Harvester Wilford, April 2017

“Have you ever been to a Harvester before?”

“Yeah, loads of times.”

Although not so much recently. We live just 300m away from one, and used to go there a bit in our younger days. Times move on, people move on. I can’t remember the last time we went there together, although I’ve been there once or twice for work lunches, as it is close by.

Tonight, someone else had organised a get together at a pub outside Nottingham, which happened to be a Harvester. We trotted off up the newly widened A453 and soon found ourselves at the Harvester in Wilford to meet friends and catch up on what’s been happening recently.

The evening opened with a shock, a Marston’s beer with an actual hop profile. I hope you were sitting down when you read that.

This was 61 Deep, their newest beer, named after the depth of the well at the Burton brewery. Five American and Australian hops were needed for this, but you can at least taste some of the hoppiness. It’s probably my favourite Marston’s, which isn’t saying much, but it is a pleasant pint. You’ll spot their new branding on the pint glass too, the result of a one million pound rebranding project at the end of last year. I’m not convinced by it.

On to eating. The most famous thing that most people know about Harvester is the free salad bar when you order any meal. You can return to serve yourself with as much salad as you like. It’s not just tired bits of iceberg either, a good selection of salad items to choose from. You can spot tomato, beetroot, sweetcorn, pineapple, olives, tomatoes and the always popular crispy onion bits and red devil sauce. Some things have not changed!

The main menu has loads to choose from, ribs, burgers, the famous rotisserie chicken (available in various combinations with other bits of chicken and ribs etc.), fish, steaks and vegetarian and vegan options.

My choice was the peri-peri chicken burger, a grilled chicken breast with peri-peri mayo, smashed avocado and Monterey Jack cheese. With a chilli on top. I crunched this first, and it was nicely spicy.

It was a decent pub chicken burger, not spicy enough to put off the average palate, but with just a hint of piquancy. You can always slap on some more spicy sauce from the sauce bar. Decent chips too, and it was actually served on a plate (hiding underneath that horrid wax paper stuff).

A quick and convenient chain pub/restaurant, ideal for catching up with friends.

The Cheshire Cheese, Hope, April 2017

It’s another trip to The Cheshire Cheese. After last night’s disappointing lack of pub quiz at The Old Hall Hotel, tonight we had another chance of a pub quiz at one of our favourite pubs round these parts. We came second on our previous visit in 2015. Could we go one better tonight, despite “My Pointless Friend Richard” being halved in size?

Hydration for the brain first, a pint of New World Bitter from Intrepid Brewing, a classic caramel bitter, although I’m not sure what happened to the hops that are alleged to be contained within.

Brain food next. I’ve not seen cajun chicken in a pub for a while. Maybe not even since it was spotted on a menu listed as “cajan chicken”. It’s something that’s also easy to get really wrong. The seasoning can often just be just loads of cayenne pepper and random herbs which then get burnt and go really bitter.

No such worries here. Although it is described on the menu as “blackened”, they haven’t gone too far, and it’s just nicely roasted. The minted yoghurt sauce works really well with the gentle spice of the chicken, a really decent portion of salad, and a nice bowl of chips (not pictured). It was really nice and might encourage me to seek this out in pubs a bit more.

Mrs MOFAD had the venison haunch steak, served with a red wine gravy, dauphinoise potatoes and seasonal vegetables. This was also delicious.

This lovely food was being washed down with a pint of Bakewell Best from Peak Ales, another classic English bitter which had almost disappeared by the time I got round to photographing it.

Game on. The quiz began. We groaned when the picture round featured local breeds of sheep (because some local agricultural types had complained in previous weeks). We were doing pretty well as things moved on. A little more refreshment was needed, an Abbeydale Moonshine which is almost always on here. It is one of my favourite local pints.

Sadly we didn’t win, a few too many tricky questions tonight. It was great fun though, and we also got a go on Play Your Cards Right. You don’t get anything for a pair, not in this game. Although it did mean that this was going through my head for the rest of the week:-

Another great trip to the Cheshire Cheese, always a great night out.

All Bar One, York, April 2017

Yes, we are still in York. Another wonderful sunny day today. We checked out of our hotel, left our bags with reception, and then explored the city some more. We wandered around the ruins of St Mary’s Abbey, the Minster, the Treasurer’s House, and went off to spot some wildlife along the river.

As it was such a lovely day, we did explore a few riverside pubs for lunch, but they were all absolutely rammed and had waits of nearly an hour for food. As it was already getting into late lunch territory, we wandered away from the river for a short time, and found ourselves at what we hoped would be a reliable chain for some lunch. All Bar One opened its first bar in 1994, and there are now over 50 dotted around the UK. I say “the UK” – there are 4 in Scotland and the rest in England, with half of those being inside the M25.

The first tick goes to the drinks menu. This is the kind of place that you expect endless lines of bland fizzy lagers, and you will find some of those. Thankfully they also have a “world and craft beer” section of the menu, which features a Spanish lager, a German wheat beer and a Belgian blonde ale, alongside some bigger (Adnams, BrewDog) and smaller (Fourpure, Siren) names from the UK beer scene.

Siren Liquid Mistress Red IPA was my choice, and it’s probably the best beer I’ve ever had in a chain pub, hoppy, malty and bitter.

Lots of options when it comes to food, we chose 5 things from the “small plates” menu, which essentially makes it an international tapas menu. Here’s what they looked like:-

And here’s what they were.

