The Beer Hall, Staveley – Hawkshead brewery tap, August 2017

All good things must come to an end. Our Lakes camping break is one of those things. We have bagged another 9 Wainwrights, enjoyed some great walking, and had some lovely pub dinners and decent local ales.

Handily, our route home involves going within half a mile of Staveley, the home of Hawkshead brewery (who outgrew Hawkshead itself many years ago) and The Beer Hall, their brewery tap. We came here twice in 2016, once for lunch and a shopping trip (you can read more about the brewery and The Beer Hall on that post), and once for a shopping trip. Today was another 2 for the price of 1 visit, with lunch and shopping on the agenda once more.

Lunch first, and a couple of drinks. A Solar Sour for Mrs MOFAD, a refreshingly sour wheat beer. For me, the August Session IPA, packed with Jester, Citra, Mosaic and Centennial hops, delicious fruity hoppiness.

Food next, and we both opted for the ploughman’s, two cheeses from a choice of many, some salad, a couple of slices of bread, a lovely ginger chutney and coleslaw.

Decent portions of cheese, a nice smoked cheddar and a brie were my choices. The smoked cheddar was really nice, a decent level of smokiness but not too much to overwhelm those who are not big smoke fans (I like a lot of smoke). The brie was a squishy delight. There’s also a pickled onion peeking out from behind the coleslaw.

As ever, the choice of a bread board to serve it all on makes life difficult, a piled up salad is always in danger of slipping off at some point, and we both lost salad items to the floor. Plates were invented in order to eat food from.

We lingered over lunch for as long as we could (a 200 mile journey still awaits), but the time had soon come to do a bit of shopping before departure. A good range of Hawkshead beers are available (I picked up 6 on my last visit) as well as an ever changing range from British breweries and a few very interesting European beers (mostly from those lovely Belgian types).

Let’s have a quick look through.

Mrs MOFAD opted for a Great White, two Chuckle Berry Sours (been waiting for ages to find bottles of this) and a Floris Mango.

My shopping basket contained Fallen Brewing’s Grapevine (a new world pale ale), two from Marble Brewery, Murk du Soleil, the excellently named double IPA, and Prime Time, a collaboration Kolsch style beer brewed with beer writer and “sommALEier” Melissa Cole.

The red can is Sputnik from North Brewing Co, a dry hopped pale ale and there’s a bottle of Thresher from Siren Craft Brew, a spelt IPA triple dry hopped with Galaxy, Mosaic and Citra, which just happened to be the first collaboration brew at Siren’s new brewhouse.

The remaining items are a can of this year’s batch of Key Lime Tau (2π) by Crooked Stave and Hawkshead Breweries. The 2015 version was brewed for the 2015 Rainbow Project, and was my runner up in August 2016’s beer of the month. It has been brewed in the last two years, and the 2017 version had to go in my shopping basket. If you love lime like I love lime, you’ll love this.

Finally there are two bottles of Brodie’s Prime Export. I’ve already got one of these in stock, so these are for MOFAD drinking companions Matt & Steve. I think they’ll like it.

Another lovely visit to The Beer Hall. It’s the place to go if you are passing by on the A591. Today we had the added bonus of driving out over Britain’s newest bridge, the new Gowan Bridge in Staveley. The old bridge was destroyed as a result of Storm Desmond in December 2015, and there’s even a sign on the A591 inviting you to visit Britain’s newest bridge.

Rowena/Wyevale Garden Centre, Rothley, July 2017

A garden centre? Whatever next? Some years ago we spent a lot of time in these, finding things for our various garden projects. That has dwindled a lot recently, which culminated in a project to get the garden completely revamped last month. We left that to the experts, and just have a few little bits and pieces to sort out. Which is why we find ourselves here on a rainy/sunny Saturday afternoon. Before filling up trolleys with pots, plants and slate chippings, we stopped off for lunch in the little cafe. It’s not so little any more, with an outside seating area, a conservatory bit, and the main dining area all linked together. The usual selection of sandwiches, toasties and some other hot dishes on offer.

I had a chicken, bacon, cheese and chutney toastie, which was nicely filled, with all of the different elements combining to make something a bit more interesting than the usual ham and cheese affair. A few tiny bits of salad on the side. An old fashioned English toastie this, a sandwich stuck under a grill, from the days before the Breville toasted sandwich maker (other toasted sandwich makers are available). Not exactly haute cuisine, but a quick and easy lunch stop.

