May 2020 round up

A second full month in lockdown. Lockdown has changed a bit, with some easing of restrictions, so that we’ve been able to travel a bit for exercise (which is good as we like to do lots of walking) and that exercise can be unlimited.

That has been perfect for us, as we’ve resumed our quest to walk the Leicestershire Round in small loops. Doing this has definitely kept us socially distant. As soon as we leave a village then we hardly see anyone for the rest of the walk, bar the odd dog walker. There were a few more people having distanced picnics on the village green in Hallaton on one walk, but once we left the village we didn’t see anyone else for the rest of the day.

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It’s been another warm and sunny month, and definitely another month for missing the pub. Without lockdown we would have been camping for at least three weekends, and both of our bank holiday trips were cancelled long ago. One has moved to the following year, the other is TBR (to be rearranged).

There have been three constants (apart from an enormous workload) throughout May 2020.

  1. Regular beer deliveries from The Needle & Pin
  2. Weekly pub quiz from The Needle & Pin
  3. Getting out for daily exercise wherever possible

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The first May bank holiday was shifted to a Friday for VE Day celebrations. This was dreamed up in a pre-COVID world, so most of us (apart from those seen doing the not socially distanced conga on BBC News reports) did things at home. We had a classic afternoon tea in the garden. Scones with jam first, and cream on top. Always jam first.

It was a warm weekend so we even had dinner outside a couple of times, making the garden the much missed pub beer garden. We also had another click and collect from our favourite local chippy, George’s. As with April, it was the only thing that I didn’t have to cook all month. We are definitely missing that feeling of going out to the pub and not knowing what you might have.

I’ve still not had time to bake sourdough, take up new hobbies, learn new skills, or even write loads of blog posts. I’ve still not had any time to finish off old blog posts, or catch up with other things that I want to write about.

Favourite beers of the month have been dominated by Kernel and Sussex Small Batch. Pale Ale Nelson Sauvin by The Kernel Brewery was probably my favourite, super fresh and super tasty. Tiramisu Stout by Sussex Small Batch was a great balance of sweetness, coffee and vanilla. WxY⁵ by Wylam was tropical hop sherbet which contrasted well against an Oude Gueuze by Hanssens Artisanaal, supreme funky sourness with so much going on. Other lovely Kernel beers were Pale Ale Simcoe and Table Beer Galaxy Enigma. It’s been so long since I had any Kernel, they make consistently good beers.

As I said last month, one day we’ll get through this, and we’ll be back down the pub again. Hopefully we are getting a bit closer to that day.

Getting back in the habit?

Apparently, I haven’t posted a recipe in over 3 years. It’s just one sign of how far behind I’ve got with my blogging. I averaged about 3 posts a month last year, down from 12 a month in 2018, and nearly 24 a month in 2017. I haven’t done a beer of the month for 2 years.

I’m going to fix some of that tonight, with a recipe post imminent. I’m also going to try and do at least a monthly round up each month, as I’ve kind of got out of the habit of blogging and I need to find my way back into it. We got a slow cooker just before Xmas, so I’m hoping this will inspire more recipe posts, as we’ve definitely been making good use of it so far.

I’m not far away from what feels like a big milestone of 1,000 posts. I got to 900 in September 2018, so things have definitely slowed down. This is a rather belated resolution to try and write more stuff in 2020. There’ll be plenty of things to write about, so I have to make the time. Perhaps I might even catch up with a few posts from last year too.

January 2020 round up

This is an attempt to try and write a little something each month, to get out of the bad habits of 2019 when I didn’t write very much at all. Rather than piling up 10 or more drafts a month and never finishing any of them, getting at least one round up published might be the way forward. It’s got to be worth a try.

So what’s been happening in January 2020? A lovely trip to the Lakes concluded with some fantastic pizza from The Sourdough Pizza Co in Ambleside. They are not really geared up for visiting customers at the moment, with a distinct lack of counter facilities, but we didn’t have time to wait for a delivery, so collection was the quickest optio. Pulled pork and apple sauce pizza? Yes please!

