Pub of the month – June 2016 – The Potting Shed, Edinburgh

First up, a special mention for my favourite local pub,  The Needle & Pin, who brought our first ever local craft beer tasting night to life in June 2016. It’s the kind of thing that happens in big city craft bars/pubs a lot. It’s the kind of thing you see being advertised on Twitter all the time, especially from London based establishments such as places on the Bermondsey beer mile. To have such a thing in a sleepy little market town is not something you might expect, but it’s the kind of thing that our awesome new micropub is bringing to our midst. Our events organiser and regular MOFAD companion Alec had reserved places for a few of us, so off to town we went.

We made our way through a number of beers on this fab night, starting with Soar Head, a very classic English bitter from pub owner and craft beer guide Sean’s other local business, Wicked Hathern Brewery.

It was a long journey through beers, stopping off at places like Magic Rock with their High Wire Grapefruit, an updated version of their High Wire ale, now with added grapefruit. Massive fruity hop flavours.

And we finished with the coffee. In this case, Dark Star Espresso, a dark beer brewed with roasted barley malt and challenger hops. After that, freshly ground Arabica coffee beans, blended especially for Dark Star, are added for a few minutes to provide a rich and complementary coffee aroma which delivers delicious coffee bitterness.

One of the nights out of the year!

Off we go next to the Pack Horse Inn, Keswick, where it was quiz night and another outing for My Pointless Friend Richard.  It’s a Robinsons pub, as with so many in the area, so you’ll know what you’re getting – a range of their good ales, and good food. And that’s what we got, starting with Hartley’s Cumbrian XB, a classic English bitter.

Dinner arrived next, after we watched it go back to the kitchen and then come back out because we had moved tables not long after ordering, as a nicer one by the window became available.

Mrs MOFAD and I had the same thing, chicken in wild mushroom and cream sauce, served with chips and salad. It was really nice, juicy chicken, a nice sauce and really good chips, along with a decent salad (you can see a tiny bit of it in the top left).

A couple more good pints fuelled the brain and the quiz got underway. When the specialist round arrived (computers), we were pretty confident of victory after scoring maximum points. Another victory for My Pointless Friend Richard, and enough money to pay for dinner 🙂 Winner!

In third place this month, we have a previous winner, The Wainwright. A table became free within a minute of walking in, so we were soon settled in and ordering something to eat and drink.

Once again, it was something from Fell Brewery that tempted me first, a pint of Simcoe Wheat, full of hoppy bitter goodness alongside some wheaty earthiness. Any beer that decides to add more hops is good for me – this was very interesting and a tasty pint (and yes, it’s supposed to be cloudy). Mrs MOFAD had some Symonds cider, always reliable.

Food came next. Some familiar things on the menu from last year (I recommended the game pie to another customer who was ordering at the bar). My choice on this visit was the crispy supreme of chicken, with mashed potatoes, leeks and white wine cream sauce, absolutely delicious juicy chicken, good mash and a nice sauce.

Mrs MOFAD had a very tasty burger with absolutely enormous onion rings – look at the size of them! A very good portion of food.

It really is the best pub in Keswick right now. You may have to wait for a table, or wait for your food, but the best things come to those who wait. There are no shortcuts or microwaved curries in here, it’s good quality stuff in a great pub.

Another visit to BrewDog Edinburgh came this month, after not one, but two trips back in April, earning it third place in April’s pub of the month. It was high on the list for a return visit, particularly as there was some live music on.

The thing about BrewDog is that Mrs MOFAD, who has a very specific set of beers that she likes, will always find something interesting to drink, on this occasion that was “Berry White” (strong pun work) by To Øl from Denmark, a good mix of fruitiness and sourness, way better than any fruit beers currently around in UK supermarkets.

We ate pizza, one of the three reasons for being here tonight. Several Brewdog bars are now offering pizzas, which is a great move because they can be brilliant and go so well with beer. I always have pizza with beer.

My choice was the King of Pigs – gyula sausage, leeks, tomatoes, with mozzarella and watercress. This was delicous. Pizza done simply and done well is a thing to behold. This had tasty sausage, with the piquancy of leeks and great peppery watercress. I wouldn’t mind a few more slices of sausage and a bit more watercress.

More beer was required to accompany this, and since it was released on the night we visited (this is a BrewDog “thing”, releasing beers on a specific night) it had to be Black Hammer, a dark version of the popular Jack Hammer. A mix of burnt toffee and grapefruit flavours from the hops.

Whilst all of this was going on, we were enjoying music from “The Wandering Man” aka Peter Dyer, who was playing down by the pinball machine. An excellent selection of acoustic tunes including many interesting covers and medleys. A great night of live music, pizza and beer, it reminded us very much of our trip to Fat Monk back in March – the perfect combination of pizza, beer and tunes. As my dad’s old Musicians’ Union sticker said “Keep Music Live”.

