Longboat – Table Table, York, April 2017

It’s chain pub time again. We’ve been staying at the attached Premier Inn this weekend (Blossom Street South, not to be confused with Blossom Street North which is 2 doors up the road!) It’s a very handy hotel for visitors to York on a budget, just a few minutes walk from the train station, and not too far from the city centre for day and night activities. Having walked back through the city centre carnage last night (hen nights all over the shop, and plenty of suitably refreshed ladies and gentlemen), I think it’s fair to say the hotel is just outside the carnage zone, which is a good thing in my opinion!

As with many Premier Inns (like last year’s one), it has a Table Table pub attached to it. That means a full breakfast for £8.99 each, the same price as this time last year. As usual, lots of stuff to choose from, various cereals, croissants, bagels, pancakes, fruits, etc.

If you have full days of exploring the city ahead of you (which we did both yesterday and today) then you need some tasty proteins from a full English. However, unlike last year, where the Table Table at Springwood Park cooked your breakfast to order, this was a standard hotel buffet job, with dishes sitting out under lamps, beans congealing away in dishes and fried eggs sitting in oil.

It was not bad:-

Good value given how much you get for £8.99, but it was by no means the best breakfast in the world. The sausages were rather anaemic, and the beans were rather tired. However, it was quick and convenient, which is what was needed this weekend.

Manor Organic Farm tea room, Long Whatton

Spring is springing! Around our way, this means an annual event – lambing days at a local farm. On these days they open up to the public so you can get up and close with nature, and cuddle a few of their pet lambs.

I think this is a great idea as it gets children closer to the world of food, and where things come from. It also shows the love and care that most farmers put into raising their livestock. There is much negative propaganda out there, and yes, there are poor farming practices still in this world, but if you think all farm animals are raised in sheds and kept in appalling conditions, come and see how it is done by people who care about their animals.

Anyway, enough gentle tub thumping, on to a quick lunch stop. The farm has a great farm shop, and a tea room that is open all year round, Wednesday to Saturday, 9:30-16:30. We popped in for a late lunch before going off to see lots of springy lambs bouncing around.

We were quite late so a few things had sold out (jacket potatoes in particular) but we all opted for variations on the sausage/bacon/egg bap (cob in local dialect).

Freshly cooked and delicious, a very tasty lunch. As we had spent some time staring longingly at the cakes, we had some of those too, with my choice of tiffin being the correct one – chocolatey, gooey and delightful.

If you are in the area, this is a lovely little tea room, and you can do some shopping at the farm shop afterwards.

Afternoon tea, Aqua Shard, London, March 2017

We do enjoy a spot of afternoon tea. Normally it’s in slightly more low key surroundings, but today is Mrs MOFAD’s birthday, and we wanted something special to celebrate. I booked this a few months in advance, and even though it was just an “ordinary” Tuesday, it was just as well that I did because it soon got very busy very quickly.

After a relaxed morning of present opening, breakfast and then an easy train journey (despite East Midlands Trains doing their best to spoil it by screwing up their reservations again), we were soon at London Bridge station, and outside the Shard. We stood and gawped for a little while and then entered the gift shop. Let’s get the Shard facts out of the way and then move on to lunch.

The Shard is a 95-storey skyscraper in Southwark, London. It is 309.7 metres (1,016 ft) high, currently the tallest building in the United Kingdom, the fourth tallest building in Europe and the 107th tallest building in the world. That will change soon I’m sure.

The glass-clad pyramidal tower has 72 habitable floors, with a viewing gallery and open-air observation deck on the 72nd floor, at a height of 244.3 metres (802 ft). It was designed by the Italian architect Renzo Piano and replaced Southwark Towers, a 24-storey office block built on the site in 1975.

So, there are the facts, let’s move on to our visit. You arrive at the ground floor, after a short stroll from London Bridge station. You can have a look around the gift shop if you’ve got some time to spare. When you’re ready, you are greeted in the lobby, and then your bags go through an airport-style x-ray scanner. Once they pass, you enter the lift and zoom up 31 floors to Aqua Shard.

We ordered the full afternoon tea experience for our lunch, and spent two hours leisurely grazing our way through it, accompanied by a glass of champagne and infinite tea.

Here is the tower of cake (more on those later).

There’s a huge selection of teas to choose from but we kept it trad with some English breakfast style teas, and they just kept on topping them up with as much tea as you want. You can also spot chocolate/meringue lollipops, more on those later too.

