Lucky Dragon, Ambleside, December 2016

A return to an old tradition. For many years, we had a Chinese takeaway on New Year’s Eve. With the closure of Ambleside favourite Jade Garden, this tradition was threatened. We did try an alternative a few years ago, but it wasn’t so good. So for the last few years, we have switched to Thai, with visits to Jintana in 2014 and 2015.

When we rung them up tonight, we were in for a shock. No takeaways. Never mind the fact they’ve been doing it for many years, they just decided to change their mind. Their loss is Lucky Dragon’s gain.

Just a short walk down the same road, Lucky Dragon is a Chinese takeaway, and nothing else. They hadn’t decided to stop doing takeaways tonight, so we carried on down the road to them, and ordered our dinner.

As it’s a celebratory night, crispy duck should be consumed, so we ordered some. It was very good, crispy, not greasy and with good accompaniments.

For the main course, I chose Kung Po chicken, as it’s the dish that I use to test any Chinese restaurant. It was very good indeed, so good that I didn’t stop to take a picture. It was nice and spicy, a good level of chilli heat. There was no pineapple and there were no cashew nuts, common ingredients in many versions of this dish but different places use variations.

What I can show you is a very interesting beer, the Flat Pack Fruit Bat raspberry smoothie IPA – a confusing conflict in a can. The nose is very hoppy, but the taste is smooth and full of fruitiness, with barely a trace of those hops. It’s really nice and goes well with a spicy chicken dish.

A great takeaway, and it should be your first choice for Chinese in Ambleside.

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Southwold, a MOFAD kind of town

We’ve been away for a week, staying in Reydon, just on the outskirts of Southwold in Suffolk (I have to mention the county since most people that I mentioned this to didn’t know where Southwold was). After our previous visit in August 2015 (part of the East Anglian Epic Adventure with regular MOFAD companions Hazel & Matt), we decided that we had to come back.

We’ve had a great time. A mini beer festival on Saturday (self curated by the three participants), a takeaway, a return visit to Adnams Cellar & Kitchen, the local pub, pubs with sea views, attempts to get in to the Lord Nelson for dinner, a quiet village pub, a pub quiz without a quiz, bird nerding at Minsmere again, a very strange pub, a posher hotel, another one by the coast, a fair bit of fish, triple pork nirvana, and several Adnams pubs (utterly unsurprisingly!)

I now have a total of 44 posts in draft, including 14 posts from the Suffolk stay. Lots to report on because Southwold has plenty of options to choose from, including lots of Adnams pubs, and also a few free houses in the surrounding area. There’s also a large haul of beer after a visit to the supermarket, a couple of visits to Adnams and also beer shopping at Snape Maltings.

If you like your food and drink, Southwold (and the surrounding area) is certainly worth a visit.

Southwold and Reydon Chinese Takeaway, Reydon, Suffolk

Another quick post.

Tonight was the first night of our Suffolk holiday. As well as regular MOFAD companions Hazel & Matt, for 24 hours we were to be joined by almost as regular MOFAD companions Steve & Janette, who made the short trip across the border to join us for a brief sojourn.

We all arrived at our cottage just after 4pm, got unpacked, had some tea and coffee, and then cracked open a few bottles of tasty alcoholic beverages. Thoughts soon turned to dinner, and after a quick phone call revealed that the local pub was fully booked for the night, we quickly decided upon a takeaway, and soon found a very local option who delivered.

Everyone chose their meals and it wasn’t long before several boxes of food turned up on our doorstep. One of the things that we all agreed on was crispy duck:-

We ordered a whole duck between us, and it arrived pre-shredded for our convenience. I don’t think I’ve ever had a bad duck, and this one wasn’t going to break that duck, as it was lovely, and there was loads to go round. Good hoi sin sauce too.

As I’ve mentioned before, my test for any Chinese is their Kung Po chicken, so that was my order tonight, along with some house special fried rice. It was very tasty, with a really good amount of fresh chilli. No pineapple in this one, and a few more cashew nuts would have added some more crunch. This was another “sweet’n’sour battered chicken”, also seen earlier on this year in Nuneaton and first seen last year at Dragon Cottage, and it worked well again here. The sauce was sticky, thick and sweet with that lovely hit of chilli. Steve also had some and enjoyed it.

Everyone was pleased with their selection, and we were all satisfied with full stomachs.

We were holding our own mini beer festival, concentrating mostly on darker beers, but I had to switch to something hoppy to match up with the chilli hit of the kung po. This Summit pale ale did just that, a great modern pale ale with hoppy and fruity notes to batlle the spiciness.

It’s fair to say this is a great little takeaway, perfect for the first night of a holiday. After filling up with food we moved on to games and more beer…

The Basin, Loughborough, August 2016

A quick post. Regular MOFAD drinking companion Alec usually organises a summer meal of some sort, usually to coincide with increasing age by a year. A bit later than usual this year, but we find ourselves in The Basin, a minimalist restaurant serving Chinese, Thai and Japanese cuisine.

We were supposed to go to the awesome Needle & Pin first for a drink but Arriva buses had other ideas, leaving us hanging around at the bus stop for around half an hour’s valuable drinking time.