Our winner this month is The Potting Shed in Edinburgh. We happened to be there on the night of our tenth wedding anniversary and celebrated with a very nice meal. It started off very well, with this awesome selection of beer to choose from:-

So much choice, so little time. My first choice was Findhorn Killer by Speyside Craft Brewery. I quickly christened this Hoppy McHopface, a deliciously balanced ale.

Mrs MOFAD opted for the slow cooked spicy lamb, with coriander, coconut milk, fragrant rice and “flat breed” (that’s Scotch for bread). This was spicy and delicious, walking that fine line between spice and flavour and just about getting it right in Mrs MOFAD’s eyes.

I opted for the half roast peri peri chicken, with red slaw and skinny fries. A simple chicken dish isn’t something I’ll often eat because it is something that can easily be done badly, but I had faith here as I’d heard good things about the Potting Shed.

This faith was well placed, juicy and delicious chicken, nice and spicy peri peri, good red slaw and crisp fries. This was accompanied by a Brave New World by Tempest Brewing Co. How to describe this? How about hops hops hops? You want more? How about hops? Piney goodness. It was lovely, and a perfect match with the peri peri.

As this was a special occasion, we both opted for pudding (we will often share). For me it was Potting Shed Windfall; fruit & nut “soil”, chocolate mousse and a medley of mixed berries. This was as delicious as it looks, and I’ll forgive the plant pot, since it is jokey and there is a plate to actually eat from.

Mrs MOFAD’s eyes were bigger than her belly – a sticky toffee pudding proved to be too much of a challenge – it was delicious though. Being a perfect gentleman, I had some in order to help out🙂

A chocolately pudding needs the right kind of liquid accompaniment. I tried Fathom by Jaw Brew, full of chocolate, coffee and burnt treacle flavours, although it was very thin (they might have boiled the sugar out of the brew).

A lovely anniversary meal, probably one of my favourites. And I haven’t even mentioned that they also have a pizza called Boaty McBoatface:-

Great food and beer, a nice relaxed atmosphere and funky decor. The Potting Shed is a lovely place for a meal or even just a drink or two on a night out in Edinburgh. We were also hoping for some live music as advertised on their web site, but they have struggled to get acts in recently, so hopefully that’s something you’ll be able to enjoy again in the future.

A worthy winner of pub of the month!

Beer of the month – June 2016 – Findhorn Killer

Quite a lot of things to choose from this month, but when it all comes down to it, three of the four beers at the top of the tree this month came from our trip to Edinburgh at the start of the month.

We start off in BrewDog Edinburgh with a Black Hammer by BrewDog. A black version of their popular Jack Hammer hoppy ale. This one has burnt coffee and grapefruit competing for your attention.

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For the third placed beer, we return to Bollington Brewing Co. for their Eastern Nights IPA, which was not the hoppiest, but a well rounded IPA which I really liked.

Back up to Scotland now for a Brave New World by Tempest Brewing Co at The Potting Shed (pub of the month). This one was packed full of hops hops hops. You want more? How about hops? Piney goodness.

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And so to our winner, Findhorn Killer by Speyside Craft Brewery also found at The Potting Shed. This one gained the topical name Hoppy McHopface, a deliciously balanced hoppy ale. If you think that the craft beer revolution is all about London or big English cities, I can confirm that it is alive and well in Scotland too.

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Wimbledon Triple Pork Nirvana (TPN 2016 #16)

Yes, this a special edition of triple pork nirvana, but if the opportunity presents itself, you must seize it.

Today’s journey to nirvana began on the train journey to London with a free train breakfast, a decent enough sausage bap accompanied by an awful cup of tea (more like cea once again).

Lunch at Wimbledon was a better sausage baguette, with poor mustard on it:-

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For tea, it was back on the train and a chicken and bacon sandwich.

A pretty special TPN in terms of the day and the location if not in terms of the meals, but one which will be very hard to live up to! This may not appear the most balanced of diets, but there were also 2 bowls of strawberries during the afternoon, a protein rich cereal bar and lots of water (it was a rather hot day).

Wimbledon 2016

You may recall that back in April, it was my birthday. One of my presents from Mrs MOFAD just happened to be tickets for court two on the opening day of Wimbledon 2016. It cannot be denied that this is a pretty awesome present.

I do enjoy a bit of tennis. It’s the only sport I’ve ever been much good at playing. I’ve been watching Wimbledon on TV for as long as I can remember. Navratilova, Graf, Evert, Mandlikova, Novotna, Sanchez Vicario, Martinez, Hingis, Sabatini, Borg, Connors, McEnroe, Becker, Edberg, Cash, Lendl, Ivanisevic, Stich, Agassi. I’ve watched them all in the 80s and 90s, and more since. The eternal wait for another British winner finally ended on the seventh of July 2013 when Andy Murray stepped up to win.

