The Blacksmith’s Arms, Loughborough

Tonight, we took a trip to the newly restored Blacksmith’s Arms in Loughborough. Long term residents will remember that this was the name of this particular establishment during the 1990s, and was a popular place for students and residents alike. Good food and drink and a little bowling alley made for a cracking venue.

But then it changed hands and went by at least one other name. But in 2014, The Blacksmith’s came back. And what a cracking job they have done. Fusing some of its olden charm (lightly washed brick work) with modern furniture and a new bar, this pub has come back to life. And they have a nice simple menu too. Alongside a large selection of PieMinster pies, there are rotating specials including the pub classic of fish and chips.

Tonight, the Minister opted for a favourite of his, Boeuf Bourguignon, served with honey roast parsnips and potatoes, and some slices of baguette with butter.

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Very pleasant indeed, accompanied by a nice pint of Caledonian Golden XPA, a nice golden ale. We will be back.

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Beer of the month, February 2015

A quieter month for beer, but I was working my way through a few Xmas bottles at home, and we had a couple of trips out including a night checking out the “new” Blacksmith’s Arms and The Organ Grinder in town. My friend Dan also brought back a few good beers from the Watermill Inn and Brewing Company, which almost took the top spot.

We went out for lunch with Mrs MOFAD’s sister, who is the preferred supplier of Xmas hampers to the ministry. And it was during this nice Sunday lunch at Millers Hotel in Sibson that our winner was sampled.

February 2015’s winner is an import, from the Goose Island brewery in Chicago (a subsidiary of Anheuser-Busch InBev), although it is rather predictable for a hophead like me. Goose Island IPA “recalls a time when ales shipped from England to India were highly hopped to preserve their distinct taste during the long journey.” Apparently, the result is “a hop lover’s dream with a fruity aroma, set off by a dry malt middle, and long hop finish.” As marketing bumph goes, it’s pretty spot on. It’s not really pale enough for my liking (I have a thing about pale ales that aren’t pale enough) but it does have nice levels of hoppiness. And as we all know, hoppiness=happiness.

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Pub of the month, February 2015

Not a particularly pub heavy month this one. February tends to be a bit quieter, although there are usually a few trips to the Leicester comedy festival mixed in somewhere.

This month’s entries are all quite local, with two in town, and one just on the Leicestershire border…

The Organ Grinder is our first entry this month, a relatively recent addition to the local pub scene (it’s been around for 2-3 years). Owned by the Nottingham-based Blue Monkey Brewery, they usually have around 8 cask ales on the bar, 1 or 2 of which are guests. There’s also a range of keg beers and several ciders, again mostly local “real” ciders. No hot food, but they do have snacks such as pork pies and sausage rolls. Mrs MOFAD and I came here on a fact finding mission for a forthcoming night out, and stayed to sample a few tasty beverages. A pleasant little pub indeed.

The Blacksmiths Arms is a “rebooted” town pub. A very popular pub during the 1990s (with both students and locals alike). Sadly it changed hands (and names) several times after that. However, in 2014 it rose like a phoenix from the flames, with a very tasteful redecoration that restored the best of the old Blackies whilst bringing things right up to date. A full menu is served, and there’s a small selection of good ales available, as well as a cider or two.

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Our winner this month is the Millers Hotel in Sibson where we had a lovely relaxed Sunday lunch with regular MOFAD companion Jo. I opted for turkey because it’s not just for Christmas! A lovely pub roast and good portions. The selection of beer on tap is not that great, but a quick peek into the fridges saw Goose Island IPA make its way to our table, a decent IPA with good hoppiness.

As we were treating ourselves, there was time for pudding, a delicious triple chocolate brownie with chocolate ice cream and chocolate sauce. All the chocolate.

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A lovely lunch and a lovely pub. I suspect we’ll be back a few times!

The Cuckoo Bush, Gotham

A lovely sunny Friday and a day off combined for a walk from Thrumpton, over the top of the widening A453 and then up and down the other side of the Gotham hills. We had planned a lunch stop at The Sun Inn, but that was closed for a funeral wake.

So instead we popped over the road to The Cuckoo Bush, which had a bar area also suitable for those in walking boots. A quick detour into how it came by this name.

The village is known for the stories of the “Wise Men of Gotham”. The villagers wished to feign madness in order to avoid a Royal Highway being built through the village. This would have meant that they would have to pay for building and maintaing it. As “madness” was believed to be highly contagious, they decided to act the fool so that King John’s knights would give them a wide berth and send the Royal Highway elsehwere.

One of the stories involves a group of villagers fencing off a small tree in order to keep a cuckoo captive. This is how the Cuckoo Bush Inn got its name. There is a nice little wind vane in the village, depicting some of the legends of Gotham:-

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We had a nice chicken roll (plenty of proper roast chicken in a good sized bap – cob if you were born round these parts) and a chicken burger with chips, salsa and coleslaw. Both very pleasant, and keenly priced. This was accompanied by a pint of Harvest Pale, always a reliable choice. A friendly welcome, and much amusement from some other customers too.