So when we eventually got to town, it was straight to the Basin for a drink first. And despite interesting things like Hitachino Nest being available at Wagamama, The Basin haven’t really caught up with this modern thinking, and have a very average selection. So Hoegaarden is the best choice, a fruity witbier with a touch of coriander and orange that works well with the food. A few of these were consumed.

A hoisin duck temaki to start, a hand roll of sticky rice, shredded duck, cucumber, spring onion and sweet hoisin sauce. Classic Oriental starter stuff. A nice little pea of wasabi on the side, not for the faint hearted.

To the main course. Salmon teryaki, a Japanese classic served with simple boiled rice. Yay! And pointless iceberg lettuce. Boo! What a waste of space that lettuce is, taking up valuable real estate on the plate where something much tastier could be sitting.

A pleasant meal certainly, but that unadvertised iceberg rather leaves a nasty taste in the mouth.

China Dragon, Nuneaton

Only the third Chinese takeaway review on here. I think that might be a statistical anomaly of some kind, but it’s a true reflection of the last year, we just haven’t had that many.

This evening we were in Nuneaton, measuring up for a forthcoming project, and fancied a nice minimal effort dinner, so a takeaway was the obvious choice. Regular MOFAD supplier, companion and in-law Jo recommended China Dragon, so we popped in to order our tea.

The first thing to note is that parking is a bit tricky in the immediate vicinity. There is some handy parking just across the road, but that’s only for residents. A quick zoom in on the sat-nav found the side road that leads up to China Dragon, and we managed to squeeze in at the side of the road.

My test for any Chinese is their Kung Po chicken, so that was my order tonight, along with some house special fried rice. It was very tasty, with a good amount of chilli. No pineapple in this one, and a few more cashew nuts would have added some more crunch. China Dragon also favour the “sweet’n’sour battered chicken” approach first seen last year, and it worked well again here. Very tasty stuff.

Nothing too strong to accompany, as we had to drive home. This Eternal Monk Session IPA had all the hops but without the alcohol hit of some of the biggest IPAs (I’m looking at you Jaipur X!)

A good little takeaway, and very popular – waiting times for deliveries were exceeding 90 minutes whilst we were waiting.

Dragon Cottage, Loughborough

Bonfire night. A celebration of foiled terrorist atrocities, from many centuries ago. Whenever you try to explain this to people who didn’t grow up in the UK, the look on their faces is usually one of utter bewilderment. It is something that my family always celebrated, either little displays in the garden (Dad and Uncle Pete nailing Catherine wheels to the shed, rockets fired from milk bottles) or a bigger family celebration at Uncle Ted’s, with a massive bonfire, a proper guy (who always managed to be wearing a pair of my dad’s old work overalls) and an old chicken shed in which to have a party (complete with purpose built indoor BBQ). Great times, and my knowledge of Chas’n’Dave songs remains undiminished.

We never went to organised displays, because we had family and friends to organise them for us. That all changed when I left home for university. Being away from home in November meant no chance of going to a family event. Luckily, there was a massive bonfire and firework display organised by Rag, to raise funds for charity, with fireworks paid for by a local business or two (always good PR to get your name attached to charitable deeds).

So for the last 23 years (with the odd exception) we have been going to a big, organised display. It has moved location a few times, as fields have been replaced by buildings (our campus is one of those places that I can legitimately use the old cliche “this used to be all just fields” for). And no-one who was at the mid 1990s display when the fire was lit by fireworks underneath (and visibly left the ground as it lit) will ever forget that.

SAMSUNG CSC

We were back again as usual tonight, with MOFAD companions Karon & John, and regular MOFAD supplier (and lovely sister-in law) Jo. After some fresh doughnuts to keep us going during the fireworks we eventually made our way off campus (an occasion where local knowledge was more hindrance than help as several exits had been closed).

Off to Dragon Cottage for a Chinese takeaway. As I’ve mentioned before we generally never eat in at a Chinese restaurant, and that’s not possible here as it’s a takeaway only. A good and varied menu, with a few unusual dishes, and a semi-open kitchen so you can watch your dinner being cooked. Or on a night like tonight, you can stand outside and watch more fireworks being set off in the garden opposite. A great bonus display!

So, onto the food. My test of a new Chinese takeaway is always to try the Kung po chicken as it seems to be a good measure. It varies wherever you go, as everyone seems to have their own interpretation. Think sweet and sour but with chillis. Tonight, the chicken was lightly battered (that might be a first) but all the other usual ingredients were there, like carrot, pineapple and cashew nuts. Very tasty.

The true test of any takeaway is whether you get free prawn crackers. We did, so Dragon Cottage passes the test. Now a few notes on drinks. Between us all, we sampled a few ciders and beers tonight. A Gewurztraminer or similar wine such as a Riesling is a common pairing with Chinese food (and works so well), but we pair beer and cider in this house…

This Devon Blush from Ashridge was a very easy drinking cider:-

The Cheltenham S.P.A. is described as an IPA. It is most definitely not that. It’s a very nice ale, don’t get me wrong, but there is no way that this is an IPA.

The Worcestershire Sway from Bewdley brewery was a good golden ale, which matched very nicely with the Chinese food:-

And finally, there was this pale ale from Little Valley brewery, still cashing in on Le Grand Depart from 2014. A very good pale ale for a Saturday night:-