Toby Carvery, Loughborough

Formerly known as the Forest Gate. The first pub I ever visited in Loughborough, all the way back in October 1992. I stayed in The Holt in my first year, which is just across the road from this establishment. The Holt is much improved from my day. Back then it was still temporary wooden accommodation, erected in 1974, with paper thin walls and a distinct Prisoner Cell Block H feel to it. A character building start to University life.

At some point, it changed its name from the Forest Gate, to just the Toby Carvery, as did most of their properties. As with most chains, you’ll know what you’re getting and what’s on the menu from before the moment you walk in. Inside it hasn’t really changed in the last 24 years. And the same can be said for the outside. I’ve only ever once seen a dog on top of the roof. How it got up and down I’ll never know, but it was definitely up there. The dog was sighted in the afternoon, not after a long session drinking inside the establishment.

First things first. The service at the bar. It is so slow. There are always staff around, mostly working the restaurant area. But it always takes ages to get served at the bar. Bar customers are very much second class citizens. I’ve seen 4 or 5 people behind it and none of them pay any heed to bar customers.

So, when you eventually get served, there’s plenty of standard stuff to choose from. They are primarily a carvery, so roast meat in a baguette or bap is the main sandwich offering, alongside a few other sandwiches, full roasts, and other related items. The accompaniment to your roast beef baguette has varied over the years, and is currently some coleslaw, a large romaine lettuce leaf, half a tomato and a few slices of cucumber. Earlier in the year, the accompaniment was a large Yorkshire pudding and a couple of roast potatoes. There was a time when the meat was pretty bad but it’s now reasonable stuff and a good portion most of the time.

Finally, the ale. There’s usually Everards Tiger (local) and a couple of other beers, such as Brakspear bitter and Pedigree or London Pride. But it is almost always badly kept. There was a period when they had some interesting and well-kept guests, but on my few recent visits they have all been terrible. It’s a situation where the people you are with are more important than the pint.

So I’m afraid there’s no MOFAD approval here. It serves a purpose for a good value sandwich and a chat. Proximity is its friend, not much else is.

The Castle Inn, Bakewell

It’s health and safety gone mad!

We were in Bakewell for the weekend, camping on the nearby (very near in fact) Bakewell Showground. It had been raining all afternoon, so we headed off to our intended pub (The Wheatsheaf) where there was an event on (which we were planning on attending). It was absolutely rammed due to the event so we decided to eat elsewhere and return later to catch up with friends.

We popped over to the Queen’s Arms, on the basis that they were dog friendly (our sometime companion Suzy Bonce, the extremely well-behaved dog was with us) but they were not serving food. A few steps away was The Castle Inn, part of Greene King’s Old English Inns chain, with a large sign outside proclaiming its dog friendliness. It was pretty busy (a Friday night in the summer holidays, in a town with a few hundred extra people in it) but we located a few tables for our party of seven plus dog, and sat down. We wandered to the bar, ordered some drinks, studied the menu, and then wandered back to order some food. Then back to the bar again after discovering that there was no chicken tikka. Mrs MOFAD is a curryholic, and even after a good curry last night could not resist the temptation of a pub curry. However, this was not to be. A replacement was ordered. Back to the table. And then back to the bar to order a few more drinks. Not exactly stealthy diners (this comment will make sense shortly). A pint of Morland Best Bitter kicked off the evening, standard Greene King fare:-

Followed by a Nottingham EPA, a very pleasant pale ale:-

After some good chat, our food arrived and we all tucked in. A predictable choice for the Minister, the burger topped with pulled pork, which was fairly standard stuff, but did the job:-

Mrs MOFAD opted for chicken supreme, stuffed with tarragon and brown mushrooms,
with sea-salted-&-thyme-sautéed potatoes, roasted cherry tomatoes, peas, broccoli, sugarsnap peas and a rich red wine & tarragon sauce. This was a very nice dish indeed.

We all enjoyed a good meal, with much debate about the spiciness of the beef chilli (Charliee maintains it was not spicy, other opinions were to the contrary). The plates were cleared away, and one of the bar staff even said hello to Suzy Bonce who was snoozing under the table. However, a few minutes later, one of the other staff members (who had served us all our meals in the first place) suddenly opened his eyes, and proclaimed that it was “against Health & Safety rules” for dogs to be in the carpeted area of the pub! Apparently they are only allowed in the stone floor areas.

