The King’s Head Hotel, Thirlmere, January 2018

It’s the first day of #tryanuary. So a trip to the pub is certainly in order. As ever, we do it the hard way, by sticking a hill somewhere along the route and getting up and down it before lunch. Today, that was Great How. Puzzlingly, it’s not a Wainwright, so our total for 2018 is zero for now. We got to the top and enjoyed lovely sunshine and great views. As soon as we were back at the bottom, the skies decided that it was time to open, and we walked the rest of the way to the pub in the rain. A classic Lakes walk.

We came to this pub almost exactly a year ago (on the day that started our hatred of the stupidly over-priced 555 bus). So we knew that they serve food all day, perfect when you’re out walking and you’re not exactly sure when you will arrive at the pub for lunch.

A similar sandwich to last year, but they got my order right today and delivered the requested ham and cheese instead of bacon and brie (technically ham and cheese).

The salad has shrunk a bit, but the pickle/chutney now comes in a little dish. Warm and tasty and just the thing to help dry out on a soggy day.

You’ll note the lack of beer, despite being the first day of #tryanuary. When all they’ve got is some Jennings beers which haven’t been locally owned since 2005, then I’ll save myself for some independent local beers later on. Tryanuary is about supporting local pubs and independent breweries, so whilst I’m happy that we supported a local pub, I don’t want any beer money going back to Wolverhampton. This rejection of anything owned by the Marston’s empire may seem a bit snobbish, but I just prefer to support smaller local breweries rather than the enormous beer conglomerate.

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Lake District Wildlife Park cafe, Bassenthwaite, Cumbria, December 2017

Keep it simple and you won’t go far wrong. A reasonable mantra for life and certainly for a business. After our aborted visit to the Wheatsheaf Inn, we came back this way, having driven past on our way to the “no food today” pub.

The Lake District Wildlife Park has been around for a while, but we’ve never been, as we are usually out in the hills with the actual local wildlife rather than the imported mandrils and red pandas in cages.

The most handy feature is that they have a cafe that serves food all day, and you can visit the cafe without paying to get in to the park itself, which is nice. Both Mrs MOFAD and I had a ham and cheese panino which comes with chilli tortilla chips and a nice coleslaw (not onion heavy).

Exactly what we wanted for today, well priced, tasty and quick. A friendly little cafe which is handily placed if you find yourself at the top end of Bassenthwaite Lake (the only lake in the Lake District).

We didn’t linger as there was one more Wainwright to ascend for 2017, and we had to get up and down before it got too dark…

The second Thornbridge night at The Needle & Pin, December 2017

A year ago, as part of the “twelve days of Thornbridge”, I went to the inaugural Thornbridge night at The Needle & Pin. The theme was “Serpent – deconstructed”, and we tasted our way through the components that make up Serpent, a collaboration between Thornbrige, Oliver’s Cider in Hereford, and Brooklyn Brewery. I think the bottle I bought last year will be the accompaniment to this year’s Xmas dinner.

The twelve days of Thornbridge are back, and this year’s event was a more relaxed affair, but still great fun. Meg from Thornbridge was back again to lead the event, but it was very much a choose your own adventure event, with a choice of 4 Thornbridge beers in any order, and cheeses to match.

I started out with Sampo and a little goat’s cheese. The Sampo is a Galaxy hopped pale ale, brewed with pineapple, which produces soft pineapple flavours, a nice cask pale ale.

Next up, a new version of an old classic, Dry Hopped Jaipur, which appears to take Jaipur back to its early days of what it used to taste like, creamy, hoppy and a nice bitter finish. Goes well with mature cheddar.

Whilst this was slipping down, a Thornbridge pub quiz was in full flow. Meg had 10 questions for us, although I still maintain that her clues made some of the questions too easy. No matter, as My Pointess Friend Richard thrashed the opposition to take home the prizes of Thornbridge merch and bottled beers.

Victory complete, more beer. Brock is a soft session stout. I had this at Peakender this year, in fact it was the last beer of the festival for me, but it was probably not in the best condition then as it was rather thin and light. Today it was much better, a smooth and easy drinking session stout.

We travel to the final beer for tonight. Lord Marples, the classic English bitter, and the first beer ever made by Thornbridge. This might help you in a future pub quiz, as it was one of the answers tonight. You might also need to know that it has never been bottled 🙂

I’ve had it three times, twice here, and the first time at Peakender 2015, and it’s still a classic pint, and not hard to see why it is such a big cask seller in the Thornbridge heartland of Derbyshire and Yorkshire. Nice with a bit of Gouda too.

