800th post!

Just 2 months since 750, and we’ve now reached 800 posts. There are still another 70 in draft format, so despite knocking out a good number in recent weeks, the to-do list has increased by about 10%, in part due to a couple of trips to London.

Since the last post, there has been some ‘Spoons action, and the start of a new hashtag, #swadisodd, spawned by this pub fish’n’chips with peas and salad. Yes, salad. Odd. The tag is #swadisodd as the pub was in Swadlincote, affectionately known by locals as Swad. The home of the “Swadside Massive” which is a grafitti tag that we saw in the area many years ago.

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Some tasty pink beer and a pizza in Brewdog Nottingham was followed by another trip to Centro Lounge and then another outing for “My Pointless Friend Richard” in Syston. We were not able to wrestle our crown back this year.

February saw two boxes from the Needle & Pin craft beer club, the seventh dark beer selection which contained a few to drink now, and a few to stick away for a rainy day in a year or so. The second sour beer selection box also had some very interesting beers within, including a fruit grisette, a lemon zest and grapefruit conditioned summer Belgian beer. That should do nicely when the days start to warm up.

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A London trip saw something a bit different, including a coffee stop at the Royal Albert Hall. Impressive place. There was a lot more snow around than shown in the photo, and it was bitterly cold, but a nice wander around Kensington Gardens and the royal parks needed something to warm things up a bit.

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A tasty pub dinner at The Crown & Two Chairmen was to come later that evening, followed by what might be the comedy highlight of the year (which considering it came two days after Bill Bailey’s latest tour show is quite a feat). The warm up show for Flight of the Conchords at the Soho Theatre, which was superb, despite being rough round the edges (the whole point of warm up shows). Given that the tour has now been rescheduled after Bret broke his arm, I’m considering it a double win that I got a ticket!

More comedy the next night, with my first visit to a room that I’ve heard over 200 times, the main auditorium of the Leicester Square Theatre, with the ridiculously good value Machynlleth comedy festival preview show. Where else would you see Sara Pascoe, Rachel Parris, Josh Widdicombe, Ed Gamble, Jen Brister, Tim Key and James Acaster, all compered by Kiri Pritchard-McLean, the 2018 Chortle award winning best compere, and all for 12 quid? The answer is nowhere.

A couple of tasty beers followed at the Craft Beer Co “Covent Garden”, although I still maintain that it’s not in Covent Garden.

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There was just time for another selection box from the N&P craft beer club, a night of To0l beers at the very same pub, and then another London trip which has generated a lot more posts.

So it’s time to stop procrastinating and get back to writing posts. I have a feeling it won’t be long before we get to 900!

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Plank & Leggit, March 2018 #2

The sun is out, the sky is blue, and we are hopping across borders. We started our walk in Shardlow, Derbyshire, crossing briefly back into Leicestershire and then after lunch we will go over to Nottinghamshire. All of this within a few miles, because we are in that odd “three counties corner” that is found just up the road from us.

The route of our walk found us not far from the Planl & Leggit for the second time this month. This time it was our choice, but largely because it’s hard to find a pub that serves a normal menu on a Sunday lunchtime, so this will do for today.

Not just some sad looking sandwiches either, a chicken and bacon baguette with melted cheese, leaves, and some finely chopped red onion (for some reason).

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There was also a side of decent pub chips, although they were in a weird plastic basket with that weird waxy gingham paper that seems to be finding its way into more and more pubs.

No beer once again, because Greene King IPA doesn’t count, so lime and soda saves the day, and we were soon on our way and crossing the border to finish our walk.

The Head of Steam is coming to Leicester

On Thursday April 5th, a new pub is opening in Leicester, replacing the Reynard on Market Street (which I never visited and didn’t particularly want to). The Head of Steam is the fifteenth pub of that name to be opened by Hartlepool-based Camerons Brewery, and I’ve heard good things about the other ones around the country.

Like other pubs in the chain, it will be presenting beers from local breweries such as Framework, Charnwood, Langton and Brewsters, alongside some of the best beers and ciders from around the world, which will be pouring from its 30 lines. With cans and bottles also available, there should be around 120 different beers/ciders available at any one time.

The HoS team pride themselves on hand-selecting the perfect range of beer for customers using expert knowledge from their team of passionate beer sommeliers.

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There will also be food available, served from 11am until 9pm, including breakfasts until 3pm (full English, pancakes, porridge and a veggie breakfast). Sandwiches and wraps are available until 5pm, with pulled pork and fish fingers among the fillings alongside light bites such as soup and nachos. There are eight burgers to choose from including vegetarian and vegan ones, as well as three foot long hot dogs, including Homer’s favourite “foot long chilli dog”.

Wait, there’s more. Five pizzas including pulled pork and chicken tikka varieties. There are three pies, served with mash, peas and gravy. Then we get to the main courses, with classics such as fish’n’chips, sausage’n’mash and steak’n’chips. There are also more international offerings in the form of Moroccan harissa marinated salmon, boeuf bourguignon, chicken tikka masala, mussels and chicken Milanese. There are puddings too. And many of these dishes come with suggested beer pairings too.

They have already become a verified venue on Untappd, which helps you to see what beer will be available when you visit. There will also be regular events such as quiz nights and live music, and the VIP floor can be reserved for your function. If it ever warms up, there’s a beer garden too.

Looking forward to checking it out on a future trip to Leicester.

Benugo, St Pancras International, London, March 2018

It’s another in the “quick post” series. After a late breakfast this morning (more like brunch) we weren’t starving at lunchtime, so delayed our lunch plans until we got back to the station. After the freezing cold weather, we wanted something warm, so headed to Benugo for some toasted sandwiches.