Across the road in the Queen’s Arms, this is clearly stated as you enter the pub. Fair enough, no problem. Your rules are clear. In The Castle Inn, it is not mentioned anywhere, so this proclamation was the first we’d heard of it. Apparently we “should have been told this when we entered” so we must have sneaked in Suzy the ninja hound, who had been with us for about 90 minutes at this point without any problems. Apparently there would be a “big problem” if health & safety turned up. As Mark pointed out, let’s just hope they don’t make a special trip out to Bakewell on a Friday night. We carried on with our drinks, and then moved to another table to join some other friends who had just arrived. We ordered more drinks and played a game or two of Uno.

If the dog/carpet interface is such an issue (and remember that we live in the age of the Miele C3 Cat & Dog vacuum cleaner), a couple of simple signs on the wall will solve it at a stroke.

We then wandered back to The Wheatsheaf for a couple of drinks and a natter with some more friends. A good time was had by all, and the amusement of the “Health & Safety police” later gave us our team name for the next day: Team HSE!

For the odd and inconsistent behaviour, the Castle Inn is not MOFAD approved.

Hook Norton Brewery

The brewery. A great place to start the day. We were camping just down the road at Merryweather Farm camp site, just on the outskirts of Chipping Norton. Two of our number were turning up late (for the third time in a row this summer), so we had a couple of hours to spare. It was a simple decision to nip down the road to the Hook Norton brewery for a bit of a mooch about, and maybe the odd purchase or two. Or three. Or fifteen.


After you make your way down the little narrow lane that leads to the brewery, you get to a nice little car park out the back, and then step into the visitor centre/shop/tasting room. From here you can go on brewery tours, or just wander around the little museum, or buy stuff, or any combination of these things.

As well as the obvious range of beers, there are also some nice food products, including mustards and chutneys made using Hook Norton beers as well as local honeys and jams, and some cheese, meats and pies in the fridge just off to the right of this photo. There’s also a range of clothing, bags, tankards, glasses and other souvenirs. And of course, you can taste beers at that little bar at the end, or eat food in the cafe.

Lots of interesting old stuff to nose around in the museum:-


Outside, you may even spot some remnants of the brewing process:-


It is a lovely looking building:-


However, back to the shopping. You can buy most of their ales in bottles, as well as certain ones in larger volumes to take away. There are also mixed cases on offer, as well as single bottles of some of the more obscure ales that you might not have spotted out in pubs. And you even get free bottle carriers:-

With careful planning, you can leave with around 15 ales for less than £30, which is not to be sniffed at. There’s something here for everyone, from a mild to an IPA, a double stout to a red rye.

A quick taste of the mild and I can confirm that it is a nice malty mild. Still lots more to try yet!

Hook Norton brewery is certainly 100% MOFAD approved!

The Blacksmith’s Arms, Loughborough, July 2015

A bit of an unplanned night out, after a quick caching event in the local park. Afterwards, we needed somewhere to grab a bit of dinner with MOFAD regulars Karon & John. So it was another visit to The Blacksmith’s, where we first returned in February.

First up, a pint of Osprey, from local peeps Grainstore Brewery, a simple bitter to start things off.

We were nattering away and ordered some food, lots of pub classics to choose from again. It was fairly quiet, but that’s to be expected on a Tuesday night in a town where around 15,000 people have recently disappeared. Nice to have some peace and quiet and a bite to eat. As the food was about to arrive, it was time for another drink. I wanted a Theakston Peculier IPA but it was off, so dropped into the fridge for a bottle of Hogshead Bitter, also from Mr Theakston. A hint of nuttiness, a hint of malt, a hint of caramel.

Tonight, it was a simple choice, a double burger topped with pulled pork and onion rings, proper home made chips, roasted cherry tomatoes and some salad. It was very tasty, really nice flavours, the tomatoes were very nice too. As is often the case, the bap (cob round these parts) wasn’t quite up to the task, but that’s part of the fun when eating a burger. Probably the best burger in town right now.

MOFAD approved!