And if that wasn’t enough, we all left with bottled beers, some included in the price, some bonus gifts from our lovely Thornbridge friends.

Another classic night at the Needle & Pin, lots of fun, good chat (and not just about beer), a bonus quiz, and new friends made as I shared a taxi home with two of them. A good pub with a good community feel is the original social network, and the N&P is definitely one of those.

Looking forward to the next tasting night already, by happy coincidence from the brewery at the other end of the Monsal Trail, Buxton Brewery.

BBC Good Food Show Winter, The NEC, November 2017

The annual round up of the annual pilgrimage to the NEC to visit the BBC Good Food Show. And for the first time since the last century, we had a guest, with Mrs MOFAD’s sister (and regular MOFAD supplier) Jo joining us for the first half of the day. We rocked up at the NEC at just after 10am, after a quick detour to pick up our passenger. Note to future self – coming down the A446 from junction 9 is much better than going down to junction 6.

In to the show we go. More security this year, sniffer dogs trying hard not to be distracted by the smell of sausages cooking nearby. Guide dogs doing the same. As usual we set off for the drinks sections first, which were absolutely overwhelmed by gin producers. I thought that there were loads of them last year, but I’m sure there were even more this year. Fewer cider producers and way fewer breweries. No Renegade/West Berkshire (probably the highlight of the last 2 years). No BAD Co (another good one from last year). No Empress Ale. No Crafty Devil. Not even a bigger name like Wadworth.

There were a few familiar names as well as some new breweries (reports on them to come later I’m sure). Plenty of interesting food producers, but again some notable absentees. No Croome Cuisine and their lovely hop cheese. No Debbie & Andrew’s. We picked up the usual haul of Dean’s biscuits, always the most generous with their samples of whole biscuits (unlike some of the cheese producers who have samples the size of a mote of dust).

Santa tells me that there are more goodies to come in 25 days, so I’ll wait until then to do another round up 🙂

Handmade Burger Company, Leicester, November 2017

I can haz cheezburger? Yes I can, and it’s not even my birthday. In fact it’s regular MOFAD supplier (and sister-in-law) Jo’s birthday, and this was her choice. Who am I to argue with such a wise choice?

When I arrived, Mrs MOFAD and Jo were already sitting in a booth at the back. My journey took a while as it involved walking to the bus stop, bus to station, train to Leicester and then walking from the station to Highcross.

Mrs MOFAD had already predicted my beer and burger order and got it spot on. Which goes to show that I can be quite predictable, but when pulled pork is in play, it’s always going to happen. The beer part didn’t happen though, as just like last week, the beer that I wanted was out of stock. It also confused the waitress, who seemed to be new and not particularly aware of what beer was, let alone what was on the menu. No matter, just soft drinks tonight. When you know there’s a can of Chubbles in the fridge at home, why drink bad beer when you’re out?

Another decent burger at HBC. They’ve made loads of changes to the menu since the last time we were here, but they are still knocking out decent burgers. When they sort out their beer stocks, then the great beer and burger combination will be found right here.

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.

Church Inn, Chelmorton, Derbyshire, September 2017

If this looks familiar (like the pubs from the last 2 days did), that’s because it is. We were here on Easter Saturday with friends for dinner. They were a bit funny about taking a group of 8, but eventually relented.

Today we had a morning walk around the village and surrounding area, and the weather was not on our side. Periods of rain and drizzle were upon us, such a contrast to the glorious weather of yesterday. We called it a day on our walk and popped in to the Church Inn for lunch. Luckily soggy walkers are welcome.

Walker’s reward today was Dexter’s UXB from Storm Brewing Co in Macclesfield. I had quite a few of their beers when we stayed in Higher Sutton last year. A good bitter golden ale and most welcome today.

Given the rather damp and dreary conditions that we’d been out walking in, I did consider something warming. But when there’s ploughman’s around, it’s always worth a go.

This one was a mixed bag. Lovely warm fresh bread, a tangy stilton and a rare boiled egg were the good bits. Tasteless coloured cheddar, horrible iceberg lettuce and a poor coleslaw were the bad bits. And where’s the pickle and sliced apple or bit of orange or something? The good just about outweighed the bad. A very close run thing though.

A bit of a mixed bag today, but this is still a lovely village pub. I just won’t have the ploughman’s next time as they need more practice…