attract a large number of people from Ormskirk and surrounding towns, into the town centre for a street party on the last Friday of each spring/summer month.
With a dozen or so for stalls (often including one manned by our very own Karl, knocking out some Asian street food), a stage with bands and local musicians, alongside a gin, cocktail and real ale bar, the aim of the event was to attract more people into the town and stimulate the nightlife economy.
It’s been very well received and is well supported by the council, which has helped the town centre outside space, apply for, and be granted, a licence – therefore facilitating the hosting of a lot more future events.
Undoubtedly, we are going through a challenging economic climate and the hospitality industry is under quite a significant strain.
We’ve seen some high-profile closures as utilities bills for many go through the roof and it feels like an endless increase in costs has squeezed margins. But for myself, and I’m sure many operators, our pubs and restaurants are not just a job.
Myself and many of the team put our heart and souls into our venues. The sense of satisfaction from seeing a venue flourish is indescribable and it adds so much value to a community.
There are current campaigns from many within the industry to lower the VAT rate and for Government to increase their support for the industry. There is a strong argument that not only will this save a number of venues, which make significant contributions to the economy, but it will also encourage growth and investment in the sector.
Mine and Tom’s dream is to continue to grow the Cricketers, and then hopefully emulate that success in other venues. Despite the challenges, one thing this sector does not lack, is the passionate drive and determination of those who have chosen a career in hospitality.
Our success over the past 10 years at the Cricketers is very much proof of that and long may it continue.