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There was also the customary trip to The Mortal Man, via Wansfell as usual, a lovely pub with good food and a warm welcome. The MOFAD card left many years ago is still there. It’s a fantastic walk and it was a great day to do it.

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The only other pub trip this month was a quick pint in The Ale Stop, with MOFAD companion Andy, whilst we were waiting for our curries to be cooked. A lovely little micro pub in the centre of Buxton, full of lively locals. The only other trip “out out” this month featured a pleasant new carbonara pizza at Pizza Express (no sign of Prince Andrew), before we went to see Bad Boys For Life (quality action nonsense).

Some of my favourite beers this month have been Donzoko Northern Helles (great lager, believe the hype), Escape Pod by Pressure Drop (liquid Bounty bar mixed with crude oil) and the fantastic Sunshine by Brass Castle, a good old fashioned fantastic IPA. No adjuncts, no lactose, no fruit purées. Just a great balance of malts and hops.

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The aforementioned Andy and I also shared some big unit stouts and porters like Tokyo* Death and Siren’s 2019 Barrel Aged Caribbean Chocolate Cake.

My least favourite beers were all of the Lidl ones, brewed under the made up “Hatherwood Craft Beer Company” name. They were very cheap, but not very good. If you pay a pound for an IPA, you get a pound’s worth of IPA.

Recipe of the month was probably slow cooker jerk chicken. Looking forward to refining that one a bit more.

So that was the first 2020 round up, hopefully I’ll get to do one each month. February should see a few more trips out, with the Leicester comedy festival tempting us into a couple of trips…

The Otter, Kegworth, December 2019

For the eighth time in ten years we find ourselves at The Otter, my team’s traditional Xmas lunch venue. Every year I take my team out for lunch, a small token of appreciation for another year of hard work. I’ve written about this pub loads, so I’ll crack straight on with a quick round up of the food and drink.

Beer first, and with only two sad looking pumps of Doom Bar and Wainwright (and an awful pint of Atlantic last year), I decided to chance my arm with keg instead, Chieftain IPA from “Franciscan Well brewing”, who sound very exotic, but are just a Coors subsidiary. Simple and malty, and not much more.

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On to food. Regular readers may recall that I have very similar things every year, as they don’t change the menu massively each time (no need to change a winning formula). For the third year in a row, I opted for the duck & port parfait, this time with a “mulled Cumberland sauce” (stop mulling things!) and “toasted rustic bread”. It was grilled on one side, and better than last year’s bread which had just been waved near a light bulb. No leaves this time, or slices of radish (2017). It was very tasty. The sauce was way too thin though, it needed to be reduced.

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My main course is so predictable that everyone knows what I’ll be having. I always have the rib of beef, this time boneless, served on a bed of truffle & parsley mash (no sign of truffle), with honey-roasted carrots, glazed sprouts (no thanks) and a red wine jus. No onion rings (2015), spiced vegetable fritter (2016) or marrow (2018). As delicious as ever, and paired with some nice hot English mustard of course.

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My pudding choice is also utterly predictable, Belgian chocolate brownie with Irish liqueur ice cream. I have the chocolate pudding every year. Last year’s was probably the high point for this, but the 2019 version was also pretty good. It was the most popular pudding in our party. Thankfully they’ve finally ditched the out of season strawberries.

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Another lovely lunch at The Otter. A shame that the service was extra slow this year, despite pre-ordering for the first time. Don’t get me started on that either, it was an utter farce, with an online system that didn’t have the same options as the menu, and e-mail addresses that didn’t work. After some back and forth, everything got sorted, but it took a bit of the shine off things. It also took them about three goes to find our table.

Despite all of that, I’m sure we’ll be back next year.

