Want to buy Britain’s greatest supermarket?

Sad news reaches me today. Booths is up for sale. If you’ve got a spare £150,000,000 lying around and are a nice person (not an evil Ian Tesco) then you could buy this lovely supermarket chain that has been owned by the same family for five generations.

They’ve had to call in accountants and advisers after difficult times in the last 2 years, certainly not helped by Storm Desmond which caused huge damage to some stores, particaularly Keswick (which was back up and running better than ever as soon as it possibly could be).

Hopefully someone will step in and keep this wonderful supermarket – that never feels like one – going in the way that it has been going for the last 150 years…

Read a bit more in my first ever Booths post…

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Manchester Smokehouse and Cellar, Lloyd Street, November 2017

A rainy Manchester Sunday. We had been wandering about the Manchester Museum this morning, and were going to have lunch in the cafe. However, an impromptu fire alarm cut short our visit, and after standing around in the cold for 10 minutes or so we decided there was no chance of getting back in for more mooching around, so we wandered back up towards the town hall (where we had been wandering around the Christmas market yesterday afternoon).

The market wasn’t quite as heaving as it was yesterday, but it was still busy and many of the nearby venues were happy as a result (there was a 45 minute wait for a table at the Slug & Lettuce for example). Just a few steps down a side street, we settled on Manchester Smokehouse and Cellar, which sounds like the perfect combination of two of my favourite things – smoked meats and beer. According to their web site, they “stock award winning craft, draught, cask and world beers along with the best selection of ciders…”

A quick look around fails to turn up any of those cask beers. No hand pulls in sight. Plenty of keg lines though, so that should be ok.

Stella – no. Likewise Stella Cidre.

Bud Light – no.

BrewDog Punk IPA – why? There’s a BrewDog bar just a couple of hundred yards around the corner, where they’ve got all manner of BrewDog beers which are better than their first ever offering.

Boddingtons – no. They still advertise it as a Manchester beer, despite the fact no beer bearing this name has been brewed in the city since 2012, when the cask version stopped being produced at Hydes in Moss Side. The current “beer” is produced elsewhere in Lancashire.

On to the bottles then. Crafty Dan’s 13 Guns is a good choice, lots of soft hoppy flavours but I was in the mood for something else. Wells Banana Bread Beer used to be a favourite, but as with most things swallowed by Marston’s, I tend to avoid it now.

Brewdog Elvis Juice has a good grapefruit flavour and would be a reasonable choice.

Corona – nope. The same goes for Desperados and the two Crabbies. Duvel (aka devil) is not exactly a light lunchtime tipple, the same goes for Kwak and St Stefanus Blonde. All of these are supermarket beers nowadays.

Einstok White Ale is available in supermarkets now, Hop House 13 shouldn’t have the word hop near it, and Liefmans Fruitesse is an insult to fruit beers, far too sweet and with at least a 4 quid mark up to make it appear exotic.

This all sounds like I’m being a bit of a beer snob, but if you are calling yourself a “cellar” in this city full of great breweries, you should be stocking some of them. Cloudwater, Alphabet, Marble, Tickety Brew, Runaway, Beer Nouveau, ShinDigger, Burton Road, Beatnikz Republic, Four Kings, Blackjacj, Chorlton, First Chop, Manchester Brewing, Seven Bro7hers and on and on it goes.

No sign of any of them, just beers from some big names and one or two interesting things from further afield.

In the end I settled on Hogs Back Montezuma Chocolate Lager, something I’d had before. The chocolate notes go well with chilli flavours.

On to lunch then.

We fancied something quite light today, so opted to mix and match from the menu. We had nachos with pulled pork (nicely smoked), and all the usual accompaniments of jalapenos, guacamole, salsa, melted cheese and sour cream. We also ordered the pineapple slaw (lots of tasty pineapple pieces), and sweet potato fries (because 2017).

It was a nice light lunch for us, just a shame that the “cellar” part doesn’t work as well as the smokehouse part.

Kro bar, Oxford Road, Manchester, November 2017

A return visit to Kro bar, but a first visit for Mrs MOFAD. We’ve both been to Manchester separately, but this weeked was the first time we’ve been here together. Shortly after this, we are off to the Apollo for Hacienda Classical, which is exactly what it sounds like. A full orchestra playing some classic dance tracks from the glory days of the Hacienda, with Graeme Park and Mike Pickering on the decks.

Before that though, dinner, and Kro bar was perfectly situated halfway between our hotel and the venue, so we went there after my recommendation from previous visits. Nothing appears to have changed in the last 2 years, which is a good things as far as I’m concerned.

We started at the bar and ordered some drinks, a Mango Cider from Lilley’s Cider for Mrs MOFAD (sweet and easy drinking):-

and a pint of Our Town by Brightside Brewing Company for me, a bitter and hoppy ale with Columbus hops:-

On to dinner. Plenty of things to choose from, small plates to start, various hot sandwiches, Danish dogs (as in sausage, not actual dog), “Danwiches” (open sandwiches), burgers (although the schnitzel burger from my last visit has gone), salads, meat or fish platters, fish’n’chips and more. Mrs MOFAD opted for salmon and prawn papardelle, a creamy sauce with smoked salmon, prawns, peas and fresh dill served over pasta ribbons.