So against this backdrop of personal tennis history, we find ourselves wandering to Wimbledon. Once you get to Southfields tube station, it’s a ten minute stroll down Wimbledon Park Road and then into the ground. A quick bag search later (no flasks, no lenses over 300mm, no selfie sticks, no large flags, no political slogans, no tents, no etc. etc. etc.) and you’re in. Hello nine or more hours of tennis.

So, on to the food and drink bit, as that’s what I’m supposed to be writing about. We’ll start with the “Tea Lawn” which is a line of huts serving various things. “Huts” does them down a bit as they are very posh huts, with decking and snakey queuing systems. There are various food huts, including the sausage grill, a pizza place, a drinks hut, a champagne hut (if you have to ask how much, you can’t afford it) and of course the iconic strawberries and cream. More on those later.

As you will know by now, the sausage hut was the obvious destination for my first Wimbledon snack. During a break between sets whilst watching Edmund vs Mannarino, I popped out for a Cumberland sausage baguette. A pretty decent portion for 4 quid, tasty sausage and all freshly cooked. The only shame was the giant catering pack of Heinz so-called mustard to go with it, but as a handy snack whilst watching top class athletes, it was pretty good.

We watched the end of the match and then headed back towards the Long Bar, underneath centre court, so that Mrs MOFAD could have a sandwich. A good range of freshly made sandwiches available, alongside sausage rolls and cornish pasties, as well as other hot foods such as a pulled pork roll. Prices are a touch high, and probably not as good value as the sausage.

Staying with prices and the Long Bar for a moment, let’s talk booze. I’ve already mentioned the “price on application” champagne. If you fancy a glass (decent sized plastic cup) of Pimm’s, then be prepared for a shock. £8.30. And how about a pint of Stella? £5.20 to you sir. London prices indeed, and for a plastic pint glass too (for obvious safety reasons). Cheaper than the pint of prawns though (£12). They are a lot cheaper than that when you’re “down Southend”.

None of this is necessarily a bad thing, because you don’t really want a drunk and rowdy crowd at a tennis match, it’s not exactly in keeping with the image of the sport. Although there were a few people putting a few away.

The bad thing is the lack of proper beer. This is a crime when you consider that Wimbledon Brewery is just 3 miles down the road, with around 8 beers that could easily be dropped off every day. But when you’ve signed some deal to make wife beater the official beer of the championships, it’s easy to see where your priorities lie.

Anyway, enough moaning, back to food, and the summertime classic of strawberries and cream:-

£2.50 for that little lot, which is probably the best value of anything inside the grounds. They have been picked from the same farm in Kent for years. Over 2000kg are consumed every day, and they have remained at the same price for the last 6 years. Most importantly, they are delicious, and they don’t skimp on the cream. Even more importantly, HSBC (offical bank of the championships) customers can pick up a voucher for a free portion of them from the HSBC hut near court 1.

More food came later on, with a pizza from the pizza shed (you can’t really call it the pizza hut since it’s not affiliated with Pizza Hut), and some more strawberries. I also explored more food options around the grounds including the Aorangi Food Court (like a shopping centre food court in the bowels of court 1) and Aorangi Cafe (just to the left of the big – 40 metres big – screen that you see whenever Henman Hill/Murray Mound appears on TV). The correct name for that sloping piece of ground is Aorangi Terrace (hence the names for the cafe and food court). There are some more uncompetitively priced dishes available here, such as chicken goujons and chips for about £9 and scampi and chips for around £11. None of the food looks bad, it’s just the prices that are a bit jarring. I’ll return to that later.

There are even more options such as Cafe Pergola and The Pink Bar, The Baseline, Court Buffet, The Bakery, Canyon Coffee, Conservatory Kitchen and the Wingfield Restaurant. This boasts various hot and cold dishes, including Vale of Evesham asparagus, beetroot and pink grapefruit salad, and thyme roasted butternut with parsley pesto risotto. The Wingfield Restaurant is the only restaurant where you can reserve tables (although they all get booked up way in advance).

The only thing to be wary of is when a match finishes on centre court or court 1. When they turf out, queues suddenly go haywire, so keep your eyes on those matches if you’re thinking of nipping out to grab something to eat or drink. When the Djokovic match ended, the chances of getting a bowl of strawberries in less than 30 minutes were nil.

Wimbledon is an utterly fantastic day out, we both enjoyed it immensely. It would help if you like tennis obviously, but there are a hell of a lot of people there who are just there to be seen, and probably have little interest in the sport, so you wouldn’t be out of place if you didn’t.

I know I’ve whinged a bit about some of the prices, but it didn’t spoil our day, as there’s plenty of reasonably priced stuff available, and you can always bring in your own food and drink, subject to a few reasonable rules. You have to walk past Sainsbury’s on the way from the station, so it’s easy to do, but we wanted to go for the “full grounds experience”.