BBC Good Food Show 2019

The annual round up of the annual pilgrimage to the BBC Good Food show. I think it’s also going to be the annual moan that it’s not as good as it used to be. Once more it seems to have shrunk, this year we had completed every stall before 2pm and there seemed to be a distinct lack of some of our favourite smaller producers.

If you like gin, you would have been in luck. I lost count of the number of gin producers that were there, it was absolutely heaving with them. Some of them had very interesting variations which were worth a further look, but there were so many plain gin producers too. We even saw New Zealand’s Cardrona distillery again, who we first met at Pub in the Park in June.

The lack of beer was startling. Church Farm from Warwickshire were there again (not far to travel for them), as well as a brewer of brown beers from the south west, but that was it. I got some lovely beers from Padstow Brewing Co last year, but they were nowhere to be seen. Good beer was to be found in 2017 and 2016 too, but no sign in 2019.

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We still managed to stock up on some Tracklements as usual (oh look, another free tote bag) and some tasty Heck sausages, along with the usual haul from the Isle of Wight garlic farm, the obligatory Curry Sauce Co collection (now available at Ocado), and some new sauces from The Fresh Sauce Co from Ipswich.

So, a reduced haul compared to previous years but there’s still some lovely stuff to be enjoyed over the next few months. I just hope that the organisers can do more to encourage the smaller producers back here. The folks at the Curry Sauce Co were saying that they were considering not coming back next year, for the first time in 20 years…

The Wheatsheaf, Edith Weston

I started this post in November 2019, and a lot has happened in the last 6 months (it’s now June 2020, so you probably know what “a lot” encompasses).

An impromptu pub lunch after an impromptu bird nerding session. Regular camping companions Hazel & Matt have been in Lincoln for the weekend, so we tried to find a convenient place to get to see them for a few hours and then have some lunch. We headed over to Rutland Water nature reserve, and spotted some winter wildlife, and then decided to go and warm up in the pub, choosing The Wheatsheaf in Edith Weston, the Rutland village named after Edith of Wessex, who was the wife of Edward the Confessor, and sister of Harold, the one who got the arrow in the eye.

The most important thing we look for in a pub on Sunday lunchtime, is one that doesn’t just serve a Sunday lunch. The Wheatsheaf fits the bill perfectly, serving the full menu, a roast, and sandwiches. We always want sandwiches because I almost always cook a roast in the evening. I had a very tasty Brie and cranberry baguette with some salad and chips. Subsequently, I’ve been eating a lot more Brie.

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A lovely pub for a lovely lunch and a lovely catch up with friends. We were looking forward to lots of trips in spring and summer 2020, but events have prevented that. Maybe September 2020?

Thornbridge Peakender 2019

This is another post that has been languishing in the drafts folder for a very long time. With the cancellation of the 2020 instalment and the subsequent inability to attend the 2021 instalment (it clashes with a wedding), I thought it was about time that I finished this one off.

Let’s start with a bit of history. July 2014 saw the first Thornbridge “Great Peak Weekender”, now known as Peakender. We were there. It was an absolutely fantastic event. Free camping at Thornbridge Outdoors, a friendly bunch of volunteers directing people to their camping areas, and several bar areas with more friendly volunteers. Lots of beers from Thornbridge and some now very familiar names such as Buxton, Redemption, Ashover, Wild Beer Co and Roosters.

You bought a pint glass for a pound (I’ve still got mine) and beer tokens were 50p each. Three tokens for a half of the “normal” beers, going all the way up to eight or nine for the stronger or rarer ones. It remains one of the best beer festivals that we’ve ever been to, a great vibe and really relaxed. When the rain came, there was enough space in the bar areas for everyone. We also had time to enjoy some nice walking on the Saturday and then back for more food and drink and good music at the festival site.

Fast forward to 2015, and some changes were afoot. Camping was now a paid for option, and all of a sudden the fields were absolutely rammed with vans and tents. Queues for the many bars got out of hand very quickly, as did queues for food. There were far too many people there and it just got worse on Saturday with even more day visitors arriving. The free shuttle bus into Bakewell was also a bit of a shambles due to confusion caused by the drivers who told loads of people the wrong pick up point which then led to big queues at the correct pick up point. The food and beers were great, but the festival experience had been diminished.