My choice was the Schnitzel, a breaded pork escalope served on sautéed potatoes
and topped with a fried egg and beetroot.

This was a good schnitzel, just like last time. Crisp on the outside, soft in the middle, with the sautéed potatoes following suit. A bit more salad might have been good, but a few good leaves did the job (no limp iceberg here). A decent dinner, and I’ll probably be back next year for my next Manchester trip.

The gig was brilliant, as you might expect.

American craft beer night, The Needle & Pin, Loughborough, November 2017

Another night at the N&P. We were on holiday last month, so missed the Scandinavian night (although I received remote taunting from Alec who was in attendance). No clash tonight, so it was time for another collection of interesting beers and some good chat. Tonight’s theme was American beer, all IPAs, from a couple of regions of the USA.

We kicked off with Evil Twin Citra Sunshine Slacker, a collaboration between Evil Twin of New York, and 7venth Sun (that’s not a spelling mistake). A light golden beer with a thin layer of white foam on top, and light lacing down the glass. A decent session pale but I’m not sure I’d agree with Evil Twin’s definition of this as a session IPA. Good notes of Citra hop, the classic lemon/citrus flavour.

All the way to the west coast now for San Diego’s Green Flash, who have been brewing for 15 years. Well known to coastal dwellers, the legendary Green Flash is one of nature’s marvels. Only under perfect weather conditions, just for a sudden second, the day’s last rays of sunshine turn a blindingly brilliant emerald green on the horizon. It is said, by those lucky enough to witness it, that it makes the perfect ending to the perfect day. At Green Flash, it is the inspiration to explore and discover perfect ingredients and brewing conditions to craft unique, awe-inspiring ales.

Passion Fruit Kicker is a smooth beer with a sweet yet tart fruity flavour, made by layering passion fruit tea and passion fruit juice with wheat malt and malted barley. It has a subtle passion fruit flavour, full of fruity and fizzy fun.

Down the road next to Point Loma, also in San Diego, and Modern Times brewery. Modern Times is named after a beautifully crazy utopian community founded in 1850. Some people got together on Long Island who thought they could demonstrate to the world what a more perfect society might look like. They bartered, lived without a state, sometimes ignored the conventions of marriage, and generally experimented with creating a less exploitative, more pleasurable world. Naturally, the whole thing eventually imploded when some other people from New York City found out about the “free love colony” just a train ride away and overran it. It’s now Brentwood, NY. It sounds a bit different to Brentwood, Essex, where I went to school for 7 years…

Fortunate Islands shares the characteristics of an IPA and an easy drinking wheat beer. A dose of Citra and Amarillo hops gives tropical flavours of mango, tangerine and passion fruit. A malt bill of 60% wheat malt gives a smooth malty backbone and restrained bitterness. I couldn’t detect any of that wheaty goodness, this was a standard Citra pale ale which is just fine with me. We agreed that this should have come before the Passion Fruit Kicker, but when you only have the brewer’s tasting notes to go on (and no spare cans to taste), it’s always difficult to put together a running order.

Off into the mountains just outside San Diego next, to Alpine Brewing Company, who are a subsidiary of Green Flash. Windows Up is an IPA made with Mosaic and Citra hops. It pours a hazy straw colour and is topped with a bright white foam. Piney aromas mingle with fruity notes and hints of citrus, alongside a lingering resinous quality. This all mixes together to create a bitter beast, not the easy drinkers of earlier on, but something to be taken seriously.

The final beer for the night was due to be Founders Fedankulous DIPA. This bold, 9.5% Imperial Red IPA pours a pleasing burnt amber colour. Caramalt and roasted barley introduce a subtle sweetness, but the hops are the true headliner in this big IPA. The spicy, piney and tropical complexities of Chinook, Mosaic and Simcoe hops hit you right away with their dank aroma – and they stick around. It’s not just ridiculous. It’s reDANKulous.

However, you’ll have to wait to hear about that, because I had to get to get up for work in the morning, so had to duck out early and take mine home with me. Watch out for a review of that another day. Maybe. It’s joining an ever growing queue of DIPAs in the beer cupboard 🙂

Another great night of beer exploration at the Needle & Pin. Looking forward to the next one (which is only a few weeks away!)

The Coach and Horses, Kibworth, November 2017

A sunny Saturday stroll today, with regular walking friends and a couple more who we hadn’t seen for a while. We started in Glooston (yes, it’s a real place) and had parked next to the village hall and village pub. We walked almost 7 miles, and got back to our starting point at just after 2:30pm.

Sadly this was too late for the village pub, as they stop serving food at 2pm, one of my pet hates. Luckily we had already catered for this eventuality, and had found a sensible pub that doesn’t close their kitchen at 2pm. So along with Mrs MOFAD and regular walking and dining companions Karon and John, I took a short drive, taking in part of the route home, and we arrived in Kibworth and walked straight into this lovely welcoming pub, with a fire crackling away in the corner.