Given that this is a tournament with a total prize fund of £28.1 million and a surplus of over £30 million for the last 6 years, they’ve got to get the money from somewhere, and that means Joe Public as well as sponsorship money from the Official ball, soft drink, timekeeper, supplier of information technology, hire car, champagne, outfitter, banking partner, bottled water, coffee, beer and car.

Yes, it’s a massive international sporting tournament, so it has massive international corporate sponsors. But it still feels all about the tennis.

The bottom line is, if you’ve ever wanted to go, get in the ballot and go. It’s a grand day out. Thanks of course to Mrs MOFAD for the genius birthday present!

Booths – June 2016

I know I’ve written about this quite a few times now, but I just can’t stop. A visit to Keswick means another trip (or two, or perhaps three) to Booths.

This particular branch has been through the wars a few times, most recently in December 2015, when it bore some of the brunt of extratropical cyclone Desmond. You might have seen news reports from just outside the store, or just round the corner where the Greta didn’t so much burst its banks as tear its banks a new one and come roaring over the flood defences with astounding ferocity.

This forced Booths to close for a while, operate a little pop up shop for a while, and lay on a free bus service to take customers to its Penrith store. It began to re-open in March, and then fully in April.

They’ve taken the opportunity to reorganise the store, which is a bit confusing for a regular customer, but you can see they’ve invested plenty in the refurbishment, particularly all of the new chiller cabinets, which take a bit of getting used to (everything chilled is behind closed (glass) doors now). The old layout was a little chaotic to say the least, but when you knew where everything was it was easy enough to navigate.

Towards the rear of the store is the new alcohol area, with an expanded range of beers and ciders available from local breweries as well as those from further afield.

Probably the best range of canned craft ales in any supermarket right now as well as lots of great bottled beers and ciders. Look at that lot up above. Some of the drinks didn’t make it home and into this picture because fell walking is thirsty work, and you need to rehydrate.

Another three (and maybe a few more) cheers for Booths!

Lakes Bar & Bistro, Keswick, June 2016

We fear change!

No, actually we don’t. We like most change. Some is not always required, but that doesn’t stop it from happening. Why am I banging on about change?

Well, because the Lakes Bar & Bistro has not changed in the last year. We visited in June 2015, and had a nice meal. We visited tonight, and had exactly the same nice meal. Let’s look at the evidence.

First the Shipyard Pale Ale. Still made by Marston’s (not the American beer it pretends to be), but still a pleasant pint. 2015 on the left, 2016 on the right.

Next, the main course, a chicken breast, stuffed with smoked applewood cheese and sun-dried tomatoes, then wrapped in parma ham and panko breadcrumbs, served with a small wild rocket salad, and spicy potato wedges and garlic mayonnaise. This was very nice indeed, juicy chicken, and good flavours from the stuffing. Slightly different presentation this year, once again, 2015 on the left, 2016 on the right.

Here’s 2016 in fuller glory.

The main difference this year was pudding, an end of holiday treat for Mrs MOFAD with this tasty creme brulee accompanied by some tart summer fruits.

The Lakes Bar & Bistro is clearly still MOFAD approved, and is still perfect if you’re looking for a quiet meal out in Keswick. Why change a winning formula?

Lakeland Spice Cuisine, Keswick, June 2016 (takeaway)

Yes, it’s another takeaway post. Another day out in the fells today, exploring some lesser known Wainwrights above Whinlatter forest, namely Graystones, Broom Fell, Lord’s Seat and Barf. Yes, there’s a hill called Barf. It is not literally made of barf. It is literally made of rock.

All of this meant that we got back a little later than planned, and decided to abort tonight’s plan to go for another pub quiz. Not too bad really, as we had won last night 🙂

So instead we had a takeaway from Lakeland Spice Cuisine, our go to place in Keswick for curry. In fact, I consulted last year’s post in order to work out what to have. It was achari chicken again, a North Indian dish cooked with pickling spices. Very tasty once again, but needs more lime. I love lime.

Mrs MOFAD had chicken tikka rogan josh. Good naan bread once again too.

On once more to the main reason for home curry dining. Beer. Specifically IPA. This Adnams Ease Up IPA was a new one on me (didn’t even see it on our Adnams visit last year). A decent session IPA, hoppiness, some sweetness.

Staying with the happy hoppy theme, we have this Lagunitas IPA (brewed under licence by Adnams too) – a good curry accompaniment.

The evening finished off with this Wychwood Fire Catcher, a light and easy drinking blonde ale, perfect for a summer session ale.

Another tasty takeaway and ale night – perfect justification for a takeaway when you spot that the curry house has only Boddington’s on tap! Filth!