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Slug and Lettuce, Leicester

Another night out at the Leicester comedy festival, and another chance to eat out in Leicester. Tonight we watched Mitch Benn at the newly refurbished Hansom Hall, a former baptist chapel which is pretty impressive inside. And now it’s much easier to access too, thanks to a new entrance on Belvoir Street.

But on to dinner. After last weekend’s thoroughly disappointing experience at Walkabout, we opted for another chain, The Slug and Lettuce. You’ve probably got one near you somewhere. The Leicester one was refurbished in 2014 (a bit of a theme for the city!) and has a good retro/modern theme to it.

The menu is pretty extensive, with healthy options under 500 calories, burgers, pasta, risotto, steak, ribs and pub classics like sausage and mash and pies. Drinks wise, there’s an extensive range of cocktails and a few mocktails thrown in for good measure. They also allegedly have a few cask ales on, but as it was table service and our server wasn’t particularly knowledgeable in this area, we passed on those.

On to dinner. After being let down last week (so many things were not available at Walkabout) I went for an Aussie classic, the stuffed chicken schnitzel, variously known as a “schnitty” or a “chicken parma”. For those not in the know (this caused confusion on Facebook which is why I’m explaining it) this is a breadcrumbed chicken breast, stuffed with Parma ham and a herb cream sauce, topped with grana padano shavings and a tomato & garlic sauce.

In the S&L it is served with chips and baby watercress, however, I’ve now realised that mine didn’t come with the watercress! I thought there was something missing. But it was still very nice. Simple and tasty pub grub.

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Millers Hotel, Sibson, February 2015

After a delayed start to the day (new curtain pole fell down due to trusting the supplied rawl plugs instead of using some from my stash), it was time for a relaxing Sunday lunch out. Today’s venue was recommend by Jo, and what an excellent recommendation.

The Miller’s Hotel in Sibson is part of the Old English Inns chain, so chances are that you might have been to one of them. We certainly have, I can think of Fromebridge Mill and the Queen’s Head in Burley at least.

As it was a Sunday and lunchtime, it had to be the classic Sunday roast. A good choice of beef, lamb shank, pork belly, turkey and vegetarian. I opted for turkey as it’s always nice to have some on a day other than Christmas Day. This was standard pub roast stuff, and perfectly pleasant. You can order extra potatoes, Yorkshires or pigs in blankets if you like, but the portions are perfectly adequate. This was accompanied by a couple of bottles of Goose Nest IPA, which was a very nice discovery. I’m a total hophead, and am always in search of IPA as it’s my favourite beer style. I’m also very critical of most, as they are usually neither pale enough or hoppy enough. This one could do with being a little paler, but good hoppiness.

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And now we come to dessert. The MOFAD is of the (correct) opinion that a chocolate based pudding is always the best choice. And whilst there were other good looking choices (sticky toffee pudding, apple pie), there was just no way that it could be anything other than triple chocolate brownie with chocolate ice cream and chocolate sauce.

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And yes, it was as awesome as it looked. Chocolate wins again. A chocolatey choc fest. Nom! Definitely recommended.

Walkabout, Leicester

Another Saturday night in February, another night at the Leicester comedy festival. Tonight it was the always excellent Lucy Porter, who is currently touring her 10th show “Me Time”. The show was great, with the added bonus of a bit of a pub quiz during it. And I won these Maltesers:-

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for identifying the intro to “Can I Kick It?” by a Tribe Called Quest (which features in the show). 90s music knowledge pays off once more! Anyway, back to the food and drink bit.

As it was Valentine’s night, we opted for a simple pub type meal somewhere, as most other places were booked up weeks ago. After wandering around a bit (lots of pubs showing the 6 Nations which is not really conducive for a meal and a chat) we ended up at the Walkabout. For those not in the know, these are Australian “theme pubs” which are usually pretty reliable.

Not tonight. There was one person behind the bar. They were rushed off their feet and a bit stressed (but perfectly pleasant). I ordered the chicken parmigiano (Aussie classic which I had several times on our Down Under trip last year). They are also now stocking a reasonable range of bottled Aussie beers and ciders to accompany the usual Foster’s garbage (I’ve been to Australia 4 times and never seen anyone drink the stuff there). So I ordered a Fat Yak and a Pipsqueak cider, only to be told they didn’t have any of either. In fact they didn’t really have anything interesting to drink so I went for a soft option.

And then 5 minutes later someone comes out to explain that there are no chicken parmas left, please choose again. And then they realise that they need to get me a menu in order to assist in this endeavour. So I opted for the pulled pork burger (what else is the inventor of triple pork nirvana going to do?)

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This was actually really nice, well flavoured pork, served with some substantial salad leaves, pomegranate seeds and a nice salsa. And even a slice of melon to finish off with. It’s just a shame that the whole experience was so poor.

Won’t be going back.