The Catherine Wheel, Henley-on-Thames, June 2018

Is this the worst Wetherspoon’s in the country? In my experience so far, yes. We arrived on a Saturday lunchtime, and it was reasonably busy, but not totally packed out, a bit of a surprise as the World Cup is on and they were showing it on their various long in the tooth TVs with BBC News idents burnt into the screens.

It’s a massive pub/hotel, big enough to have two separate bar areas. They serve mostly different beers too, save for the flavourless big lager company “lagers” which appear on both bars. That looked like a good sign.

It was not. At the right hand bar (as you enter), three pints were ordered. First one looked like chicken soup (and wasn’t a NEIPA), so it was rejected. The next one was full of nasty floating lumps. No thanks. The third one was at least clear, but very musty.

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My pint came from the left hand bar. JDW Devils Backbone Four Point Blanc, a session IPA hopped with Hallertau Blanc Hops brewed exclusively for JD Wetherspoon at Hook Norton Brewery. Again, it was not the greatest, this pub really need to go on a course to learn how to look after cask beer.

Food wise, well, it’s a Spoons, so it’s the same food that you get in every one. Ham and cheese panino with a smattering of chips. Fodder, nothing more.

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There are so many great looking pubs in Henley. We opted for the tried and tested Spoons, because they are usually reliable. Today that was not the case. Next time we will research in advance, and choose before we go, so we don’t make the same mistake.

Normally I would tag in a venue on Twitter when posting, but since they rather bizarrely shut down all of their social media accounts in April (definitely something dodgy behind it rather than their lame excuses), I can’t do that. So I think I’ll tag it with #avoidthisspoons, because that’s what you should do. According to TripAdvisor reports, the attached hotel is pretty awful too.

Attenborough Nature Reserve cafe, April 2018

Another in that series of quick lunch posts. We popped over to Attenborough for a spot of bird watching and to try out my new spotter scope. It wasn’t the most pleasant of days, but we had to try out the new shiny.

We’ve had lunch in this nice little cafe a few times, so it was not a difficult decision to come back for lunch before playing with the new toy.

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The usual for me, ham and cheese panino and a few token bits of salad. It’s hard to get this wrong, but some places do. No problems here though, a tasty bit of lunch.

Coach House Cafe, Rufford Abbey Country Park, Nottinghamshire, April 2018

We want plates. Today was the perfect example of why. On to the that in a moment.

We were in the area doing a few bits and pieces and decided to stop here for lunch and then maybe a bit of a wander around the grounds. It’s certainly worth staying a while to get value for money from the car park fee 🙂

So, on to plates. As you can see, the food below is served on a silly slate, not a plate. If you look closely, you might spot three halves of panino. Two of those halves are from the second attempt at making one. The other half is from the first attempt, and its counterpart never made it onto the slate, slipping down on to the floor with great speed. A plate would likely have stopped this, saving the cafe time and money, and the person who dropped it embarassment. The hungry customer (me) did rather well, as I got 50% extra free.

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The moral of this story is very definitely to use plates to serve up your tasty ham and cheese panino (it was very tasty indeed), because then you don’t waste money. The large thimble of coleslaw wasn’t much to write home about, but the rest was very nice.

A good place for a spot of lunch, just a shame that the weather didn’t hold out so that we could explore more of the grounds…

Longshaw Estate Cafe, April 2018

After finding that the Fox House was not serving any food due to a water shortage, we back tracked slightly, and made our way to the NT cafe at Longshaw for the second time this week.

It doesn’t have the most elaborate menu in the world, but they knock things out pretty quickly. As we had arrived after peak lunch hours there was no problem getting a table. However, it was a different matter when it came to pork products. No bacon sandwiches. No sausage sandwiches. We were not as well prepared as when we visited Tegg’s Nose cafe for breakfast, and they cooked our bacon. So today I had to resort to a ham roll and some crisps. Not the most exciting lunch ever, but enough to fuel the rest of our walk back up to Burbage Bridge.

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The Ale Cellar Tea Room, Lyme Park, April 2018

More National Trust action. NT membership means that you don’t have to pay their extortionate parking charges, and each visit to an NT car park “pays off” the membership fee each year. Nowadays it doesn’t take all that many visits for membership to be worthwhile.

Today we were back at Lyme Park for another walk, finishing off one we started over 2 days in 2014. The weather forecast was essentially overcast, an improvement on yesterday’s rain and mudfest, but still not the spring that we are waiting for.