A slightly blurry sandwich shot next, some very traditional ones in this line up. Smoked salmon and cream cheese, cheese and pickle, egg, bacon and tomato, and cucumber on rye bread. This was the first plate, another was to follow.

Some cakes next, a light sponge with chocolate and caramel, and a shard of chocolate on the outside. If you have a restaurant in the Shard, you have to have a shard somewhere in your food. You can also see a fruity/moussey/crumbley thing.

No afternoon tea would be complete without freshly baked scones, both plain and with golden raisins. You will note that these are pictured being served correctly, jam first.

More cake? Ok then. A light and fluffy victoria sponge with cream and jam. I’m not sure that the WI would quite approve, but I certainly did.

There has to be a chocolate cake somewhere, and this chocolate brownie with an orange cream was a delicious cocoa-ey bite.

And last but not least, that chocolate meringue lollipop, blurred here to show you the view from the Shard.

The service was relaxed, friendly, unhurried. A comedy French maître d’hôtel kept us entertained, jokingly chastising a junior colleague on a small error, photo-bombing some old ladies’ selfies and just generally keeping things light. No need for lots of starched stuffiness. When you opt for a dining experience like this one, there’s always a worry that you will be made to feel uncomfortable if these surroundings are not places you spend a lot of time in. That was not the case.

Nor were we surrounded by hordes of hooray Henries, which is another potential worry. There were a few corporate lunches going on around us, but the overwhelming majority of tables were filled with couples enjoying a pleasant lunch and relaxing, high above the hustle and bustle of central London.

When the bill arrives (as it inevitably must), it also appears with understated elegance.

And even the view from the toilet is rather splendid.

Just time for one last look down before hopping into the lift and zooming back down to the ground. floor

A fantastic lunch. If you are looking for a special experience for a special occasion, this won’t disappoint. Aqua Shard has put together the right mix of everything to make things feel just right.

The King’s Head Hotel, Thirlmere, January 2017

Tropical storm Desmond brought us here.

After the utter devastation that December 2015 brought to many parts of Cumbria, the county was almost cut in half by the closure of the A591 between Grasmere and Legburthwaite, due to parts being washed away near Dunmail Raise and landslip alongside Thirlmere. In 2009 it was voted “Britain’s favourite road”. In 2016 it was the subject of major works in order to get it back open again.

It reopened in May 2016, and in June 2016 we drove down some of it in order to get to a walk on the west side of Thirlmere. From the west side you could see across Thirlmere and get glimpses at all of the work that had done over the previous six months, as well as seeing some of the damage, the tiny trickles that have since turned into ravines.

Fast forward to today, and we had a walk that started from the Steel End car park at the south western corner of Thirlmere. Owned by the evil empire of United Utilities, it is still free to park in, their way of giving something back to the county. We walked along the eastern edge of Thirlmere, along many newly made and restored paths. The devastation was there to see in close up.

At the end of our walk, we found ourselves at The King’s Head Hotel in Thirlmere. It is one of those handy establishments that doesn’t stop serving food at 2pm, which was just as well as we didn’t get here until some time after that. We have been here once before, but just to park before our ascent of Thirlmere…

Off to the bar first, and time for a former Lakeland classic (now part of the Marston’s empire), Cocker Hoop by Jennings Brewery, a classic bitter golden ale.

Food next, and somewhere between the order being taken and heading off to the kitchen, my ham and cheese panino turned into bacon and brie, which is essentially just ham and cheese by another name. It was very nice, but not what I ordered. At this time, I was too tired to debate the matter, so tucked in. Nice side salad and always good to see some classic pickle on the plate too.

By this point, we had some time to kill before we caught the bus back to our starting point, so it was time for a coffee, a most unusual thing for me in a pub!

The story of the bus will follow in a moment, but The King’s Head is a great place for lunch if you are in the area – there aren’t many options to choose from, so it’s always nice that the option that you have is a good one.

The Mortal Man, Troutbeck, January 2017

The Mortal Man is another MOFAD favourite. As I mentioned back in 2014 (twice) and 2016, we always do a walk which incorporates it, usually over from Ambleside via Wansfell. Today was a lovely crisp winter’s day, with a tiny bit of snow and a lot of ice on the ground (necessitating the use of the Kahtoola microspikes), and the pub was warm and inviting as ever.

