Pub of the month, January 2016 – The Beer Hall, Staveley

A tricky one this, but only because it’s a slightly unfair fight for the pubs that didn’t make it. As with most Januarys, this one involved several visits to Cumbrian pubs. Although there was also a London trip in the mix, the Cumbrian pubs were the finalists. An honourable mention for The Monument pub in London, next to the monument of the same name (the one that remembers the Great Fire of London).

First up we have the White Lion Hotel, Ambleside, which scores highly for its guest ales, as well as some tasty food. It may be a chain pub, but it is a good exemplar of the chain establishment.


The Hole in t’Wall, Bowness is in third place. This one is a bit of an emotional choice, because I came here a lot with my family when we stayed with relatives in the area. My dad’s cousin Frank used to live just round the corner, so we came here a good few times. Sadly, he passed away a few years ago, and with my dad passing away last year, it put a slightly different spin on this visit.

It’s a lovely old pub, the food was very good, lovely portions, and very tasty. Plenty of Robinsons ales on, and a cosy feel to it, even with lots of dark wooden panelling.


The Black Bull Inn, Coniston finds itself in second place. One of our favourite pubs, and always good on a winter walk, especially when the fire is blazing away. Any pub that has a brewery attached is always going to score highly in my book.


The Beer Hall, Hawkshead Brewery, Staveley is by far and away the winner. Another pub with a brewery attached, and even though the surrounding environment is perhaps less pleasing (an industrial estate in Staveley), the great food and brilliant beer on offer here make it the winner for January 2016.


Hawkshead Brewery started life in 2002, just outside Hawkshead where they could brew around 8,500 pints of beer a week. In 2006 they moved over to Staveley, where they have been expanding ever since, increasing their brewing capacity and developing the very brewery tap that we were visiting, The Beer Hall.

We sampled several beers on our visit, as well as having the “Brewer’s lunch”, huntsman’s pie (pork, chicken and stuffing), Brodie’s Prime sausages (made with the beer of that name), parma ham, slices of local ham, black pudding, sticky bbq ribs, a pickled onion, piccalilli, salad, sourdough bread and butter.

I must briefly return to my note about mustard. In England, if your dish is advertised as coming “with mustard”, like this one was, it should be accompanied by a pot of freshly made English mustard, made from finely ground mustard powder. It should not come with some grainy generic mustard. Luckily, some sachets of decent mustard were available so the seedy stuff was left alone. Despite this minor mustard mishap, a lovely lunch indeed.

So, a very hearty recommendation for The Beer Hall, the first pub of the month for 2016…

Beer of the month, January 2016

A round up of #tryanuary. January 2016 was the second #tryanuary, a campaign on social media to encourage people to try new beers and visit their local pubs in January, traditionally a hard month for publicans after the excesses of December, and so many other campaigns like #dryanuary and stupid detox programmes. You have something that detoxes you every day. It’s called a liver. Treat it with some respect and it will look after you.

So, on to the beers of the month. First up with have the Madness IPA from The Wild Beer Co. This promises much on the nose, and delivers about 90% of that. I was expecting a knockout blow of hops, more of a strong jab. Pretty tasty stuff though.


Next up we have Baby-Faced Assassin from Rooster’s. Another hoppy style, in the form of an American IPA.

Hop faced killer, qu’est que c’est?


Moving away from hops (for a moment or two) we have Tally-Ho Reserve 2014 from Adnams, an English barley wine stuffed full of treacle and molasses, almost like a sweetened old ale. Big and bold stuff.


We stay dark with Old Engine Oil from Harviestoun Brewery, a thick beast. Dark and delicious, yet easily drinkable…


For our winner, we return to those lovely hops, in the shape of Eternal from Northern Monk, full of all the hop flavours, but only 4.1% – top work from a session IPA, a style that many brewers are going for but many are struggling with. This is really good stuff, keeping the numbers low but the hoppiness high.