In 2016 we gave it a miss.

Fast forward to 2017, and the festival moves to the Bakewell showground. Festival tickets were still free. Camping was a paid option again, but we opted to stay at a site just out of town, and cycle to and from the festival. It got muddy pretty quickly, due to the awfulness of that summer’s weather. After enjoying a bike ride on the Saturday, we soon realised that we had missed a lot of beers that had disappeared in the blink of an eye during the Saturday afternoon session. There was a lot of rain, and a lot of people sheltering in tents trying to stay warm, even though it was August.

In 2018 we gave it a miss, because it looked like it was going to be exactly the same, except you now had to pay for tickets to the festival. You got nothing in return, not even a £1 pint glass. I kept trying to find out what we were paying for, but no-one would give me a straight answer.

So now we find ourselves in 2019. Our camping equipment has been upgraded, so we decided to go for the on site camping this year and give the festival another go. The weather forecast was far from perfect, but that would fit in with our previous experiences so we were prepared.

Which is more than can be said for most people, and for some parts of the site. We arrived on Friday lunchtime and were directed to the relevant part of the showground. The rain was starting to fall so we hoped that the ground wasn’t going to be too soft to depart from on Sunday. We will return to that later.

The rain was pretty relentless on Friday. We went over to the festival area to grab some lunch and some lunchtime pints. Nice food from the Greedy Greek Deli, and lots of interesting beers to kick things off. Three bar tents this year but they were already getting busy with people sheltering from the rain. The ground was getting soft under foot, and we were only an hour in.

I had a little run in with one of the bar team who tried to tell me that Yeastie Boys were not a brewery and that Real Fiction were a brewery. No, Yeastie Boys are the brewery, Real Fiction is the name of the beer.

After a few beers, we retreated to the dry for a while and watched more campers arrive in the rain. Then there was more rain. More people arriving. More people walking up and down the main “concourse” into the festival site. More mud being churned up. More people arriving without wellies. More muddy legs. The food area was fast becoming a swamp. The tents were pretty much full of people sheltering. The bands were playing to a hardy few who were standing in a swamp.

We ventured out for some pizza and more beer and retreated back to the dry. I popped out for another beer but the relentless rain and the lack of anywhere to sit was not ideal. Luckily the beer was great and freely flowing. Many casks and kegs were kicked – if you want something specific, you had better order it as soon as you see it, because the likelihood is it won’t be there when you go back to the bar.

The rain continued. This photo makes it look fine. It was not fine.

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Saturday dawned. A lot of tents had been flooded out and people were moving around in the middle of the night. We donned the wellies once more and waded through the swamp for some coffee and breakfast. The food traders were rather suffering from being in the swamp, but the mood was still upbeat despite the atrocious conditions underfoot. Allegedly a massive “swamp hoover” was coming out to pump away the worst of it, but if it did then it’s hard to see what difference it made. We did meet some owls though.

The sun shone and shone for most of Saturday. We headed up to the Monsal Trail for a wander and to earn some more beer points. We wandered into town for a bit of shopping and some lunch (better than standing in a swamp) and then headed back to site for some more beers.

Regular MOFAD companions Andy and Kerrie arrived (previous Peakender attendees too) and we found ourselves a spot to plonk our chairs in one of the tents, as more rain was on the way. We trudged through the never ending mud for food and drink as the evening wore on and we had a fun night of beer and chat.

The rain pretty much held off, but the damage had been done. The ground conditions were awful and the “swamp hoover” hadn’t done a thing. We squelched back through smashed plastic pint glasses and muddy tents.

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Sunday dawned. The sun shone again. The swamp was negotiated for some more breakfast. We bimbled around the craft fair at the market, we had some lunch. We stuck around for the end of the Eroica Britannia, the bike race for pre-1987 road bikes, as our friend Dan was riding it. We applauded him and lots of others across the line. We had tea and cake.