The last time that we came to the Ale Cellar, they had run out of ale. No such problems today, but there was not a great deal of variety on the menu, and the portions were vaguely adequate at best. You’d expect some big doorstop sandwich rather than just some posh sliced white with a few crisps and token salad tossed in.

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It’s fair to say we were underwhelmed today, not really adequate sustenance for a dank and dreary April stroll. In summary, meh.

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.

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…

Laura in the Lakes, Keswick, December 2017

Another quick lunchtime post. A day of dull today, so we were trundling around the shops in Keswick today. We decided to try something different for lunch, one of the many quirky little cafes in Keswick, in the form of Laura in the Lakes.

We’ve walked by countless times, it’s hard to miss with its eye catching cutesy sheep/butterfly branding. Today was the day to pop in for a later lunch. Loads to choose from, including panini, wraps, baguettes, rolls, pizza breads, quiches, soups, broths, stews, curries, lasagne, pies, pastries and jacket spuds.

I had ham & cheese panino (always predictable), it was simple and tasty, perfect to warm up on a miserable day in winter.

If you’re out and about in Keswick, then this compact little cafe will do nicely.

Tebay Services, December 2017

A trip to Keswick always means a trip to Tebay services, the best on the entire motorway network. We try to time our arrival for lunchtime to combine a spot of shopping with a spot of lunch. In the summertime, the BBQ is usually on the go outside which means a delicious local juicy burger.

It’s just a little chilly for that today, so we opted for a seat in the cafe in the sunshine, where we could watch the ducks skating around on the frozen pond.

Whilst they skidded around in the cold, we enjoyed some nice warm food. Where else on the motorway would you get a ham and cheese toastie that looks and tastes this good? Nowhere. One of the only service stations where it’s a pleasure to have to stop. No sad and dusty cans of cola products required either, the delicious Square Root Ginger Beer from Square Root Soda Works in Hackney. They  won the 2015 BBC Food & Farming Awards for best drinks producer, the first soft drinks company to make it in to the final, let alone win the award.

A lovely lunch was then followed by some shopping, picking up some local beer and foods as well as some delicatessen delights. We’ll be back in the summer.

Ellis’ Tea Room, Rothley Station (Great Central Railway), November 2017

The Great Central Railway is the UK’s only double track, main line heritage railway. It’s the only place in the world where full size steam engines can be seen passing each other – just as it was when steam ruled the rails. And it’s just down the road from us, which is rather handy. We’ve been to various bits of it over the years, been to the beer festival (every September), been on the dining experience trip (many years ago), and Mrs MOFAD had her 40th birthday party in one of the carriages as we steamed to Leicester and back. It was a great night.

Trains run every weekend of the year, bank holidays and selected weekdays throughout the summer.  The railway has won a number of awards including “independent railway of the year”, a gold award for the East Midlands’ best visitor experience and is a quality assured visitor attraction as designated by Enjoy England.

The latest project is to reconnect the northern part of the line which ran towards Nottingham (the clock tower outside the Victoria Centre is all that remains of Nottingham Victoria station). You can see more about the project here:-

Each station along the line (Loughborough, Quorn and Woodhouse, Rothley and Leicester North) has its own food and drink offerings. Loughborough has a buffet cafe and a shop on the main platform. Quorn and Woodhouse has the Butler Henderson cafe and the NAAFI tearoom. Leicester North as the Station tearoom (tea, coffee, snacks, cakes).

Our destination was Rothely station, and Ellis’ Tea Room. There’s also the Station tearoom on the platform, but Ellis’ Tea Room is separate to that. The building which houses it was built in 1899 when the Great Central Railway was opened. Local firm Joseph Ellis and Sons Ltd used it to store corn and coal, ready to be collected by wagons and sent around the country by train. The building fell out of use well before the GCR was preserved but has now been fully restored and carefully converted to a tea room. It serves hot and cold drinks, homemade cakes, sandwiches, light lunches and ice creams.

Today we both had panini, ham and cheese for me, tuna melt for Mrs MOFAD. The cafe was very busy and our lunch took a while to arrive but it was very tasty when it did. They do prioritise lunches for those people who have a train to catch, which makes sense.

A simple lunch today, just what was required on a crisp autumn day. And no visit to a steam railway is complete without taking a photo or two of a train. Obvs.