They’ve recently had a refurbishment, and they’ve done a nice job, keeping the character of the pub, but just making everything clean and fresh. We turned right into the small dining room, perused the menu and then popped up to the bar to order.

A late lunch for us today, so drinks and sandwiches were in order. A couple of decent cask ales on (Hobsons Best, a familiar face from near Ludlow, and Purity Mad Goose from Warwickshire).

Some nice sandwiches to choose from, Mrs MOFAD opted for the tuna melt on sourdough, and the rest of us chose the posh fish finger sandwich.

And a posh fish finger sandwich it was indeed. Lovely soft bloomer, delicious crispy beer battered fish goujons, tasty fat and crispy chips, and a little pot of lightly mushed peas, which make a good dip for your chips.

Lovely food, friendly staff and a nice atmosphere. A cracking little pub right on the A6, so it’s very easy to get to. We’ll be back when we’re next in the area.

The King’s Arms, Hathern, November 2017

A second visit to The King’s Arms in the MOFAD era, although somewhere that we’ve been to a few times, usually for get togethers with walking friends. The same applied tonight, although we didn’t find out about tonight’s gathering until Saturday, as it had somehow slipped under our collective radar.

When you’ve got 30 odd people descending on a pub, you need a certain type of pub that can cope with such things. The posher chain pub wants everyone to be eating, the micropub doesn’t have quite enough room. So this is the level you settle for, a Marston’s chain pub, so you’ll know exactly what you’re getting. A range of different food options and several beers from the Marston’s empire, including Ringwood and Jennings and a few others that look like they are not from the empire, but they are. With a permanent 2-4-1 deal on food, you need to go with a friend if you don’t want to pay twice as much as everyone else.

Tonight’s beer choice was this month’s seasonal offering from Jennings, Pie in the Sky. It is alleged to be “a robust full bodied beer with pale ale malt and the finest roasted malts combined with whole cone English Fuggle hops to deliver a robust flavour”.

It was just so bland. Before they were owned by the evil empire, I liked Jennings. Hops? Malts? Where? I’m not looking for Cloudwater levels of hoppiness in every pint, but just a decent pint of cask ale would do. It was just so meh.

The food was standard chain pub fodder, I opted for the pulled pork burger, which matched the beer because it was also surprisingly bland. The pulled pork was naked, no sauce, no flavourings, just nude pork (that will get some odd hits for this blog post). It was all ok, but just that. And look at that cheese, it hasn’t even melted in the slightest.

Mrs MOFAD opted for the curry (she does like a pub curry), which was more interesting, although the naan bread was more like a tiny saddle cover for a bicycle seat. Her cider was more interesting, which is not something I thought I would ever say about Bulmer’s.

This does come across as a bit snobby, and it’s not meant to, but this was another of those nights when the company was more important than the food and drink. Again, there was nothing bad, it was just fairly non-descript.

Ellis’ Tea Room, Rothley Station (Great Central Railway), November 2017

The Great Central Railway is the UK’s only double track, main line heritage railway. It’s the only place in the world where full size steam engines can be seen passing each other – just as it was when steam ruled the rails. And it’s just down the road from us, which is rather handy. We’ve been to various bits of it over the years, been to the beer festival (every September), been on the dining experience trip (many years ago), and Mrs MOFAD had her 40th birthday party in one of the carriages as we steamed to Leicester and back. It was a great night.

Trains run every weekend of the year, bank holidays and selected weekdays throughout the summer.  The railway has won a number of awards including “independent railway of the year”, a gold award for the East Midlands’ best visitor experience and is a quality assured visitor attraction as designated by Enjoy England.

The latest project is to reconnect the northern part of the line which ran towards Nottingham (the clock tower outside the Victoria Centre is all that remains of Nottingham Victoria station). You can see more about the project here:-

Each station along the line (Loughborough, Quorn and Woodhouse, Rothley and Leicester North) has its own food and drink offerings. Loughborough has a buffet cafe and a shop on the main platform. Quorn and Woodhouse has the Butler Henderson cafe and the NAAFI tearoom. Leicester North as the Station tearoom (tea, coffee, snacks, cakes).

Our destination was Rothely station, and Ellis’ Tea Room. There’s also the Station tearoom on the platform, but Ellis’ Tea Room is separate to that. The building which houses it was built in 1899 when the Great Central Railway was opened. Local firm Joseph Ellis and Sons Ltd used it to store corn and coal, ready to be collected by wagons and sent around the country by train. The building fell out of use well before the GCR was preserved but has now been fully restored and carefully converted to a tea room. It serves hot and cold drinks, homemade cakes, sandwiches, light lunches and ice creams.

Today we both had panini, ham and cheese for me, tuna melt for Mrs MOFAD. The cafe was very busy and our lunch took a while to arrive but it was very tasty when it did. They do prioritise lunches for those people who have a train to catch, which makes sense.

A simple lunch today, just what was required on a crisp autumn day. And no visit to a steam railway is complete without taking a photo or two of a train. Obvs.