The “New Yorker” is apparently the most popular sandwich, consisting of shaved turkey breast, crispy bacon, Gruyère, sliced tomato, iceberg lettuce and Dijon mayo on dark caraway ciabatta.

It certainly makes for a tasty sandwich, although the iceberg lettuce didn’t really need to be in there, as it didn’t add anything worthwhile to the sandwich.

There are various dining options at St Pancras, Benugo is not a bad choice.

The Devonshire Arms, Kensington, March 2018

We decided not to back into central London tonight. After a day out in Bermondsey we came back to the hotel to unwind with a cup of tea, and then headed out just around the corner for a hearty pub dinner.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that we are in Derbyshire, given that is full of pubs called The Devonshire Arms (the various Dukes of Devonshire having owned much of the land in the area), but we are still in Kensington.

This was another pub taking part in the Thornbridge “craft beer residency” and once again my Thornbridge polo shirt caused a little confusion, as I was mistaken for an employee again 🙂 However, I didn’t have any Thornbridge tonight, because they were approaching the end of their residency, and I’d already had the one that they had left on keg. “What about these bottles” came the reply from the lady behind the bar. “Nope, had them too.” In fact I’ve had 58 different Thornbridge beers according to Untappd, so it was statistically unlikely that they would have one in stock that I hadn’t had.

Although perhaps I should have just had one anyway, as my first pint of Adnams Fat Sprat proved to be nothing more than a bog standard malty bitter.

On to the food, and a rare sight in a pub, a “fish pie for 2” served with beans and broccolini. Given that it has been freezing cold all day, and with snow swirling around outside as we arrived, a warm and hearty fish pie was just the thing, presented in this big cast iron pan to allow you to serve yourself.

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It was suitably delicious, very much hearty and warming, and certainly just what we needed on this bitterly cold night. Mrs MOFAD accompanied hers with a Stiegl-Weisse Naturtrüb by Stieglbrauerei zu Salzburg, a very nice herbal wheat beer from Salzburg in Austria.

I decided to risk an ABInbev subsidiary, Blue Point’s Toasted Lager, which was not toasted in any way, but was a perfectly pleasant amber lager, certainly a change from the general cold fizz that you might find in a London pub.

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A lovely dinner at The Devonshire Arms, well worth a visit if you’re in the area, and very handy if you’re staying in the nearby Holiday Inn. Lots of posh houses/flats to have a nose at on the way there and back too.

Brewdog, Soho, March 2018

It’s a Friday night in London. Everyone is out out. Trying to find somewhere for a drink is a bit of a tricky proposition. After a bit more wandering (our dinner plan A turned into about plan F after lots of wandering), we settled on Brewdog, based on the fact that it’s not the cheapest night out in London, and we might just be able to get a table.

After working our way through to the bar, we spotted a table becoming vacant, and Mrs MOFAD slipped through the crowd to grab the table whilst I grabbed some drinks.

For me it was Siren’s Kisetsu, a Japanese Saison with yuzu for a tart and zesty citrus kick, sudachi (another small, tart citrus fruit) and cedar, created with Tonkotsu Ramen bar. There are also Oolong tea leaves and Saison Dupont yeast brings it all together, and you really get the fruitiness from the citrus fruits.

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Mrs MOFAD was also on a sweet and sour kick with this Shanghai Noon from Cleveland’s Platform Beer Company, a prickly pear (aka Indian fig opuntia) and lychee sour, fruity and sweet with a nice tartness to it.

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As you will have noticed from the interesting hue, we once more found ourselves sitting underneath some neon in Brewdog, much like York last year. Despite that, it was good to be in here for some quality beer.

Vapia-no pizza, Soho, March 2018

This is going to be one of those moany posts. I ordered pizza. I left without eating pizza. I went to the Soho Theatre. I bought a wrap. I ate that after the show. I was still thinking about pizza.

Let’s get on to the good bit first. I like the Vapiano concept (when it works). If you’ve not been to one before, a quick explanation. When you go in, you get a contactless card (much like a hotel room card). You find yourself a table or a spot at a shared bench (more likely on a busy Friday night in the west end). You visit the counter that you want to order food from, you order food, drinks etc. You tap your card on the reader and the charge for whatever you’ve ordered is applied to the card. When you’ve finished, you take your card to the till, and pay. Easy. Simple. Quick.

When it works, it works. However, if it is a really busy Friday night, and you choose pizza, you might run the risk of not getting pizza. I’m willing to take that risk for pizza, but it backfired. I did manage to get a pint of “British Pale Ale” from Caledonian (yes I know, evil Heineken subsidiary). Six quid a pint though – super ouch!

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Coupled with eating some of Mrs MOFAD’s chicken alfredo (chicken, mushrooms, onion, cream, egg and Grana Padano), this was all that I had to sustain me. The pasta orders are cooked in front of you while you wait. Despite ordering pizza in what seemed reasonable time, there appeared to be a backlog of pizzas, and orders that went in after mine were definitely coming out before. When they messed up another order (missing three quarters of it!) then they had to get the rest of that through the oven.

In honour of the recently departed Jim Bowen, let’s have a look at what we could have won, with a previous visit to Vapiano in April 2011…

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My plan to come here because it would be quick rather blew up in my face. You can’t win them all. At least they were good enough not to charge me for the pizza I didn’t eat. I would come back, but I’ll make sure there’s another half hour available next time. Can’t win them all.