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.

York Tap, York Station, April 2017

The team at the York Tap are dedicated to serving the very best in British and continental ale and craft beer across 32 lines. You will find traditional local cask conditioned ales, and European pilsners sitting alongside American craft beers. The tap is perfectly situated on platform 1 of York station (also accessible from the street).  It’s very hard to miss the lovely listed Edwardian building, with very attractive stained glass windows and skylights. They also offer a range of carefully selected fine wines, spirits and soft drinks alongside a small but perfectly formed nibbles menu.

If you have timed your journey to arrive on a Friday lunchtime (like what we did), then you can get straight off your train, head across to plaform 1, and straight into the Tap. Park your suitcase at a table and then head off to the bar and order.

Loads of beer to choose from, all of those aforementioned lines, as well as lots of bottles and cans. First up I opted for the wonderfully named “Lime in the Coconut” from Bristol based Arbor Ales, who are fast becoming a favourite of mine. A very solid IPA with very subtle hints of lime and coconut. Easy drinking on its own but I think this would be wonderful with a Thai green curry.

Mrs MOFAD opted for Floris Passion from Brouwerij Huyghe, also very tasty and very easy drinking, with subtle passion fruit flavours.

Food next, and we opted for a couple of slates (they are at least honest in telling you that you will be getting slates instead of plates). Mrs MOFAD had the pate slate with melba toast and mango chutney, all of which were delicious and worked well in combination.

I chose the meat and olives option, with added manchego cheese. It was an end piece of manchego, so it needed a bit more shaving to eat it. All very good ingredients, tasty meat, nice cheese and very good olives. A simple and tasty lunch.

This was accompanied by Thornbridge Galaxia, not an 80s Space Invaders game, but an Australian pale ale made with the Oz hop Galaxy.

It is certainly a classic Aussie pale, hoppy and delightful. I could have stayed here all afternoon working through all of the taps, but we had things to do and places to explore, so headed out of the door and off to our hotel. We might just pop back in on Sunday evening though 🙂

The perfect introduction to York for any train traveller, and the perfect excuse to let the train take the strain (other British Rail advertising slogans are available).

Dark Beer night at The Needle & Pin, February 2017

The latest Needle & Pin event is upon us. This one turned out to have a little twist on all of the previous beer tasting events. There was a little bit of food involved, pairing some little nibbles with a selection of 5 dark beers. Tonight’s event sold out in record time, and got expanded a few times. It seems that there are plenty of dark beer fans out there.

Once again, this feels like one of those events that you expect to find in London bars and brewery taps, so it’s really great to have it in our sleepy little market town. Let’s begin…

Gouden Carolus Classic was awarded “world’s best dark ale” at the 2012 World Beer awards, and also won gold at the 2015 awards. It pours a deep red, viscous with sweet notes or raisin, toffee and chocolate.

This was paired with some cave aged Gruyere cheese, and this was a great match, bringing out the creamy flavours of the cheese, and the sweet raisins in the beer.

Moor Stout is dark, smooth and rich, with roasted barley and bitter chocolate. Simple, unpretentious and highly drinkable, it has the hallmarks of a classic black beer, no unicorn hair, solar dust or celebrity nail clippings.

There were 2 potential matches with this one. Some Bavarian smoked cheese was first, but for me it didn’t work as it was way too subtle. I like my smoked cheeses to have little wisps of smoke coming out of them (heavily smoked) but this was too subtle for my tastes. The second match was Roquefort, and that was a winner, with the tanginess standing up very well against the heavy roast flavours of the beer.

Beavertown Smog Rocket Smoked Porter was inspired by London’s industrial revolution, when smog filled the air and the London porter was the beer of the working man. This was an original home brew recipe, using 9 different malts, including plenty of smoked Rauchmaltz from Bamberg in Germany. Big flavour hits of molasses, rasins and caramel are cut through by the resinous American Chinook hop. Smoky aromas abound, reminiscent of the smoke stacks of industrial London.

This match was my favourite of the night, smoked brisket from across the road at The Hog Stop. An extra smoky brisket was commissioned, to match up with the lovely chocolate smokiness from the Smog Rocket. Both were delicious.