Then we had to get out of the quagmire. After a good start, we did get stuck in one of the muddy areas, and needed a combined pushing force, returning the favour that I’d done for a few others when walking around the site earlier in the day. We got out.

So how to sum it all up. The beer was great. The food was good. The site and the organisation, much less so. The amount of rain on the Friday was unprecedented (a word that has been massively overused in 2020) but we were told that they were prepared, and that the swamp hoover would save the day. It did not. The mud nearly wrecked everything. Having friends to join in the fun with saved it from being a total washout, both literally and metaphorically.

Mango Smash was probably my favourite beer. Hopefully 2022 will be a drier summer!

Beer + Burger, King’s Cross, London, 2019

I’ve been here at least 4 times this year. It is now my “pre train home” dinner stop, following a tip off on Twitter back in January. When I find myself in London for a day or more, I prefer to catch a train home around 8:30 in the evening (much less crowded, not so many rude commuters, and much cheaper). This usually means that dinner is required before getting on the train.

Beer + Burger is located around the Coal Drops Yard area of King’s Cross, between Granary Square and York Way, an area which has been massively regenerated over recent years. There are even more buildings going up right now.

Beer + Burger combines two of my very favourite things, and it does them both very well. Around 20 contiunally changing taps of keg beer, plus fantastically well stocked fridges combine with a simple burger menu (cheese, double cheese, bacon cheese, chicken, vegan, monthly special) and a few sides (fries, wings, pickles, coleslaw, gravy, jalapenos) and a couple of desserts.

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All very simple and unpretentious. Arrive, find a seat (mostly long shared benches), order beers and burgers. The food comes over to you when it’s ready.

Most beers come in halves, some in thirds, two thirds and pints. This is the only area where they sometimes trip up – if you ask for a measure other than the advertised one, they can get themselves in a bit of a mess over how to charge for it, or even if they can.

You can view the beer menu on Untappd before you arrive, and you’ll find lagers, sours, witbiers, IPAs, double IPAs, saisons, pale ales, stouts and porters all represented. The hardest part is choosing which ones to sample in your limited visiting time. I’ve had some absolute crackers this year, including North x Other Half DIPA, Northern Monk Patrons Project 16.02, Cloudwater AW18 Belgian Plum and Howling Hops Jantelagen.

It is the perfect combination of great burgers and great beers (and ciders if that’s your thing).

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I’ve also been to the O2 (Millennium Dome in old money) branch in Greenwich. Same idea, different seating (higher benches) and different food pick up (you get the vibrating light up coaster things). There are also branches in Dalston, Notting Hill and Willesden.

Recommended if you’re looking for a great beer and a great burger in any of these areas of London. This branch is also handy for King’s Place, the nearby arts venue where some of your favourite podcasts might do live recordings.

Pub in the Park, Warwick, July 2019

Let’s start with the name of the event first. It should be called “Good Food Pub in the Park”. If you are presenting your pub in a park, it should be all of the facets of the pub. Most importantly, it should showcase the great beer from your area that you serve in your pub.

What is a pub? A pub, or public house, is an establishment licensed to sell alcoholic drinks, which traditionally include beer and cider. It is a social drinking establishment, and a focal point of the community. In his 17th-century diary Samuel Pepys described the pub as “the heart of England”. As I’ve said before, it’s the original social network.

Here we are then, in the heart of England, celebrating the pub. Except we are only celebrating the more modern part of it, the food offering. We’ll come back to that later, as it was really rather good. I want to talk about beer for a moment, which will probably come as no surprise.

The event is sponsored by macro brewer Greene King. They have their fans. I am not one of them. They own a lot of names, and make a lot of dull brown beer. Hardys & Hansons, Morland, Taylor Walker, Belhaven, Ridley’s, Ruddles, Tolly Cobbold and Trader Joe’s are all Greene King under another name.