The usual pint of Loughrigg by Hesket Newmarket awaited (I seem to have it every time we come here). The cider festival was on as usual so Mrs MOFAD treated herself to a few halves. The first was a Monkey Mango by Cockeyed Cider…

With so many visits, we can now compare the changing of the club sandwich. It’s fair to say that it was at its peak in 2014 and has deteriorated a bit since. The flavours are still good, but the removal of the plate and the lack of toasting change it from being a proper club sandwich.

Let’s see 2017 in close up:-

It was a tasty sandwich, featuring the right number of layers at last, but a club sandwich should be toasted. Mrs MOFAD also had a good sandwich which was enjoyed with Side-r Elderflower cider by Glebe Farm, intense floral notes but a little acidic.

My bonus beer today (no driving at the end of this walk) was a familiar name, Sally Birkett’s Ale. Until early 2016, it was brewed just down the road by Hawkshead Brewery, exclusively for The Mortal Man. The beer takes its name from the poem on the sign outside the pub (which is also where the pub’s name comes from):-

“O mortal man that lives by bread
what is it makes they nose so red?
Thou silly fool, that look’st so pale,
‘Tis drinking Sally Birketts ale.”

The beer is now brewed in Carnforth, by Old School Brewery, and is still exclusive to The Mortal Man. A good session ale.

A MOFAD card was left on a previous visit, and it is still here :-

A lovely visit to The Mortal Man as ever, and suitably refreshed we began our return journey to Ambleside…

Wainwrights’ Inn, Chapel Stile, January 2017

Not to be confused with The Wainwright in Keswick, Wainwrights’ Inn in Chapel Stile is part of the Langdale Estate, which includes the Langdale Hotel, Brimstone Spa and Stove Restaurant and Bar. We were last at the Langdale Hotel way back in June 1999, for the wedding reception of my dad’s cousin Frank & his wife Sheila. Frank has since departed this mortal coil, but as the man who introduced us to many secret parts of Cumbria, he will always be remembered.

Anyway, on to today’s visit. We parked over in Skelwith Bridge, and followed a largely familiar route up to Neaum Crag (site of our first Lakes winter holiday), skirting around Loughrigg Tarn, up to High Close and then down through Walthwaite and into Chapel Stile.

A familiar sight coming next too. Wainwrights’ Inn have also subscribed to the tasting bat/paddle methodology, which allows you to enjoy 3 x 1/3 pint glasses of different beer. We managed to confuse them by requesting Tirril Pennine Pilsner as one of the three beers, but they eventually worked out that it was a proper beer so could be included. That was a light and refreshing pilsner, and it was joined by Derwent Brewery’s Cote Light (easy drinking light ale) and Penning Brewing’s Jingle Bell Rock (pleasant session bitter with standard festive pun name).

Lunch arrived on boards (boo – we want plates!) but was utterly delicious. A warm chicken, bacon & melted cheese baguette, served with a salad garnish and barbecue sauce. We also ordered some chips to share.

A great start to a New Year of eating and drinking. Three new beers to kick off #tryanuary, and a new pub too. Can’t ask for much more, apart from lovely food, which it certainly was. Dog friendly and walker friendly, Wainwrights’ Inn is a jewel in Chapel Stile, and hightly recommended if you are in the area.

I assume that the position of the possessive apostrophe means that the Inn is for all of the 214 Wainwrights rather than just Alfred…

The Queen’s Head, Ambleside, December 2016

An unplanned dinner. As mentioned in my White Lion post, they were having kitchen troubles again, so we needed to find somewhere else to eat before our assault on the pub quiz in the White Lion (which is why we had come out tonight). We’ve been to The Queen’s Head a few times before over the years, so it was a simple decision to nip across the road and dive in here for a quick dinner. A creamy and smooth porter to refresh the palate first (although nothing interesting for Mrs MOFAD) :-

Plenty of pub classics to choose from on the menu, and we both opted for the chicken breast wrapped in bacon and served with a creamy mushroom sauce, chips and “seasonal veg” which included this rather anaemic looking cabbage.

I like my cabbage to be a vibrant dark green and full of irony goodness. This cabbage wasn’t that, very stalky and crunchy. The parnsips and carrots were nice, and the chips were great, crispy on the outside and floofy in the middle.

The sauce was lovely too and it made for a very nice meal – we were in and out fairly quickly but that is exactly what we were aiming to do. On another day we could have lingered a little longer and had dessert and a pudding beer, but there was a pub quiz with our name on it across the road, so we headed back out into the dark night…