Thornbridge’s Eldon is named after the Eldon Hole, one of the seven wonders of the Peak District. It is a Bourbon oak imperial stout, smooth and roasty, brewed with demerara sugar, with added complexity coming from the Bourbon soured oak. Caramel, coffee and chocolate mix with a hint of vanilla and Kentucky bourbon.

The food match for this was a piece of last minute inspiration, a Medjool date to match with some of the sweetness from the demarara sugar. The match was good, although this was probably my least favourite beer of the night. It felt a bit thin and underwhelming, unusual for a Thornbridge beer.

Finally, Bristol Beer Factory Milk Stout. This award winning national champion stout is a beautifully creamy, full-bodied stout, the likes of which were brewed nearly a century ago on the very site of the Bristol Beer Factory today. Does not contain milk. Invigorating & stimulating for workers (or so they used to say). Brewed within the city of Bristol from local raw materials, sweet, black and extremely full-bodied. Unfermentable lactose sugar (added during the boil) sweetens the chocolate and black malt derived roast flavours. An historic beer, recreated for the modern drinker.

This matched nicely with one of Rebecca’s (aka Mrs Needle & Pin) hand made creations, an Oreo and salted caramel petit four. The sweetness balanced nicely between the two, and rounded off a lovely evening of beer tasting and chat, with the added bonus of some nice nibbles.

There’s always time for some shopping, usually this involves picking up things that I’ve previously reserved, and tonight was no exception. Several new Cloudwater brews (and a delicious coffee porter for MOFAD supplier Matt) as well as a couple of new IPAs, a barrel aged weisse and two imperial stouts (one for Matt).

Another great night out at the Needle & Pin, not hard to see why it was my pub of the year for 2016

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!

Pub of the month, January 2017 – The Mortal Man, Troutbeck

January 2017 has been a tale of two parts. The first part (the first three days of January) contains all of the pubs in the running for pub of the month. The second part (the rest of the month) had three more pub visits, but to very disappointing chain pubs, including one that had no beer (Carling does not count as beer).

Off we go with our first contender. The King’s Head Hotel in Thirlmere is somewhere that we have been once before. However, the last time we came here (16th June 2010), all we did was park in the car park, before ascending Helvellyn. Yes, we have a list of Wainwrights that we have conquered and when, which is why I can quote that date.

Our visit was inspired by tropical storm Desmond, which had wreaked havoc in this area just over 12 months ago. We had a walk to take in some of the newly repaired and redirected paths in the area, and ending up at The King’s Head for lunch.

The King’s Head is one of those handy places that doesn’t down tools at 2pm, so when you arrive after that time you will be pleased to know that you can still order some lunch and a pint, such as this former Lakeland classic (now part of the Marston’s empire), Cocker Hoop by Jennings Brewery, a classic bitter golden ale.

Somewhere between our 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.

A nice lunch at this classic Lakeland inn.

We wind back the clock two days, and find ourselves in Wainwrights’ Inn, in Chapel Stile, part of the Langdale Estate. Again, we’ve been to the Langdale Estate before, way back in 1999 this time. Today, a largely familiar walk led us here for lunch.

Wainwrights’ Inn have 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. 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. 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…

We come on to our winner, somewhere which has featured here a few times already. The Mortal Man is definitely a MOFAD favourite, and we usually walk over from Ambleside via Wansfell to have lunch here.

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

A lovely visit to The Mortal Man as ever, and a worthy winner of pub of the month.

St Joseph’s Tearoom, Whitwick, January 2017

It’s another short and sweet post covering a short and sweet visit. Just like the first time we came here, we had been out walking around our Charnwood Letterbox trail. Today we were doing the walk in sections, and drove here after completing the first section, just in time for lunch.

No need for a boring fizzy drink here. A traditional Italian version of Orangina, Aranciata from Paoletti Bibite. You don’t see that very often. And by that I mean ever. Because it’s the first time I’ve encountered it…

A quick and simple lunch, ham and cheese toastie with a salad garnish. No frills, no messing about. Tangy cheese and tasty ham melted together into warm goodness.

A quick and simple lunch and we were soon off and on our way. St Joseph’s is a lovely little place.

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.