Given this event is supporting and promoting independent pub/restaurant/cafe people, it should be doing the same for breweries. There are plenty in the Warwickshire area, as well as more in neighbouring counties. So why do we have Greedy King instead? I can only assume it is all down to money. If you have £2,000,000,000 in revenue for the year 2018, operating over 3,000 pubs across at least 8 different chains, then you can probably chuck a few quid at events like this and keep the (better) competition away.

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So that’s the moaning bit over, let’s get on to all of the good bits. We were here with long time MOFAD companions Karon & John, to enjoy a relaxed day of food and drink so let’s talk about the pubs/restaurants/cafes.

The event is the brainchild of Tom Kerridge, so you’d expect Marlow’s The Hand & Flowers to be there, as of course they were. In fact it was the only “pub” to have a constantly large queue all day long. We tried all of their dishes, with Kerridge’s Fried Chicken (do you see what he did there?) being the favourite, but the smoked hog taco was a close second, followed by the minted lamb pie.

We didn’t have anything from The Cross at Kenilworth, but the beef pie looked nice. The same goes for The Hardwick, although I was a little tempted by the breaded corned beef hash. We also missed The Rose and Crown, with the sea bass looking very tempting.

Angela Hartnett’s Café Murano was represented, with the calzone being sampled by three of our number.

Again, three of us visited The Churchill Arms for Lobster Arancini, with shellfish mayonnaise, which was lovely.

My day had begun with a visit to Sindhu, where TV’s Atul Kochhar was cooking and chatting, and serving up chicken tikka pie, with onion and tomato mash and berry chutney (which did resemble the IKEA berry sauce).

I also visited The Half Moon and enjoyed the panko blade of beef and black stick blue cheese burger, although it was a bit too small for my liking. All of the dishes were “tapas size” but this one definitely felt too small.

In between visiting the pop up pubs/restaurants/cafes, we were also visiting the stalls of the various smaller producers that were there. These were at least 50% gin, or that’s what it felt like. From Kent’s Anno Distillers, to Yorkshire’s Haworth Gins, via the Jelley Distillery (set up next to Briscoe’s Artisan Jellies), Riverside Spirits, Warwickshire Gin, Ian Beale’s Neat Gin (ceated by actor Adam Woodyatt and his wife Beverley, and not called Ian Beale’s Neat Gin, just Neat Gin), and finally New Zealand’s Cardrona distillery.

A large number were sampled, and Cardrona’s “Source” gin was the clear winner with everyone who tasted it, whilst also being the most expensive. Of all the gins tasted, it was the most complex, with layers of botanicals revealing themselves. Their “Rose Rabbit” liqueurs (orange or elderflower) were also delicious, although they need a little revision on the definition of liqueur, since they are typically 15-30% ABV, and theirs were both pushing 50%, much closer to navy strength gin (a 1990s marketing invention) than a typical liqeueur.

Where were the beers from all those aforementioned local breweries? Muscled out by Greedy King I suspect, with just Dartmoor Brewery selling warm bottles of beer to take away (no drinking non-Greene King beer on site), and Black Storm Brewery (also appearing as Autumn Brewing Co) showing non-cold chain cans of beer. Whither local breweries like Church End, Church Farm, Fosse Way, North Cotswold, Tunnel or Warwickshire Brew Co?

Enough moaning about beer, back to more food things, with lots of nice cakes on display, tasty cheeses, posh chocolates, posh nut butters and ice creams. We sampled lots of these in between getting dishes from the pubs, and trying gins.

There were two stages, one for chef demos, the other for music. We heard but didn’t see Tom Kerridge’s demo (too many people, not enough seating) but didn’t catch the others due to eating crisps and sampling gin.

