The Crown and Two Chairmen, Soho, February 2018

It’s another “pre-show dining” post, but with a difference. This is London pre-show dining, and a rather special show. I’ll get on to that in a minute.

Trying to find somewhere to eat before a show at the Soho Theatre can be a tricky proposition. At the weekend, you really need to have booked somewhere if you want to guarantee getting in to the place that you chose in advance. On a snowy midweek evening you might just be in with a better chance of finding a table, and I managed to grab one and order some food and drink.

Part of my reason for choosing this pub was that it was part of the Thornbridge “craft beer residency” running between the last week of January and the middle of March. This essentially means that those nice Thornbridge folks are invading lots of London pubs for seven and a bit weeks, and there will always be some Thornbridge beers in cask, keg or bottles (they are still can refuseniks).

Yes, I know that there are plenty of local (London) breweries around, but you don’t always find them in London pubs (too much Greene King estate around for my liking). So I’m happy to support some beer that has made a very similar journey to the one that I took to get here.

So, with all that preamble over, a Thornbridge Versa (left) kicks things off, a wheat beer with that classic profile of banana and clove, and a slight sweetness. Very nice.


Also pictured is my other drink, more local this time, Fine and Dandy (right) from Truman’s Brewery, a famous London name which died in 1989 but came back in 2010, with a new brewery opening in Hackney Wick in 2013. It’s not quite heyday Truman’s (which was once the biggest brewery in the world) but it’s good to see this big name back in London. A good old fashioned brown ale too, sweet and malty, evoking memories of the past.

On to dinner next, lots of interesting pub grub to choose from which is exactly what you want to see. My choice was southern fried chicken with cherry BBQ sauce, fries & slaw (and a single unadvertised leaf).


It was really nice, a good spicy kick to the wonderfully crisp batter, a nice sweet/sour/sticky balance to the cherry BBQ sauce and some good chips (complete with pointless tin cup). A decent meal in a cracking pub.

A cracking pub that is ideally situated for visitors to the Soho Theatre, which is where I was off to next, to see the band formerly known as “New Zealand’s fourth most popular guitar-based digi-bongo acapella-rap-funk-comedy folk duo”, but now known as as “the almost award-winning fourth-most-popular folk duo in New Zealand”, aka Flight of the Conchords.

These were last minute warm up gigs for their forthcoming arena tour. We didn’t get tickets for that (having given arena comedy a few goes, it just doesn’t work for me), and I was rather happy to snap up the last ticket for tonight’s gig. The new songs still need a bit more practice, and there won’t be any crowd surfing after a recorder solo at the O2, but it was a brilliant night, certainly helped by a good pub trip beforehand!

Royal Albert Hall, February 2018

How do you get to the Royal Albert Hall? Practice!

One of the oldest musical jokes in the world there. In my case, the answer was via Kensington Palace (grounds, above) and Kensington Gardens, after a walk through the snow. It was bitterly cold, with a “realfeel” of -10 celsius, aka “brrrrrrrrrr”. Much as I wanted to stay out strolling along the Serpentine and up to the Hyde Park bandstand, a little defrosting was required. As the Albert Memorial had just loomed into view (it’s hard to miss it!) it meant that his hall was not far away.

One day I’ll come here for a performance. I’ve so far missed all 208 of Eric Clapton’s appearances, the RAH’s most prolific living performer. Today, it was just for a nice warm cup of coffee and a chance to hang about in this historic building for half an hour. There’s a lot of building work going on at the minute, so this 1871 landmark is not quite at its best, although it is still mightily impressive. More ancient and steeped in history than the Sydney Opera House (we’ve been to a performance there!) but not as quirky.

The beer selection is awful (not a problem today), but the coffee was decent enough. A great place to stop even if you’re not catching a show. A welcome warm up after a chilly stroll.

Prince of Wales, Kensington, February 2018

When you’re in an area for the first time, you like to explore and find somewhere to eat. The secret in Kensington is to go down the side streets, since there’s not a lot of decent pub action on the main High Street. I tried that, and sadly ended up in a Greene King pub. At least there was a decent beer on so there was no need for Greene King “IPA”.

