The Needle & Pin Craft Beer Club – dark beer selection box #11 – October 2018

The nights are drawing in and the beers are getting darker. That’s not to say that there’s no place for a super hoppy IPA in these shorter months, but a few more winter warmers find their way into the shelf of delights.

Here’s the latest selection, two for now, four for later…

Amundsen – White Crow – 10.5%

A White Imperial Stout packed full of cocoa beans, vanilla beans, tonka beans as well as coffee beans. This beer has all the characteristics of a full bodied imperial stout, whilst at the same time being white.

Brew York – Viking DNA – 5.0%

A smooth well balanced porter with subtly smoky character formed from a rich blend of 6 different malts.

Cloudwater – Parkin Cake – 10%

To celebrate their 500th gyle, Cloudwater brewed an homage to Parkin, the oatmeal and ginger cake much favoured in Yorkshire. In the Imperial Brown Ale base is a rich blend of malts, oats and treacle for sweetness, and added ginger and spices for that distinctive aroma.

Kasteel – Bruin – 11.0%

A strong Belgian brown ale. After extensive tasting, trying to fulfil increasingly strict requirements, the brewmaster found themselves with a creamy, dark Belgian brown ale: Kasteelbier. The quality of the past is still unmatched and the beloved taste is very much of the present. Kasteelbier is a dark, artisanal beer, soft and mild, full and creamy. It can age for many, many years, as indicated on the bottle.

Left Handed Giant – Choc Orange Milk Stout – 5.1%

Deeper Water is a seasonal milk stout, brewed with lactose, vanilla and cacao nibs – this time it’s been given the chocolate orange treatment! Gemma would hate this, I might just love it.

Stillwater – Critical Thinking – 11%

Stillwater brew some incredible beers across the spectrum. This does not disappoint. An opaque black colour with a lovely tan head. Roasted malt flavour with notes of bitter chocolate and liquorice. Big sticky mouthfeel and warming alcohol notes.

img_9944

Filmore and Union, Skipton, September 2017

The walking tour of Skipton is drawing to a close. We’ve got a couple of pubs to visit later on, so for now a coffee and cake break. Filmore and Union are a small northern cafe chain, who started out in York in 2012 and have opened another ten sites since then.

There’s quite a lot of what might be termed “weird hippy food” on the menu in here, but this chocolate brownie and latte were very nice.

It’s the kind of place were you’d expect to find “smashed avocado on vegan toast”, “egg white omelette” and a bowl of granola for 7 quid. So yes, you’ll find all of those, but if you just want a decent coffee and a bit of cake, this will do nicely. Makes a nice change from Costa.

The Cake ‘Ole, Skipton, September 2017

Cake please!

After a gentle trundle around Skipton, we needed to stop off for tea and cake. There are plenty of options dotted around the town. We found ourselves in the Craven Court shopping centre and The Cake ‘Ole caught our eye (not least because it reminded us of Kerrie).

The wacky decor (sadly not pictured because we were too busy staring around the room and spotting things) certainly caught our eye so we grabbed a brightly covered table and ordered some tea, coffee and cake.

cakeole

Actually I was the only one who ordered the cake. Because chocolate orange cake.

Look at that dense deliciousness. It was lovely. A good cup of northern tea to go with it – proper loose leaves, none of this soft southern tea bag nonsense. Delightful mismatched crockery (this caused some uproar on Facebook) and all the mad decor. Lampshades without the shade (just the wire frame) with various birds perching on them, an upright cow, a crow watching suspiciously on. A selection of cuckoo clocks (and cuckoo clocks that made other noises). Pages of the Beano as wallpaper. A zebra.

Friendly and happy staff round things off nicely – a great place to pop in for tea and cake.

Hassop Station Cafe, Bakewell, Derbyshire, August 2017

How do you make a mess of the simple process of allowing a customer to order 2 cups of tea and 2 slices of cake? Alarmingly, it’s quite easy. Unlike most cafes, you decide to have two queues. One queue to order your food and drink. The other queue to pay for your order.

That shouldn’t really be enough to make a mess of things, it’s quite simple. However, if you really want to mess things up, don’t label these queues, and don’t make it obvious in any way whatsoever which queue is which. So when your unsuspecting customers arrive, they join a queue, get to the front (eventually, because it’s a busy Saturday afternoon), only to be told by the disinterested youth that they are in the wrong queue. So time to start it all over again.

A shame that this is how things started off (I swear they were utterly disorganised the last time that we were here too). The tea and cake were good, and they are so handily placed on the Monsal trail (and are always busy). They also hire bikes too, so they have a ready made captive audience. There are some decent things for sale in the shop, as well as the usual gift shop tat.

They just need to get a bit more organised.

The Hunting Lodge, Barrow upon Soar, June 2017

The photo you are about to see caused some uproar on Facebook. It is a standard picture of what we ate tonight, captured for the purposes of this blog, but posted to Facebook soon after it was taken. Two aspects of it concerned people. One, the size of the chicken breast (for that’s what it is, and not a slug as Ali and Chris suspected). Two, the lake of sauce that encroached on to the salad. This caused much consternation particularly from Hazel and Sharon, who were both quite offended by the contamination of the leaves by a warm sauce.

We shall return to all of that in a moment. Tonight, we were wandering around Barrow upon Soar, trying to win a treasure hunt, and reclaim our crown (we did not retain it last year). I say we, I had been on a train back from Newcastle for 4 hours, so I was only out on the trail for about 40 minutes.


After the hunt was over, all of the teams descended upon The Hunting Lodge where we had all pre-ordered from a small menu of items. All four of us on our table had ordered this Greek chicken dish, with chips and salad:-


As you can see, there is indeed a lake of garlic sauce, which takes up over half of the plate. And the chicken breast was rather on the small side. And the sauce does indeed encroach upon the salad. It was tasty, but a very tiny piece of chicken and the lack of a dam between salad and sauce did rather spoil things.

Pudding did make up for it in some way, hot chocolate fudge cake with chocolate sauce, but with squirty cream letting the side down.


I think the mass catering required had them off their game a bit, the food was better the last time I came here. And there was no decent beer on tonight either. We will be back again I’m sure.

Emerson & Wests, Market Harborough, May 2017

Our next stop on the Harbs tour de food was Emerson & Wests, a delicatessen and bakery who had some sweet and savoury treats to sample, including the lesser known Harborough Cheesecake, a baked cake with a pastry base, curd and sultanas. I also stocked up on a few beers from Langton Brewery as well as a little something else for Mrs MOFAD 🙂

(Edit : sadly these beers were not as exciting as their excellent packaging might suggest)

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.

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).

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.