The music stage could be heard all across the site, so we listened to The Christians in the shade of the chef demo stage, enoying the music of one of the most under-rated bands of the late 1980s. Their brand of polished lyrical pop/soul kind of got lost amongst all of the dance music of the era. As you would expect, they played most of their big hits from the debut album like Forgotten Town and Ideal World, as well as their cover of the Isley Brothers’ “Harvest for the World”, and Bob Marley’s “Small Axe”.

A bit more shopping and trundling happened next, and we also listened to The Rifles under the shade of the demo stage, which was being dismantled behind us. A bit more food and drink and then we crossed the site to stake out a patch of grass for Will Young, who was headlining the music stage.

It’s fair to say that his brand of bland pop is not to my taste, but it was largely inoffensive, save for a cover of Light my Fire by The Doors. I’ve never been a huge Doors fan, but turning their iconic psychedelic rock sound into easy listening cheese would definitely have made something start spinning in the famous Paris cemetery Père Lachaise on this warm Sunday evening….

A very pleasant afternoon in the park. Nice to meet and chat to lots of small producers of food and drink, and to sample lots of it as well as some great pub food. A cross between the BBC Good Food Show and a small town festival. A shame about the beer, but I already knew that in advance and concentrated on enjoying everything else instead. The Christians were definitely the best band, but this was an event that was more about the food and drink. If you’re thinking of visiting another event for the music, the Sunday evening line up at Chiswick looks good…

The Pilot, Greenwich, June 2019

South of the river? Whatever next. Greenwich is in the famous bend in the Thames, so you can easily spot it on the Eastenders title sequence. It’s also the bit where you’ll find the O2 (Millennium Dome in old money). Sadly, James Bond was nowhere to be seen.

The Pilot is situated in a little block of old London Georgian cottages (grade II listed) constructed for workers from the nearby tidal mill and chemical works, and dates back around 200 years, built in the early 1800s to serve the local coal workers. A painted stone tablet on the wall of the pub reads “Ceylon Place New East Greenwich 1801”, so it could be the oldest surviving building on the Greenwich Peninsula. It certainly sticks out amongst all of the modern tower blocks and student flats that are just a stone’s throw away. Several of the massive O2 car parks can be seen across the road.

You might be aware of the cottages and the pub, as they featured in the video for Blur’s “Park Life”. You know what I mean?

Anyway, on to the pub. You can get here by cable car (not many pubs you can say that about), plane (London CIty airport is just on the other side of the river), boat and train. Or you can just walk from your nearby hotel, which is what I did. It’s a lovely old London pub, one of many in the Fuller’s estate that they are now concentrating on since they sold all of their brewing activity to Asahi earlier this year.

It’s definitely got the feel of a “food pub” as opposed to a “pub pub”, lots of dining space, and staff on the prowl as you arrive to find you a table to eat at. There is a little spot along the bar where you could have a pint and a chat, but on this overcast June evening, most people were dining.

I was shown to a little table just up the stairs and my order was taken. The barman/waiter seemed to struggle with it a little bit, as I’d ordered Misprized, one of the recent Fuller’s and Friends collaboration brews, and I suspect most tourists who come in here order London Pride. It was soon sorted out and my pint arrived.

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It wasn’t really worth the wait. Slightly woody, slightly mild, and mostly meh. I think I can see what they were trying to do, but it just didn’t work for me. However, the food was much better.

Even though we are just ten days away from midsummer night, it felt very much like a pie and mash kind of night, and a steak and ale pie with caramelised shallot & button mushrooms, spring greens and red wine gravy was enough to warm the cockles on a grey evening. A proper pie, completely encased in lovely crusty pastry, and none of this “pastry lid on a small casserole dish” nonsense.

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It was very tasty (juicy meat, crisp pastry and very nicely seasoned) and it was also soon hoovered up and I made my way off into the grey night. Some more veg and gravy wouldn’t have gone amiss, but everything worked well together.

A nice little food pub which offers a small number of menu options that they probably do well (based on a sample size of this one pie) rather than twenty different things in five or six cuisine styles which are all done to mediocrity.

Recommended if you find yourself looking for some food when you are south of the river.