It goes through to the final for beer of the year.

TPN 2016 #4

Another weekend away, another triple pork nirvana. Some friends had arranged a games weekend in a house on an island. A house that gets get cut off by the tide twice a day. This means that you need to plan your pork products for triple pork nirvana in advance.

Obviously, the Minister does such things, so there was no chance of missing out this weekend.

Breakfast was a full English, and I was on duty in the kitchen. On the menu were sausages, bacon, eggs, mushrooms, beans, tomatoes, black pudding and toast. Cooking for 10 is no problem 🙂

Lunch was a turkey sandwich, with the addition of bacon and sausage – excellent work from Morrisons.

Dinner was roast pork with all the trimmings. Slow roasted for around 5 hours, it was lovely and tender. If you are stranded on an island, then roasting some pork is an excellent way to pass the time. That and playing lots of games.

A tasty pork triple for this weekend!

A busy weekend of London tourism…

…is a great way to increase the number of blog posts in your queue.  I had 12 drafts before this weekend, now I have 19. Just as you start to get on top of things, off you go to London for a great weekend of touristy fun with friends, visiting Buckingham Palace (the outside bit), Natural History Museum, the South Bank, a comedy show in Soho, Tower of London (outside), Tower Bridge (up and over the top, utterly brilliant) and the Monument (to the Great Fire of London). And a lot of trips up and down the Piccadilly and other lines…

This has also involved several eating and drinking establishments, which have come in for ministerial scrutiny. Three of these were familiar from previous visits, others were new. So, lots of posts to come! Here is a collage of what is coming soon…

The Monument (pub), Fish Street Hill, London

A great morning out. We went up Tower Bridge. Up. You can walk across the walkways that tie the two towers together. And in the centre of each of the walkways there are glass floors, so you can peek down to the road and the river beneath. Plenty of opportunities for selfies (particularly in the west walkway which has a mirror on the ceiling above the glass floor).

There’s an exhibition, plenty of photo opportunities and you can then walk down the south tower and down to the old Victorian engine rooms. As a sometimes cynical tourist, I was very impressed, it’s a great attraction.

Our tickets also got us a trip up to the top of the Monument, which is the monument to the Great Fire of London. No lifts here, just 311 steps, so some refreshment was needed first. Just a stone’s throw across the road (you can see the monument from the window) is the pub also called The Monument.

A Greene King pub which was recently refurbished, this is a pretty classy central London pub. There are the usual Greene King ales on, as well as some excellent guest ales and bottles from their newer “craft” range.

Matt had some BrewDog Candy Kaiser, which I also sampled – this was great stuff but definitely needs more hops.

The Double Hop Monster was double something, but not double hop. A good beer but no way a double IPA.

Time for a spot of lunch then, the buttermilk chicken burger, with dry cured bacon, guacamole and smoked mayo, with fries. A perfect lunch burger, not too heavy and a very good combination of flavours.

And served on a plate! I was worried that they would be going for trendy non-plate roof tiles, but they kept it classic.

A cracking London pub, and certainly MOFAD approved. The traditional MOFAD card was left.

And the trip up the Monument was well worth the effort – great views, and brilliant to still be able to go up something that was built in the 1600s…

Marquis Cornwallis, Coram Street, Bloomsbury

This post covers three visits to this pub, affectionately known (by Mrs MOFAD and I at least) as the Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames’ character from Pulp Fiction). Like the Friend at Hand, it is somewhere I’ve been to before. Quite a few times in fact. I’d never eaten here before, although Mrs MOFAD and I have been here for a drink once or twice, and I’ve been drinking with friends here a good few times, largely due to its proximity to the Holiday Inn across the road where I’ve stayed a number of times, which has a very poor pub attached.

We had intended to eat here on Friday night, but it was absolutely rammed with post-work drinkers that we hadn’t banked on during our two visits looking for tables, so we ended up elsewhere.

