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.

Become a Five Points funder

The Five Points Brewing Co, an independent brewery in the heart of Hackney has launched its first round of crowdfunded investment, offering you the chance to become a Five Points Funder and receive shares in the business. The funds raised will be used to meet growing demand, accelerate growth and bring everything back to where it all began; the brewery based on the landmark ‘Five Points’ of Hackney.

The crowdfunding campaign is live on Crowdcube, with a target to raise £750,000 of investment. The money will be used to open the first Five Points Taproom at the iconic Pembury Tavern, as well as investing in state-of-the-art new brewhouse equipment and fermentation tanks which will triple production capacity volume, and which they hope will allow them to meet their ambitious plans to increase sales from 2 million to 6 million pints a year (34,000 hectolitres). A new research and development brew-kit at The Pembury Tavern will also be used to develop new recipes and research innovative brewing processes.

The fundraising will also mean investing in their growing team as well as expanding UK distribution and developing their growing export business. The Five Points Brewing Co was founded by two local Hackney residents who have always strived to invest in their local community as well as their business. Five Points was the first brewery in the UK to be an accredited Living Wage employer, it sources electricity from 100% renewable sources and helped set up an apprenticeship scheme for young, aspiring brewers at Hackney Community College. This is what the Five Points team have continuously aimed to create; tasty beer brewed with the highest standards of quality and a company ethos which is accessible and inclusive to everyone.

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The decision to seek investment comes as the brewery is struggling to keep up with high demand. They reached capacity in late 2016 and have since been brewing some of their beer with an independent family-owned brewery in Belgium. This investment will enable the brewery to treble production capacity in Hackney and bring back all brewing production to London. Crowdfunding will also allow Five Points to open their first taproom, allowing this long-cherished ambition to become a reality.

As part of the crowdfunding campaign, Five Points is offering a number of exclusive rewards for investors, ranging from free birthday pints, to up to 25% discount in their taproom and online, and exclusive shareholder invites to brewery recipe development and hop-picking experiences, as well as investors receiving shares in the company.

The minimum investment is just £10, and the campaign is open until until Sunday 8th April.

The Elephant’s Head returns to Clapton

This is another in that occasional series of articles that are about somewhere that I’ve not been yet. There are over 200 posts about pubs here, and I’ve been to almost all of those, so I hope you’ll allow me the occasional indulgence of the odd one that I’ve not visited.

After over a decade under different guises, The Elephant’s Head returns to Clapton under its original name, restored to its former glory, and now with giant Bloody Marys to share and bottomless roasts.

The pub’s new incarnation pays tribute to its old-school Hackney history, not to mention its 1980s heyday, while embracing new East London culture, to create a buzzing neighbourhood pub offering a fantastic range of beer and delicious food.

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The menu at the Elephants Head puts a simple modern twist on traditional East London pub food. Dishes such as crispy cod cheeks are reinvented with the best quality, responsibly sourced cod cheeks, breaded, cooked and served whole with chips and mushy peas. Alongside the main menu are some true English classics, including ham, egg and chips (a staple Saturday night tea when I was growing up), toad-in- the-hole and a full mixed grill.

The menu includes an array of tasty options for vegan diners. The mushroom pate emulates a chicken liver parfait without the meat and butter, there’s a cauliflower steak (bang on trend), and a dairy-free chocolate cake.

What is Sunday without a perfect roast? Choose your main: beef, pork belly, chicken, or chestnut and squash nut roast; and add your bottomless sides: roast root vegetables, roast potatoes, greens, Yorkshire puddings and best of all, the bottomless gravy boat. All meat is sourced from responsible local suppliers.

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Also available is the Sunday sharing special recipe Bloody Mary menu, featuring The Elephants Head’s take on the classic Bloody Mary. Choose from three exclusive cocktails, Bloody Mary (Vodka), Bloody Maria (Tequila), and the Red Snapper (Gin).

The real treat is the special homemade recipe, combining Worcester sauce, coriander, basil, chilli, horseradish, lemon, salt, pepper, garlic and red wine, which is rested for four days to ensure that it really packs a punch. Just choose your spirit then share with four friends with the bottomless roast.

The extensive cocktail menu, designed by some of the industry’s hottest talent, includes a celebration of what the Elephants Head team feel put the London cocktail scene on the map. This sees the resurgence of some 90s favourites, such as the Mitch Martini and a range of Espresso Martinis.

Situated within a five-mile radius of modern breweries, The Elephants Head is also a beer drinker’s heaven with seven brews as standard, four guest beers on rotation and an array of hop-based bottles on offer. If you fancy something lighter, The Elephants Head bar snack menu offers delicious homemade classics, including a Scotch egg, Rarebit and Chicken Wings, served with East London Barnfathers hot sauce to add a modern and local twist.