Today the alternative beer was Runner by Truman’s Brewery, a standard caramel bitter which was probably not quite at its best. This is a Greene King pub after all.


Food was my main concern and that was this (sadly slightly burnt) club sandwich with some limp salad and chips.


It was warm fodder on this bitterly cold winter’s day.


The Needle & Pin Craft Beer Club – sour beer selection box #2 – February 2018

It’s already time for the second sour beer selection box. The highlight (so far) from the first box has to be Mango Mango Mango from Dugges, lots of lovely mango and no overbearing sweetness. Gose to Hollywood was also a good one, full of sour fruits and zingy tartness. Let’s delve into the latest box of delights…

Lines – Citrus Grisette – 3.5%

Lines decided to make a summer fruity blend, combining a soft juicy grisette with a wheat and oat body, and using a saison strain to leave some delicious sweet spice in the background. The beer, which Lines class as a fruit grisette, a lemon zest and grapefruit conditioned summer Belgian beer.

Wild Beer – Fruitbooter – 5.7%

A blast of fruitiness, a foudre-fermented (and then aged), pink peppercorn saison topped up with an acid drop of select barrels from the Wild Beer library before being packed to the brim with the ripest Somerset raspberries to create a tart, jammy, and mouthwatering beer.

Stillwater – A Saison Darkly – 8%

Brewed with dark malts and burnt sugars then lightly spiced with rose hips, hibiscus, & schisandra berries. Even though Stillwater Artisanal Ales are based in Maryland, United States, this dark saison was brewed at Sint Canarus, a house brewery in Gottem, Belgium in association with brewmaster mister Piet Meirhaeghe – also known as Dr. Canarus.

To Øl – Mr Blue – 7.5%

A rustique Saison brewed with blueberries, and the first beer to be released from the To Øl ‘Reservoir Dogs’ series. A malt base of rye, wheat and oats to deliver a spicy, full mouthfeel, hopped with Galaxy and Belma and then 500 kg of blueberries per 1000 litres. This beer is complex and well rounded with Belgian yeasty notes blended with the fresh blueberries that adds notes of Nordic forest floors.

Buxton/Stillwater – Raspberry Superluminal – 7%

A raspberry version of Superluminal Sour India Pale Ale, part of a continuing collaboration with Stillwater Artisanal. Big raspberry flavours with mango and grapefruit coming through from the hops and sweet raspberry on the finish.

Gipsy Hill/Duration – Barnstormer – 4.7%

A collaboration between Gipsy Hill and the “work in progress” farmhouse brewery Duration. It’s a wild sort of saison that’s been kettle soured overnight, cherry wood was then added to the boil and it was then fermented with three strains of yeast. Tart, dry and complex.




Meet the brewer – Black Iris, Needle & Pin, Loughborough, February 2018

Black Iris started out in Derby back in 2011 but crossed the border into Nottingham in 2014 where they have been building a name for themselves as one of the best in the city, which is quite a feat when there are many good breweries around, with new ones like Liquid Light exploding on to the scene with four tasty core beers late last year, and just today they announced bottling of their watermelon sour. Neon Raptor are another new name on the scene. We’ll meet them next month.

However, tonight is all about Black Iris, and another relaxed “meet the brewer” event at the N&P. The format is always very chilled. Get a pint from the bar, wander upstairs for a chat, and then some of the team from the brewery will make their way up and work their way around the tables, talking about beer, brewing, crossing the border (East Midlands cities have big rivalries) and being part of an exciting city centre beer scene that isn’t London or Manchester.

Let’s get on to those pints then. First up, Snake Eyes, a lovely session pint, fruity, floral and easy drinking, a lovely relaxed start to proceedings.


We moved on to Bajan Breakfast, another nice cask pale, with slightly muted hops which also make for easy drinking. The oatmeal adds a little extra smoothness to it.


As you might expect from something called Cosmic Cream, you get a rich, fruity and creamy NEIPA with lactose bringing the creaminess and Vic Secret, Citra, Simcoe and Rakau bringing fruity hoppiness.