Just hiding behind a drink you can spot crushed avocado & tomato bruschetta, topped with kalamata olives. In front of that same drink sit some ginger teriyaki chicken skewers, served with pickled vegetables and sesame seeds. Next to those you might recognise salt & pepper calamari, tossed in a citrus, red pepper and pink peppercorn seasoning with a sweet chilli & lime dip (delicious).  At the bottom left you can see feta & spinach bourek, crisp pastry parcels served with chilli tomato jam. Finally, there are crispy duck dumplings with some deconstructed slaw and more sweet chilli sauce.

This turned out to be the perfect lunch. Light enough not to slow you down for the rest of the day, filling enough to keep you going for the rest of the day. Paired with a lovely beer, this was a surprisingly good lunch venue. There are plenty of great independent places (I’ve already showcased some of them), but sometimes the chains can do a good job too.

The Field Head Hotel, Markfield, Leicestershire, April 2017

A story of two halves. Before label and after label.

Before label.

A lovely sunny spring evening. We’d been out walking just over the other side of the M1, a little circuit taking in views from some higher points of Leicestershire. We crossed over the M1 for dinner at the Field Head, somewhere we’ve been before, although not for a while.

A quick browse of the menu and up to the bar to order. For me, a pint of Britannia from Evan-Evans brewery:-

I was a bit suspicious of this at first. Greene King pubs often sneak in a house ale with a faked “craft” name, but this is a real beer from a real brewery in Llandeilo, West Wales. A decent session bitter. Mrs MOFAD opted for some Aspalls (nice posh glass)

After a bit of chat, dinner soon arrived. For me, a simple chicken and chips, with coleslaw, corn on the cob, fries and a chilli salsa thingy:-

It was very nice, simple flavours but all of them work together nicely. Juicy chicken, crisp fries and a nice piquancy from the chilli salsa thingy.

Mrs MOFAD’s choice of sea bass and scallop risotto looked like a good one too:-

A very tasty dish, nice fish and creamy risotto. But then.

After label.

There was a label in it. Initially it looked like a piece of fish skin, but on closer inspection, it was a label from some kind of kitchen implement. That’s enough to put anyone off their dinner, and it did this for Mrs MOFAD.

The bar staff were very apologetic about this when Mrs MOFAD returned to the bar with the plate, and they offered a refund for the dish when asked. A mistake in the kitchen, and a shame, because it rather spoilt what had been a nice meal up to that point.

We might be back. These kind of incidents do put you off though, even if they are handled well.

The Sherwin Arms, Bramcote, March 2017

It’s another trip to the pub with no beer. We came here twice in January and enjoyed some good chat with friends and some pleasant pub grub, but no beer, as Greene King “IPA” doesn’t count.

The same story tonight. Good chat with friends old and new, and pleasant pub grub. My “fusion” food was this chicken burger, which lacked the advertised bacon, cheese and BBQ sauce, but was perfectly pleasant. The fusion part came from the poppadom, which I was given by Mrs MOFAD, who had two of them with her chicken tikka (pleasant pub curry).

No drink review again, maybe one day they will have some actual beer or cider available here, but today was not that day. A pleasant pub to catch up with friends. As usual on a Thursday there was a pub quiz on, although the member of staff in charge was obviously not used to being in charge of a pub quiz, and was rather struggling. We couldn’t stay (work in the morning), so waved our goodbyes and left.

The Lansdowne, Leicester, March 2017

It’s a familiar thing, a pre-show dining post. Another Leicester night out, and a break from tradition, as tonight’s turn is a musical one, as opposed to the usual comedy that we go to at De Montfort Hall. We’ll come back to that in a moment.

My journey was a bit of an eventful one, with various public transport delays conspiring against me. So I arrived later than expected, but luckily Mrs MOFAD was on time, and had ordered me pint of Goose Island IPA. Nice to have this on draught for the first time, it’s something you’ve probably seen in bottles in Tesco or similar. Delicious hoppy bitterness.

Sometimes I fear change. Tonight was one of those times, so I had exactly the same meal as last time, the tasty chicken burger.

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Just as good as last time, juicy chicken, simple salad, and good pub chips (a mix of potatoes and sweet potatoes).

The Landsdowne is definitely our new “go to” pub for pre-show dining.

We headed off after this, up the road to go and see Elbow, who were absolutely brilliant. A great decision by them to return to smaller venues after so many big stadium tours, and they really work in a smaller venue like De Montfort Hall. A great night of music.

The Dog & Duck, Shardlow

It’s another chain pub post. Tomorrow is our friend Steve’s 65th birthday, so he was having a get together in a handy nearby pub. We’ve been here once or twice before, as with most of the other pubs in Shardlow. Reasonably well placed for the East Midlands triangle of Nottingham, Derby and Leicester, it’s quite a popular place.

Not too much to say tonight, as it was all about catching up with people we’ve seen a few times already this year as well as few people who we’ve not seen for a while. It’s a Marstons pub, so there’ll be some beers from the empire on, a few interesting bottles, and then some rubbish “ciders” like Strongbow and Old Mout. There’s occasionally something you’ve not spotted before, like Banks’ Sunbeam, but it’s probably not been kept well.

Loads of things to choose from on the menu, and it’s permanently two-for-one, so two main courses and two drinks come in at £18 which is pretty decent value.

Tonight I spotted this chicken burrito on the specials board. A pretty decent effort, and probably the spiciest thing I’ve had in a pub for quite a while. The salad was a welcome addition, although the nachos were a little half hearted (hardly melted cheese and very thin sour cream). Nachos should be a thing of golden beauty and these were just a thing of meh. A shame as the burrito was decent.

Not a bad effort, the food was better than the beer. Luckily the company was great, and that was the point of being there. A good birthday celebration.