The Marquis is now doing breakfasts (I don’t recall this from previous visits) and it offers a good English breakfast for £7 – this is pretty good value given its location, and certainly far better value than the hotel (our rates didn’t include breakfast). Very tasty stuff, just enough to set you up for a day of tourist exploring. It’s not quite a Merkins breakfast, but it will do just nicely.

Here is Saturday’s breakfast:-

And here is Sunday’s:-

They certainly love their griddle pan 🙂

On Saturday night we popped back in for a drink, after our visit to the Soho theatre, and some dinner, as they have a great range of ales, from London breweries and others further afield. There are around 8 taps on, as well as ciders, and lots of bottles and cans to choose from in the fridges. I had an 1888 from Hop Stuff brewery, which was full of hoppy bitterness, probably the best of the weekend.

They also serve pancakes for breakfast, topped with banana, strawberries & honeycomb butter and Mrs MOFAD had these on Sunday morning.

Very tasty stuff.

The Marquis is certainly MOFAD approved. Just don’t visit in the first two weeks of February, as they are closed for refurbishment until the 18th. It will be interesting to see what they do to it.

TPN 2016 #3

A weekend away is always an opportunity for another triple pork nirvana.

Breakfast was a tasty affair at the Marquis Cornwallis:-


Lunch was a ham and cheese baguette in the Natural History museum cafe.

Dinner was predictably pork and even more predictably pulled, with these pulled pork sliders (a slider is an American term for a small roll, typically around 3 inches in diameter, often used in reference to hamburgers, but now with things such as pulled pork, brisket etc.)


A very tasty triple!

Muriel’s Kitchen, Old Compton Street, Soho

A busy Saturday night in the West End. Rain imminent. You’ve just left a comedy show at the Soho theatre. There’s a lot of choice. As the Minister of Food & Drink, I am lucky enough to have staff who go off hunting for somewhere to eat whilst I am enjoying my comedic entertainment.

That was the case tonight, Chris & Caroline were on the hunt whilst we were all enjoying ourselves with Rob Newman. Their research led them to Muriel’s Kitchen, in the famous Old Compton Street. This is part of a small chain of three restaurants, in Richmond, South Kensington and here in Soho.

On a busy Saturday night, they were just waiting for a party of 6 to turn up, to fill up some of their large tables, and we sailed past several couples who were waiting for a table 🙂

An unexpected bonus to start – a bottle of St Peters Dark G-Free. A very interesting dark and gluten free ale, and certainly a surprise to find it in Central London. They have several St Peters bottles on the menu, but not much else of interest when it comes to beer.

However, there is a powerful sting in the tail. This retails at £2.50 a bottle. This almost certainly means that they buy it for less than this, because trade establishments generally don’t pay retail prices. We all understand that restaurants put a mark up on alcohol to help cover their costs. But to charge £7 for it is utterly criminal. I’m no restaurant trade expert, but that just seems way too high. This meant that everyone stuck to one drink, since to have more would be just to waste money.

Mrs MOFAD had a Wyld Wood cider. This had problems of its own. It was not chilled, and was only offered with ice. This is not how we drink cider in this country. It should be chilled, and never served with ice, unlike some of the weird coloured stuff that is seen in pubs nowadays.

So, on to the food. As you’ve probably already worked out, Mrs MOFAD loves curry. So Mrs MOFAD had curry, a chicken and peach curry to be precise. This was a gently spiced dish, with nice rice, poppadoms, mango chutney and cucumber raita. Although there was a lack of plate action, and too much plant pot action.

I too was suffering from lack of plate anxiety. Pulled pork sliders (mini burger buns filled with pulled pork) with chips and slaw. Chips in a flower pot. As I’ve noted several times before, this makes it hard to apply salt and vinegar, and in this case, the delicious Tiptree BBQ sauce that was on offer (I love the stuff).

It was very tasty (a touch on the small side for the portion) but good value for money (unlike the beer). Service was quick and efficient, and with a smile. But without a plate.

