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.

Church House Pub, Sutton, May 2019

We have been staying at Jarman Farm in Sutton again, with regular MOFAD companions Karon & John. It was the second outing of Mrs MOFADs shiny new camping machine. The weather hasn’t been kind this weekend, so we’ve been straight out to the pub each night.

It’s a pub that we are familiar with, having been three times in 2016 when we were staying at Jarman Farm over two weekends. It’s a lovely village pub, friendly and welcoming, and with great food and drink, so it’s a very easy choice to decide to come back, even though there are several other pubs within walking distance. If a pub is good, why risk going somewhere else that might be less good?

We came here three nights in a row, over a rather soggy and cold Whitsun bank holiday weekend. The usual drill of decent walks during the day (with the added challenge of waiting for the rain to stop on Sunday morning) and then dinner in the pub. It was not weather for sitting around chatting on the camp site, so it was a weekend of early nights.

On to the pub and the meals then. Friday night saw hunter’s chicken (a pub classic) with chips and token salad (sad iceberg), followed by a deliciously gooey chocolate brownie. Liquid accompaniment was provided by Moorhouse’s Blonde Witch (a lovely cask pint) and Silk of Amnesia from nearby Storm Brewing Co, a classic caramel bitter.

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On Saturday night, we were back at the same table, this time tucking into the classic burger and chips with token salad (sad iceberg), and a decent apple crumble. This time last year it would have been way too hot for a crumble, and we were tucking into strawberry pavlovas at The Lazy Trout in Meerbrook. A warm crumble was very welcome on a dull night.

Liquid accompaniment was provided by Moorhouse’s Blonde Witch again, and Exmoor Gold, a simple malty golden ale.

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Sunday was very much a day of rain. We waited for it to stop. It didn’t stop. We drove out to Alderley Edge (the actual edge, not the bit where all the footballers live). We waited for the rain to stop. It eventually stopped. We went out for a walk, and got a bit more rain for our trouble. The sun did eventually come out towards the end of the day.

Once again we were back at our usual table, and tonight it was the turn of my pub yardstick, gammon. I judge most pubs that serve food by their gammon, because it’s easy to get right, but horrible if you get it wrong. Sadly, it’s another pub where you have to choose between pineapple and egg. I want both. You can have both if you pay an extra £1.50, for a slice of pineapple. No thanks, I could buy a huge pineapple for that. A lovely piece of gammon, a perfect egg, chips and peas. And more of that token salad.

Once again, liquid accompaniment was provided by Moorhouse’s Blonde Witch and Exmoor Gold. Not a big turnover on casks this weekend, but they were all in good condition.

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A lovely long weekend in a lovely village pub. I’m sure we’ll be back at Jarman Farm again in a year or two, and we’ll be back here when we do return. A great place to go if you’re staying nearby.

Rothley Fisheries, Leicestershire, January 2019

The title of Leicestershire’s best fish’n’chip shop is hotly contested. This one has always been my candidate for that title.  It’s allegedly where Sven-Göran Eriksson used to go for fish’n’chips when he was Leicester City manager. It has recently changed hands, and on a snowy night in Leicestershire, we made our way here for dinner before our annual charity pub quiz night. I’ve been here on the odd occasion with friends from work, but it was the first visit for the rest of team “My Pointless Friend Richard”.

Fish’n’chips is the classic takeaway dish, but occasionally you can combine its speed of arrival with a bit of a sit down and some plates and cutlery. Here, you can also combine it with beer from the local Charnwood Brewery, with a selection of their bottled ales on offer, served at both room and fridge temperature (your choice).

You also get a pot of tea with your meal, for that full Northern eating experience. Bread and butter is included (because you’ve got to have a chip butty, even if you’re sitting down with a plate). You also get a choice of peas, beans or curry sauce. No need for your Peter Kay “has tha’ nowt moist” quote here.

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Double peas for me as Mrs MOFAD is not a fan. That’s the small fish, the large one (seen on another table) is enormous. You might just spot a bowl of pickles in the top right corner – these are also included. And if all of that is not enough, you can even have a free top up of chips as you are making progress with your meal.

It’s fresh, it’s delicious and it’s very good value. Lovely crisp batter, soft flakes of fish and great chips. Definitely the best fish’n’chips in Leicestershire, whether wrapped up in paper and taken home, or whether you sit down and eat it in the restaurant.

Plank & Leggit, Sawley, January 2019

A #tryanuary adventure with a twist. Of lime. And soda. Another visit to this standard chain pub for some food and some chat. My #tryanuary advenure had to come to a temoporary halt with the sad sight of Greene King IPA. Another night on the lime and soda, but not a problem as there’s plenty of great beer left to sample this month. It just happens to mostly be in my fridge at home.

So on to dinner then, lots of good value food to chose from. Mrs MOFAD had the sweet potato and chick pea curry, I opted for the “chicken New Yorker” a cheese topped hunter’s chicken with a couple of onion rings, half a grilled tomato and a spoonful of peas. Decent chain pub fodder to fill your belly.

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A good evening of chat, if only they’d make an effort to get some beer into the pub.

The Lansdowne, Leicester, January 2019

The first theatre trip of the year, and we don’t have much booked in for 2019 so far. As tonight’s show was a 7:30 start, we had to opt for our “go to” dining choice, The Lansdowne. There are numerous other places to choose from, but none of them are close enough for a 90 minute turnaround. I think we came here at least four times last year, so it’s very familiar, but hopefully not too familiar.

Something that was familiar was a Framework beer on the bar. Familiar, because this is the pub where I’ve had most of their beers, and familiar because I was brewing a beer with them only five days ago. If a beer only has to travel just over a mile to get to the pub, it should be in pretty good condition when it gets there. Brewer’s Gold was indeed in good condition,  easy drinking with a nice hop profile and a good bitter edge.

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On to food, and I had what I pretty much always have, the standard burger. I’ve written more than enough words on the joy of the burger now, so you know my thoughts. Simple and tasty.

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Ever reliable pre-show dining.

Tonight’s show was Sandi Toksvig’s “National Trevor”, kind of like an episode of QI with extended anecdotes, a pub quiz and an audience Q&A at the end. Very funny, informative and entertaining.