Lots to look forward to if you want to check out the new Elephants Head.

Plank & Leggit, Sawley Marina, March 2018

Another night out with walking friends, where someone else chooses the pub and we’re really just there for the chat and a bite to eat. Same story tonight, a chance to catch up with a few people who we’ve not seen for a while, and a few who are regulars in these pages.

Tonight, the pub classic of fish’n’chips, which was nothing special and Mrs MOFAD had a pub curry, which was better.

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You might just catch a glimpse of my pint of lime and soda. Because despite being just a few hundred yards from an actual brewery, there’s only Greene King filth available here. Lime and soda it is. Every time.

The Needle & Pin Craft Beer Club – selection box #10 – March 2018

 

 

The tenth selection from the craft beer club, and I think the eighteenth overall. The last “main” box came just before Xmas, so let’s see what hoppy delights await this time. Thanks to the Needle & Pin for supplying this month’s photos, my beers were all bundled in with some other deliveries so I didn’t get chance to take the customary photo.

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Amundsen – Hop Magic – 7%

A collaboration with Dry & Bitter Brewing Company and Dugges Bryggeri. The three breweries describe this as the “ultimate crusher”, a tropical juice hop head butt with Magnum, Mosaic, Galaxy, Nelson Sauvin, Citra, Ekuanot and Simcoe all mixed in.

Shindigger – Mango Unchained Session IPA – 4.2%

A session IPA blended with mango and pineapple, described by the team as “if Rubicon made beer”.

Marble – Tuckerlovsky Session IPA – 4.7%

Named for Marble’s head of sales and his wife, this punchy session IPA is made with a blend of Northern and Southern hemisphere hops. Bright citrus and juicy tropical fruits partner with a subtle malt sweetness.

The other half of the box is below…

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Magic Rock – Brother Chucker – 6.7%

A collaboration with their mates at Basqueland Brewing Project, brewed to remind them of a fun filled week of bikes, beer, baked cheesecake, big smiles and darts in the Basque region. A smooth malt bill featuring Golden Promise, wheat and golden naked oats, alongside a defined bitterness to aid drinkability. They then used lots of lovely piney/citrus Simcoe and limey New Zealand Motueka hops as well as a dash of tropically crazy HBC 438. The beer was fermented with their house WLP001 yeast for minimal aroma/flavour interference and super easy drinking refreshment. Bullseye!

Arbor – Piccolina – 3.2%

Big flavoured low alcohol session beer, brewed with Vienna malt & oats and Mosaic and Simcoe hops. I’d love to tell you more about it, but that’s all that’s been written about it so far! (Edit : my words are hoppy, crisp, dry and bitter, which makes for a lovely session ale, an easy drinking pint that you could drink plenty of.)

North Riding – Mosaic – 4.3%

Enter the new kid on the block, Mosaic hops are full of blueberry and citrus flavours and seriously pack a powerful punch to make a juicy banger of a pale ale. (Edit: this was a lovley session pale, so much fruitiness from the hops.)

Given that two thirds of the beers in this box are session strength, I suspect they won’t last very long, as I’m rather lacking in things that aren’t double IPAs or imperial dark beasts at the minute. I think 2018 will be seeing more sessionable brews…

Tesco Travesty, March 2018

When you’re on the go and have things to do then a supermarket sandwich can fill a hole in your day. When you get home and find that your “chicken, bacon and sausage” sandwich looks like this:-

Then something is not right in the world of supermarket sandwich makers. Even worse when this is a “premium” sandwich from the Finest range, which should definitely contain more than just half a teaspoon of bacon.

After eating this travesty I did tweet Tesco about it, and they later offered a refund which I accepted. I think that’s fair, given that the sandwich didn’t contain all of the things that it should have done.

The Marquis Cornwallis, Bloomsbury, March 2018

A lunch stop in London. The Marquis, affectionately known (by Mrs MOFAD and I at least) as the Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames’ character from Pulp Fiction) is a pub that has featured here before. Having stayed at the hotel opposite a number of times, it’s somewhere I’ve been to quite a bit.

As I was in the area, I popped in for lunch, and there was time for a drink and a sandwich. The drink was another Thornbridge beer, thanks to their craft beer residency also being here. This was Ena, a nitro milk stout that was smooth, sweet and creamy. Little coffee hint and plenty of roastiness.

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Lunch was a posh fish finger sandwich (I love a posh fish finger) and chips, and was perfectly pleasant.

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It’s good to see that the Marquis is still on good form after a recent refit. More than can be said for our more local Marquis Wellington, which we are still boycotting.