If you’re looking for somewhere to eat in Soho, this is not a bad option. Just don’t get too much of a taste for the beer!

Soho Theatre Bar, Dean Street

A quick one this, as we popped in for a pre-show drink. If I lived in London, I think I’d be at the Soho Theatre every night. Look at who is on over the next few months. John Robins, Bridget Christie, Simon Munnery, Frank Skinner, David Baddiel, Tom Allen, Paul Sinha, Sarah Kendall, Pappy’s, James Acaster and more.

This is what your London weighting would all be blown on, comedy shows every night. Tonight, we were here to see Rob Newman’s latest show, “The Brain Show”. Yes, the first comedian to sell out Wembley Arena (alongside double act partner David Baddiel, who is also here next month) is currently playing some smaller venues, following on from his recent Radio 4 series. As late 80s/early 90s children, we had to be here, along with Hazel & Matt.

After a packed day of tourist stuff, we didn’t have a lot of time to spare tonight, so we hopped in to the box office to pick up our tickets, and then to the bar for a drink. And here’s a pleasant surprise, a full range of Adnams beers. As you might remember, we have been to quite a few Adnams establishments during our trip to Suffolk. Always interesting to find one outside of their heartland, and particularly in the heart of the West End.

So, a pint of Blackshore Stout tonight, which was something that we didn’t come across last year. A nice gentle stout to accompany an evening of comedy. A quick peek at the menu reveals that they have eleven pizzas on the menu, a burger, a club sandwich and a few salads. Nice, simple, pre-show dining if you have time for that.

The Brain Show was a great hour of comedy from Rob Newman, and the Soho Theatre is a great venue. Look forward to returning soon.

Friend at Hand, Herbrand Street, Bloomsbury

A busy Friday night in Central London. As already noted, we hadn’t really accounted for all those post-work drinkers when we were wandering around earlier on. We had popped our heads in here about an hour previously, and it was absolutely packed. Upon our return, we managed to find ourselves a table, the last one available.

I’ve been to this pub before. It was before MOFAD records began, before Untappd records began and I can’t find a check in on Facebook. So I don’t know when it was exactly. Let’s say 2012. Anyway, I remembered that it was ok, so we settled ourselves in for dinner at this cosy little pub, just a very short stroll from Russell Square tube station.

Lots of food to choose from on the menu, various sharing platters that are popular in so many pubs nowadays, a selection of burgers (no pulled pork option though!), fish’n’chips, a vegetarian version (halloumi replacing the fish) as well as pub classics like steak, hunters chicken, sausage & mash, and several pies.

It was the “Big Ben burger” for me, a 6oz beef burger, topped with crispy bacon, Cheddar cheese, a fried free range egg and crispy onion rings, served with a burger sauce (BBQ sauce). Looking at this, it appears my onion rings were missing! I was too hungry to notice this on the night, obviously! It was a very tasty (and messy, which is a good sign) burger.

Mrs MOFAD had wanted hunters chicken, but it had been hunted to extinction tonight, so opted for second choice, chicken & chorizo pie, with chips, fresh seasonal vegetables and a jug of gravy.

Mrs MOFAD accompanied this with some Aspall cider (served in the lovely Aspall half pint “wine glass”). Mine was washed down with some Portobello VPA, which stands for very pale ale. It was not a very pale ale, but was sweet and pleasant enough. Quite pricey though and not value for money.

The final members of our party had arrived at this point, so as Chris & Caroline were tucking into dinner, we ordered some more drinks. This time the Taylor Walker 1730 Special Pale Ale. What a big name to live up to. And what an utter disappointment. My Untappd review simply says “meh”. It was just so “nothing”. A shame really, but I’d rather explore new beers than stick with the usual.

The Friend at Hand is definitely worth a visit if you find yourself in the area. They could do with sorting out the toilets though, they are a bit scabby.