Dragon Cottage, Loughborough

Bonfire night. A celebration of foiled terrorist atrocities, from many centuries ago. Whenever you try to explain this to people who didn’t grow up in the UK, the look on their faces is usually one of utter bewilderment. It is something that my family always celebrated, either little displays in the garden (Dad and Uncle Pete nailing Catherine wheels to the shed, rockets fired from milk bottles) or a bigger family celebration at Uncle Ted’s, with a massive bonfire, a proper guy (who always managed to be wearing a pair of my dad’s old work overalls) and an old chicken shed in which to have a party (complete with purpose built indoor BBQ). Great times, and my knowledge of Chas’n’Dave songs remains undiminished.

We never went to organised displays, because we had family and friends to organise them for us. That all changed when I left home for university. Being away from home in November meant no chance of going to a family event. Luckily, there was a massive bonfire and firework display organised by Rag, to raise funds for charity, with fireworks paid for by a local business or two (always good PR to get your name attached to charitable deeds).

So for the last 23 years (with the odd exception) we have been going to a big, organised display. It has moved location a few times, as fields have been replaced by buildings (our campus is one of those places that I can legitimately use the old cliche “this used to be all just fields” for). And no-one who was at the mid 1990s display when the fire was lit by fireworks underneath (and visibly left the ground as it lit) will ever forget that.

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We were back again as usual tonight, with MOFAD companions Karon & John, and regular MOFAD supplier (and lovely sister-in law) Jo. After some fresh doughnuts to keep us going during the fireworks we eventually made our way off campus (an occasion where local knowledge was more hindrance than help as several exits had been closed).

Off to Dragon Cottage for a Chinese takeaway. As I’ve mentioned before we generally never eat in at a Chinese restaurant, and that’s not possible here as it’s a takeaway only. A good and varied menu, with a few unusual dishes, and a semi-open kitchen so you can watch your dinner being cooked. Or on a night like tonight, you can stand outside and watch more fireworks being set off in the garden opposite. A great bonus display!

So, onto the food. My test of a new Chinese takeaway is always to try the Kung po chicken as it seems to be a good measure. It varies wherever you go, as everyone seems to have their own interpretation. Think sweet and sour but with chillis. Tonight, the chicken was lightly battered (that might be a first) but all the other usual ingredients were there, like carrot, pineapple and cashew nuts. Very tasty.

The true test of any takeaway is whether you get free prawn crackers. We did, so Dragon Cottage passes the test. Now a few notes on drinks. Between us all, we sampled a few ciders and beers tonight. A Gewurztraminer or similar wine such as a Riesling is a common pairing with Chinese food (and works so well), but we pair beer and cider in this house…

This Devon Blush from Ashridge was a very easy drinking cider:-

The Cheltenham S.P.A. is described as an IPA. It is most definitely not that. It’s a very nice ale, don’t get me wrong, but there is no way that this is an IPA.

The Worcestershire Sway from Bewdley brewery was a good golden ale, which matched very nicely with the Chinese food:-

And finally, there was this pale ale from Little Valley brewery, still cashing in on Le Grand Depart from 2014. A very good pale ale for a Saturday night:-

Cosy Club, Leicester

A busy day today. This morning we were at a film festival, this afternoon we have a shopping spree lined up, then back home for a fireworks display and a Chinese takeaway. But first a (reasonably) leisurely lunch.

Conveniently located near to Highcross in Leicester (I’ll stop calling it The Shires one day), Cosy Club is a reasonably new venture (it opened last year). Using the premises of a former knitwear factory (lots of those in the area) they have kept much of the industrial look and feel (giant reels of cotton in the bar, exposed girders and huge windows), whilst adding some modern twists.

Being a former factory, it’s pretty large inside, with room for around 200 people in total. It’s part of a chain, and there are 12 currently, so you might find one near you. Their tagline is “think gents club meets village hall meets cricket pavilion.”

So, on to today’s visit. Shopping is hard work, so fortification is important. A pint of Inclined Plane, from the Langton brewery, did the trick. Originally brewed for a beer festival and named after the Foxton Locks boat lift, this beer became so popular that they kept it on as a regular brew. A straw coloured bitter with a citrus nose and nice hoppy taste, it was a perfect lunchtime pint.

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Just to prove that it really is a serious business, even Mrs MOFAD was having a drink (not one for lunchtime imbibing usually). This Cornish Orchards blush cider was full of tart raspberries, very nice indeed.

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On to the food. Fried chicken has a bit of a poor reputation in the UK, as it’s generally associated with KFC and the many imitators such as Chicken Cottage, Dixie Fried Chicken, Maryland Fried Chicken, Chicken Express, Tennessee Fried Chicken, Hollywood Fried Chicken, Chicago Fried Chicken, City Fried Chicken and many more.

So when you see it in somewhere other than those purveyors of poultry, it is something you wonder about. But Buttermilk Fried Chicken with triple-cooked chips, chipotle mayo and house slaw always sounds tempting to me. As I didn’t grow up somewhere where this dish is associated with, I have no idea if this is “authentic” or not, but it feels pretty authentic to me. Recipes that use buttermilk will tell you that its acid content tenderises the chicken, and that certainly was the case here, very moist chicken with a nice crispy coating.

The triple cooked chips were fantastic, as was the chipotle mayo (be careful with it if you are not a big spice fan, it has a nice warm kick to it). I liked the slaw too, although it was a touch heavy on the onion. The trend nowadays seems to be that slaw (aka red slaw) represents a dish with either a light vinaigrette or no dressing and coleslaw (aka white slaw) comes with mayonnaise.

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Mrs MOFAD had a grilled halloumi, hummus, spinach and sun-dried tomato & red pepper chutney panino, which was also very tasty.

The Cosy Club is indeed MOFAD approved!