The Tea Junction, Hulme End, May 2017

The Tea Junction at Hulme End opened in 2009 after much controversy over the costs of refurbishing the former railway shed, even though the railway that it served closed in 1934!

We first came across it in 2013 when we were camping just a few hundred yards away. It’s the perfect place for some food and drink at the start or end of your journey up or down the Manifold Way, which runs along the old railway bed from Hulme End to Waterhouses (near Leek). If you start at Waterhouses, then it’s perfectly placed in the middle of your “there and back” route.

There’s the usual selection of hot drinks including several teas, various soft drinks and plenty of home made cakes to accompany them. Savoury options too, including soup, Staffordshire oatcakes and sandwiches.

Today we dropped in at the end of our walk to Wetton Mill and back (via Ecton Hill and the Manifold Way). A well earned cup of tea and some cake was our reward for a lovely walk. An added bonus is the delightful mish mash of crockery that you are presented with:-

There’s always the opportunity for a chat with the lovely owner Rebecca, who is genuinely interested in everyone who comes in, what they’ve been up to, what they’ve encountered whilst out and about and anything else you want to talk about.

This quirky little cafe is a delight, and a great place to stop for refreshments on the Manifold Way.

National Trust Cafe, Longshaw Estate, April 2017

A soggy Easter Sunday. We had plans for a certain walk today, but conditions were not conducive to this, so we adapted our plans, and decided to head over to the Longshaw Estate for lunch, and then head out to Carl Wark fort and Higger Tor. Free parking (as we are National Trust members) is always an attraction!

As it was Easter Sunday, it was absolutely packed inside the cafe, but we managed to spot a family leaving their table at the back and quickly swooped in to grab it. The cafe itself is a little confused, as it also doubles as a shop. This means that valuable table space (particularly on a busy bank holiday weekend) is wasted by island display units selling standard NT toys and tat.  It needs a bit of a rethink.

On to lunch. After queuing up for a bit, we were expecting a bit of a wait for food, but it turned up pretty speedily. Mrs MOFAD ordered a jacket potato with tuna mayo, and I went for the safe option of a ploughmans.

Reasonably priced, it was a nice little lunch and a reasonably decent interpretation of a ploughmans. The ham was tasty, some decent leaves (no limp iceberg in sight) and home made coleslaw (not too much onion). The rest of the usual salad items were missing though, no tomatoes, no pickled onion (Mrs MOFAD was thankful for this), no apple.

Although I do have a question. Why grated cheese? This is the first time I think I’ve seen this on a ploughmans. It should be a nice chunk of cheese – grated cheese makes it much harder to eat! You have to mash it on to your fork so that you can get it into your mouth.

Apart from that oddity, a decent and speedy lunch. We were also treated to a surprise visit from MOFAD companions, Hazel, Matt, Kerrie & Andy, who we spent the day with yesterday. Kerrie’s window licking upon departure was a sight to behold.

If you’re having a day out at Longshaw or nearby, this is a good little place for lunch or tea and cake.

The Hydro, Buxton, April 2017

A short and sweet post. We were meeting up with friends for a wander round Buxton, but first we needed some quick refreshment. We had arranged to meet here and were soon settled in and ordering teas and coffees.

I had a reasonable latte, although the service was rather slow. And that’s about all there is to say.

Bradgate Park Conservatory Tea Room, Leicestershire

A sunny Sunday in spring. A weekend at home. So we were off out for a walk, parking up at Groby Pool (not for the reasons that most people park at Groby Pool), and heading off for a walk around the Leicestershire countryside.

We had planned our walk to arrive in Bradgate Park at lunchtime, and that is exactly what happened. As it was a nice sunny day, we found a table outside and then popped inside to order some lunch. The usual cafe selection of sandwiches, panini, etc. is available. Keeping it simple with ham and cheese panino today, tasty if it’s done right, a travesty if it’s done wrong.

Nothing to complain about here, decent ham and cheese, and speedy service. The anaemic salad garnish wasn’t anything to write home about, but then it so often isn’t. We also had some crisps and drinks and then treated ourselves to some cake (we still have to walk back to the car, so it’s important to be properly fuelled).

As ever, I chose the chocolate cake, rich and moist.

The Conservatory Tea Room is a great little place if you’re visiting Bradgate Park. Plenty of seating inside and out, and they open every day from 10am-5pm (4pm from March-November).

King Richard III Visitor Centre, Leicester

Interesting how a dead bloke in a car park can generate so much interest isn’t it? In August 2012, a new archaelogical dig began in a car park in Leicester. Richard III was famously killed in battle at the Battle of Bosworth Field (memorably depicted by Peter Cook in the first ever episode of The Blackadder). His body was taken to Greyfriars Friary and buried in a very crude grave. With Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries just around the corner (only 50 years later), the grave was lost, and the story that Richard’s bones had been chucked into the River Soar at Bow Bridge arose.