The Great Peak Weekender, Thornbridge Outdoors, Day 3

Just a quick post to finish the story. After some overnight rain, we decided it was time to pack up and leave. There was still time for some nice breakfast baps:-

And then a bit of shopping, spending left over beer tokens on a bottle or two to take home, and then grabbing a few bits of Thornbridge merchandise.

Really not sure that we will be coming back next year. If there’s a bigger venue that can cope with demand, it might be likely. But if it stays here and yet more people are crammed in, it just won’t be fun. Luckily, there are plenty more beer festivals in the sea.

The Great Peak Weekender, Thornbridge Outdoors, Day 2

Hmm, much to talk about. The festival lays on a free shuttle bus to take people to and from Bakewell. We took advantage of this, and it dropped us off in the Market Square. “I’ll pick you up here later,” exclaimes the cheery driver as we get off.

We went for a walk, over to Chatsworth and then back again. It was a nice walk on a nice sunny day. We got back to the bus stop, and no bus turned up. After about half an hour, this got a bit tedious, and we had started trying to find a taxi (this proved fruitless). At the same time, news filtered through that the bus stop was in another street. We joined other frazzled festival goers in waiting for this, and some time later, we managed to get onto a bus back.

Not a great start to the evening. I began with a Colorado Red, nice hoppy redness with dark fruit flavours as well as some floral notes from the hops. This did ease some tension 🙂

Quite a lot of people have assembled here tonight, this does not bode well for queuing…

Ah yes, queues. This was not seen last year. All non-Thornbridge beers long gone, and large queues for those that were left.

After such a long queue, an Ashford Brown Ale, malty, coffee flavours with good hoppy notes. Uncle Ted would have approved.

Whilst yesterday’s queues were manageable, today’s queues for pizza were getting silly. So we went next door to The Street Food Chef. They were also here last year, offering great Mexican food, so it was a no-brainer to come back for more this year. Really lovely food, and perfect for eating at a beer festival.

Whilst one person queued for food, back for more beer, a Cocoa Wonderland, a super festival of chocolate:-

And there’s only one way to round off a Thornbridge beer festival, a pint of Jaipur, the IPA that started it all off:-

Such a shame that so many more people were crowded in here today, it’s really spoiled things. That does sound a bit “ooh, it was so much better last year”, but it was, because it had the appropriate number of people for the venue. This year, the venue was just not up to the task.

The Great Peak Weekender, Thornbridge Outdoors, Day 1

Day 1 of The Great Peak Weekender 2015. Last year this was a brilliant event. Free camping, good music, great food, lots of great beers from Thornbridge and other breweries and a great vibe to the whole thing. The first thing we said when we got home last year was “bet they will charge for camping in 2015”. And when the event was published back in January, that was the case. No problem though, because it was such a great event.

Upon arrival, the first alarm bell began to ring. “You’re in the same field as last year, but please park close to other units as we’re squeezing a lot more people in this year”. Ah. That’s just a little bit naughty. As it turned out, by the end of the evening, there were a lot of campervans and awnings all crammed in to a field that just had them dotted around the edge last year. And gone was the portaloo that was also on that field. There was no way that anyone was sticking to the “3 metres between tents rule” here.

Anyway, on with the beers… First up a pint of Wild Swan, a gentle session ale. What better way to start?

Next up, a Tart. Bit of cheap naming there really, but a super sour beer.

The next stop, Lord Marples, a classic caramel bitter.

Then it was time for a Brother Rabbit – a hoppy light ale – this is what an IPA should look like. Take note mass producers!

There must always be a break for food. Tonight it was time for a pizza from the Nether Edge pizza company, regular Thornbridge companions. It was getting quite busy, but they were coping well with demand – nice to see pizza being made and fired in front of your eyes – simple choices of toppings and great flavours

A good dessert pint next, in the form of “I Love U Will U Marry Me” – an absolute riot of strawberry flavours – very dangerous stuff.

The final Thornbridge beer was a Black Harry, full of fruity darkness, and celebrating cycling. That’s win all round.

The final beer for the day, Oude Gueuze Tilquin à l’Ancienne – supreme sourness, almost like champagne on the finish. Finish with a flourish! By this point in the evening, many of the non-Thornbridge beers had already run out, which was rather a shame as I’d been looking forward to a few of them.

Definitely a lot more people here than last year, some good music on the stage again, and overall a good first day.