Kingfisher Fish and Chips, Keswick, January 2018

We do love a bit of classic fish’n’chips. In Keswick, you are spoilt for choice, with three to choose from. This year we opted for The Kingfisher, as they are top of the Tripadvisor pops.

It was a good choice. Look at that lovely big lump of cod. Freshly cooked to order, and really nice. Juicy flakes of fish, crisp batter and lovely chips. And enormous portions. Mrs MOFAD opted for scampi as usual (no chance of a Yorkshire fishcake in Cumbria).

Cracking fish’n’chips and we’ll be back when we’re next in town.

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Troutbeck Inn, Troutbeck, January 2018

You may already have spotted on social media that I am taking part in #tryanuary 2018 (read more on my blog post). A big part of this is supporting local pubs during January, which can be a tricky month as many people over indulge in December and then stay away in January.

We had been out walking this morning, ticking off Wainwright number 90 in our list, Great Mell Fell. Not the most pleasant of days due to low cloud and drizzle, so we were looking forward to warming up in the pub with some hot food and maybe a pint.

However, when we got there, the front door was locked and there was nobody about. Cars in the car park, lights on, but nobody (apparently) home. This makes it rather hard to support a local pub, so we headed off up the A66 to the Rheged Centre, which was absolutely packed, but crucially open and serving food.

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.

Star of Siam, Keswick, December 2017

The traditional New Year’s Eve takeaway. For the first time in a long time, we are not in Ambleside, and not going to Jade Garden, Lucky Dragon, China Cottage, Doi Intanon (on the rare year that it was open on NYE) or Jintana.

In Keswick, we turned to a familiar Thai restaurant, Star of Siam. We’ve been coming here for as long as we’ve been coming to Keswick, a lovely friendly Thai restaurant, and great for takeaways (as ever we like to drink our own beer rather than drink poor quality offerings in takeaway outlets).

Here is a case in point.

Thornbridge Serpent.

I encountered this beer for the first time on “Thornbridge night” at The Needle & Pin in December 2016. We deconstructed the beer that night, tasting a very sour and tannic Oliver’s cider, a sweet perry, and a meh bourbon. On that night, it tasted like the lees (the leftover bits from fermenting cider, yeasts, skins and whatever’s left) had really dominated this brew, a Belgian style golden ale.

A year on, and it’s even better. So much apple, the beer that’s not a beer.

On to dinner, which accompanied this fantastic beer that’s not beer. A classic starter, satay chicken with peanut chilli sauce. Just to be clear, the satay part is not the peanut bit that you like, that’s in the sauce. The satay part is usually made from lemongrass, shallots, garlic, chilli, ginger, turmeric, coriander, soy sauce, fish sauce, sugar and a few other bits.

The “slaw” bit might not be the most authentic, but it works here with the juicy chicken and tasty peanut chilli sauce.

On to the main event. Chicken gang massaman. The massaman is probably my favourite Thai curry, perhaps because of more peanut. It varies from place to place. I always used to have beef, but too many cheap cuts of steak have left me favouring chicken instead. A very simple one tonight, a few bits of carrot and some chunks of onion,

Simple, but very tasty, and a fantastic way to round out another lovely year of food and drink. Many great meals accompanied by many great beers. 2017 has been a good one.

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…

Wheatsheaf Inn, Embleton, Cumbria, December 2017

This is another one of those “I was going to tell you about it but I can’t” posts.

After our trip up to Dodd this morning (our penultimate Wainwright for 2017), we had planned to have lunch here and then drive a short way to park up and tackle Ling Fell.

This plan fell flat on its face when we arrived, parked up, and then went into the pub. We were about to choose a table and asked whether they were still doing food (“good food all day every day” is proclaimed outside). Sadly, they weren’t as they were setting up for a New Year’s Eve party later on, so were unable to rustle up a couple of sandwiches and a bowl of chips.

We waved a cheery goodbye, got back in the car, and then drove halfway back towards where we started from to find some lunch. Another attempt to support a local business thwarted…

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.