However, in September 2012, there was some certainty that the body found on the first day of the dig was that of Richard III, and DNA analysis showed that mitochondrial DNA extracted from the bones matched that of descendants of Richard’s sister Anne of York. Alongside other evidence, there was enough to convince the University of Leicester “beyond reasonable doubt” that the skeleton was that of Richard III.

In July 2014 a new visitor centre opened up in the former Alderman Newton School, and it has a very “old school” feel to it. As you enter (through the gift shop in a Banksy style) you are met with a throne and a projected film about Richard’s early life.

Off you then wander through displays about his short life, with stained glass, tapestry and classic museum style information boards. Upstairs is the Discovery zone, which tells the modern story of the archaelogical dig, the science involved in identifying the body, dramatic depictions of Richard III and a glowing skeleton on a fake CT scanner.

Once all that is explored, you can go and stand in a quiet room above the actual spot where the body was found. A glass floor allows you to stand right over it, and a tasteful projection of light recreates the shape of the skeleton in the grave site.

After that, there’s a cafe for lunch. There are brunch dishes served until 1:30pm and lunch dishes served from 12-2:30pm. There’s a choice of sandwiches, toasted sandwiches, jacket potatoes, quiches and salads. Later on you can also have afternoon tea.

We popped in for lunch. There were no jacket potatoes today so Mrs MOFAD had a toasted tuna crunch panini and I had the Leicester Ploughman’s – Melton Mowbray pork pie, Red Leicester and gammon ham.

It appeared on a slate. A medieval trencher I could have perhaps forgiven, but not a slate. A trencher may be edible, metal or wood, but never stone. Serving method aside, it was very nice. Good cheese, really tasty ham, a nice bit of pickle, a decent roll, decent pork pie and some good salad (a little let down by the strands of iceberg). A good ploughman’s and Mrs MOFAD’s sandwich was also good.

All in all it was a great morning out, a very interesting wander through a very local piece of history that has captured the nation’s interest. And the cafe’s not bad either. Shortly after this we were off to a comedy show in a curry house. The Leicester comedy festival is up and running!

Centro Lounge, Loughborough, November 2016

When is a Cosy Club not a Cosy Club? When it is a Loungers Lounge. The Cosy Club franchise is operated by Loungers who also own the “Lounge” neighbourhood café/bar franchise. So if some or all of this looks familiar, it’s because it is. We’ve been to the Cosy Club in Leicester a couple of times already (both almost exactly a year ago).

The Centro Lounge in Loughborough opened up this summer, as part of the new Cineworld development, and is one of a number of pre or post cinema dining options now available. Tonight we had an earlier screening to attend, so we needed some post cinema dining and decided to try the Centro Lounge.

There are a couple of decent beers on, as well as ciders and lots of cocktails. This Loungers Cruiser is brewed by Bristol Beer Factory specifically for the chain, cool and refreshing with some hints of hoppiness and bitterness.

On to food. Mrs MOFAD opted for the chicken, bacon and avocado burger with sweet potato fries, a grilled herb-marinated chicken breast with smoked streaky bacon, avocado, tomato, iceberg lettuce, garlic mayo and burger sauce:-

And I had the harissa-spiced chicken burger, chicken breast with red pepper mayo, pimento soft cheese and iceberg lettuce, which required a little deconstruction to get rid of the silly tin cup:-

This is what it should look like when there’s no silly cup, much better:-

Both of these were very tasty, but once again, the “house slaw” is way too heavy on the onion in fact it’s probably >75% onion. Iceberg lettuce is a bit of a cheap addition to the burgers with so many much better flavoured leaves now available. But they both make a nice dinner, and just what we needed as a quick bite to eat after a night out at the cinema. Quick and friendly service, very unfussy. We’ll be back!

Attenborough Nature Reserve cafe, Nottinghamshire, October 2016

A relaxed day today. After the shock of a week back at work, we had a quiet weekend at home. Yesterday we waved goodbye to our greenhouse, dismantling it and moving it on to a new forever home. Today we wanted a little stroll and a spot of bird nerding, as we’d enjoyed it a lot at Minsmere the previous week. Our local nerding spot is the Attenborough Nature Reserve, not too far over the border in Nottinghamshire. Several bird hides and lots of paths to stroll around. We’ve been here a few times for walks and bike rides.

We arrived at the cafe towards the end of lunch time, and soon found a table and then ordered at the counter. Simple things to choose from, sandwiches, soups, a stew, a choice of panini and some other bits and pieces.

A cheese and bacon panino for me, simple and tasty, and just the sort of thing you would expect from a nice little cafe like this. Token salad on the side, just enough to add some interest. I also had a packet of crisps, and they were “posh crisps” not just Golden Wonder cheese’n’onion.

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Suitably satisfied, we set off for a stroll in the afternoon sunshine and around a few of the hides to spot some birds. Some of our best spotting came from the hide just outside the cafe, where lots of juvenile lapwing were sunning themselves on the shores of one of the lakes.

A lovely little cafe and a lovely day out. Only £2 to park for the whole day too.