Let the Juice Loose was launched tonight, so we are some of the first people to be drinking this New England Style IPA brewed with Citra, Vic Secret and Ekuanot. These big hops make for a big and juicy murky beast of a beer, lovely stuff.


We finished up with a wild Stab in the Dark (cue Blackadder joke, or repressed memory of the 1992 late night Channel 4 talking head show of the same name, which featured Michael Gove, Tracey MacLeod and David Baddiel presenting topical monologues). Whatever your reference, this was a tasty NZ stout, with a lovely sweetness and heavy roasted coffee notes.


Another great meet the brewer event full of good chat and great beers. Let’s do it again soon.

No 11 deli, Castle Donington, February 2018

One of those “random places we found for lunch” posts coming up. We’ve been exploring around Castle Donington this morning, doing the northern part, with the intention of walking around the (outside of) the airport later on. There’s a nice walking trail around most of the perimeter, and you get to see lots of planes taking off.

As we are in our walking gear (a bit muddy but not exactly coated in it), some establishments frown upon this, so a nice little deli that you spotted earlier on is actually a pretty good choice for lunch. Even better when you get inside and spot lots of things on sale from local producers that you know from the farmer’s market or similar. A good sign that you’re going to get a nice lunch.


It turned out to be just that. A chicken and bacon baguette/panino hybrid with a good chunkly coleslaw and a handful of salad. Add in some “posh crisps” and a “posh juice” and you get a lovely little lunch. As we had more walking to do, we didn’t stock up with provisions today, but will definitely pop in next time we’re passing. Lovely friendly owners too!

Ruby’s Fish and Chips, Thringstone, February 2018

It’s another “no photo” post (the header picture is the best sea photo I could find at short notice).

We were out for a night of planning with regular MOFAD companions Karon & John, and needed some food for the brain. Luckily they live just around the corner from one of Leicestershire’s nine best fish’n’chip shops, according to some lazy local journalism in the Leicester Mercury. In the “article” they just quoted bits of the reviews of various establishments from TripAdvisor and called that a comprehensive round up.

I maintain that Rothley Fisheries (where Sven-Göran Eriksson allegedly used to go for fish’n’chips when he was Leicester City manager) is the best one, but Ruby’s should rank prettly highly on the list. I had a massive whale (cod) and some chips and it was very nice indeed. Crisp batter, nice fluffy chips and all perfectly cooked. I’m sure we’ll be back again.

Grounds Cafe, Hicks Lodge, February 2018

Another day out walking. Conditions underfoot today have been squelchy and squashy, much like they have for most of the winter. Luckily we knew that a warm welcome awaited in this cafe, as it’s somewhere that occasional MOFAD companion and triple pork nirvana chaser Dan has been a lot.

We arrived after 2pm for a late lunch, which was probably not a bad idea as a few tables had become free (it’s very popular as there are loads of cycle trails around this former coal mining site).


A nice simple lunch today, chicken, bacon and cheese panino (although it was a baguette pretending to be a panino), with a little bit of salad on the side. Once again I left the sad iceberg lettuce to its own devices and ate the rest, including some very nice cherry tomatoes.

This little cafe is great if you are walking or cycling in the area. They are open until 4pm on winter weekdays, 5pm at weekends and also 5pm all week between February and October half terms. They open until 9pm every Thursday all year round.

Mason & Company, Hackney Wick, February 2018

A return visit to this lovely little bar and kitchen. A pleasant February day for working nearby and when the working day is done, I just want to have fun. And a pint. And something to eat. This is a handy place to do all of those things. And just a hop, step and a jump away from the London Stadium. You can read more about it in last year’s post.


Let’s get down to tonight’s business then. First up, a Five Points Pils from The Five Points Brewing Company (owned by the same people as the bar). This was a a decent lager with an interesting hop profile.


Once again it was chicken parm for me for tea, Italian fried chicken thigh, marinara sauce, basil aioli, sautéed kale and parmesan crisp on a brioche roll. Very much a posh chicken burger, accompanied by Italo-fries (skin on fries coated in oregano salt).


Just a bit of time left before catching the Javelin back to St Pancras (with a brief stop at Waitrose to get supplies for tomorrow), so I had a Pintle Pale Ale – Citra & Cascade by Burnt Mill Brewery, a super juicy pale ale, delightful nose and lovely rounded finish. Nom!


Another relaxed trip to Mason and Company, definitely recommended if you’re in the area.

The Needle & Pin craft beer club – dark beer selection box #7 – February 2018

The seventh dark beer selection, perfectly timed for the depths of winter. Let’s peer through the gloom and into the darkness…

8 Wired – Flat White Coffee Milk Stout – 5.5%

Honourably named after New Zealand’s national style of barista coffee. A title that has been wrestled away from freeze dried instant coffee and made NZ one of the best coffee destinations in the world. Brewed with coffee, vanilla beans and lactose.

Buxton x Stillwater – Subluminal Coffee Imperial Stout – 10%

The second brew of Subluminal, this time with coffee. An imperial stout brewed in collaboration with Sillwater Artisanal (NY, USA). Delicious, pitch black, chewy, and unmissable. The latest addition to Buxton’s decorated lineup of impy collabs. Drink me. Love me. Never forget me.

Brouwerij De Molen – Rasputin – 10.4%

Rasputin is a sweet imperial stout with subtle chocolate and coffee notes accompanied by plums, the first brew from De Molen. The beer is brewed only in limited numbers once or twice a year. A heavy, bitter stout with a traditional high alcohol content to prevent the beer from freezing during the icy crossing from England to Russia. Strong yet not overwhelming. Try ageing it for a couple of years to unearth its full complexity. I already have one of these, so I might just do that 🙂 Don’t drink straight from the fridge or you’ll miss out on those complexities. Take it out around 15-20 minutes before you want to drink it.

Wild Weather Ales – Bello Di Mamma Tiramisu Stout – 6%

Vanilla and lactose make way for a rich Italian coffee centre. Notes of Amaretto and biscuit leave behind the memory of Mamma’s classic Tiramisu.

North Riding Brewery – Choc Fudge Brownie Stout – 7.4%

Brewed by Stu at North Riding brewed this beer on request from the N&P, and also bottled some especially for the Dark Beer Club. Brewed as a tribute to the Brouwerij Kees Fudge Brownie Stout that was a big hit in bottles last year (I’ve got one of these waiting for me in the garage). Think chocolate fudge, brownie, vanilla and little hints of red fruit and nuts. There are two casks also being aged, to be served when they are about a year old.

Buxton x Omnipollo – Yellow Belly Imperial Stout – 11%

A peanut butter and biscuit imperial stout. Brewed without peanut butter. Brewed without biscuits.

The Rainbow Project (created by Siren Craft Brew) brings together 14 breweries to make 7 collaborative beers themed on the colours of the rainbow. I’ve written about this a few times already. In 2014, Buxton drew yellow out of the hat and were paired up with the Stockholm based Omnipollo.

They sat down and discussed what they could brew based on the idea of yellow. After some time, there was consensus that the prime meaning or idea expressed by the colour yellow is cowardice. The next challenge was to turn this idea into a beer.

The political situation throughout Europe was in turmoil at the time, with lots of far right wing movements on the rise. “One thing that struck us while the preliminary political polls were being presented during election night was that the actual support for the Swedish fascist party was in reality 40% higher than what people had disclosed when asked (face to face) what they voted for just after casting their ballot. At the same time the polls were more or less accurate when it came to other parties on the political scale”, Omnipollo’s Henok Fentie said.

One thing that this could mean is that although people vote extreme right they are on average not as prone to admitting to it as people voting for other parties are. Being a coward can mean many different things, but protesting anonymously at the expense of people’s freedom and right to co-exist without showing your face is one meaning that that the team felt was relevant.

So, with all this in mind, the yellow beer became an 11% Peanut Butter and Biscuit Imperial Stout. Except there are no peanuts or biscuits in it, and it is in no way yellow. It was then dressed it in the most hateful, cowardly-anonymous costume they knew of. Taste, enjoy and don’t be prejudiced.

Another tasty selection, a few to store for a while, a few to start drinking a little sooner.