The Apple Pie, Ambleside, June 2017

An Ambleside institution.

We have been visiting the Apple Pie on and off ever since we’ve been visiting Ambleside. If there’s ever a day when we’re not out on the fells (usually due to inclement weather), you’ll find us having lunch at The Apple Pie. Named after their famous apple pie, they also do sandwiches, pies, quiches, salads and other items, as well as various hot drinks and soft drinks, and a few local beers.

There are many great places to eat in Ambleside, but this is usually the only place where you see people queuing out of the door on a weekday lunchtime. That was the case today, with a 5-10 minute wait for tables, but everyone in the queue happy to wait for their table. Once seated, service was quick and food arrived swiftly.

Inside the pie things have changed around a lot over the years. The front entrance and counter are still pretty much unchanged (you can still get your takeaway and bakery items from the main counter). There are no tables in the front area any more, and no more seating upstairs. Things have changed out the back too, with tables moving around and new seating areas created, as well as kitchen areas where toilets used to be and various other changes. They are not ones for standing still. You can also stay at the Pie if you want to.

Like the premises, the filled roll (sandwich) line up has changed over the years. The Thai chicken used to be one of our favouries, today that is replaced by the “spicy chicken” which has mayo, mango chutney, cream and various spices to make a nice sandwich filling, along with a good filling of salad (including beetroot which so many places shy away from).

As we’ve walked plenty of miles this week, we treated ourselves to the famous apple pie (although the mixed spice and sultana version had sold out) with ice cream.

Delicious, and a lovely Friday lunchtime treat. The ice cream to remind us it is summer (we’ve had some scorching days this week) and the warm pie to combat the cool drizzle of today.

The Apple Pie is a must visit if you are in Ambleside.

Pint Shop, Oxford, May 2017

A tale with a sorry aftertaste. More on that shortly.

We’d had a pleasant morning bimbling around Oxford, dawdling around the shops and the market, and just not doing a lot. We needed somewhere for lunch. Somewhere with a great selection of beer and some nice food. Pint Shop looked like it would fit the bill.

We arrived upstairs and were directed downstairs to the dining area. Despite being a Saturday lunchtime, it was pretty deserted, so we got a table for our group easily, settled in, and ordered some food and drink.

For me, a pint of Release the Chimps, delicious bitterness from Nene Valley brewery. It was certainly better than one of Matt’s which was incorrectly described as “over conditioned”. That might have happened in the 1970s when additional carbon dioxide was added to casks to make them last longer. This one had simply been around too long, and was on the turn.

Food arrived after a bit of a wait. A twist on a pub classic for me, chicken and chips, with frisee and a garlic butter. The chicken was delicious and tender, the chips were good, and the garlic butter was well judged. The frisee worked but it’s not really the best of leaves. Mrs MOFAD always says that it looks like the slugs have been at it.

As you can see, it was pretty empty inside. Quite modern and hipster-ish, but not over the top.

A final mention for the beer board. A good selection available, which is what drew this particular establishment to our attention in the first place. Loads of Thornbridge on (the most I’ve seen on tap outside of the Thornbridge beer festival), one from Magic Rock, the aforementioned Nene Valley (the only reasonably local offering), and one time craft beer Camden Hells (now part of a super-global-mega-corp).

So that’s all the sweet part. Here comes the sour part. We asked for the bill. We received the bill. There was an optional 10% service charge included. We opted to pay what we wanted as a tip. The bill came back.

“Sorry you’ve not paid enough”.
“The service charge is stated as optional.”
“Ah, but you have to pay this bill in full or we have to produce another bill.”
“Off you go and produce another bill then.”

We then paid that bill and left our own optional tip. Which was less than it was going to be after that petty bureaucracy.

A fuller post about service charges is something for another time. But forcing them upon customers really annoys me. Pay your staff properly so we don’t have to be guilt-tripped in to topping up their wages. If you’re charging 6 quid for a scotch egg, you can probably give a quid of that to your waiting staff.

Anyway, enough moaning. Good food, good beer (apart from one that had been on too long) and a nice place in the city centre. Worth checking out if you’re dreaming of beer in the dreaming spires…

The Old Horns Inn, High Bradfield, April 2017

A sunny Saturday lunchtime in South Yorkshire. Yes, we have sneaked over the border for today’s walk, enjoying a stroll around Low and High Bradfield, and putting this pub perfectly in the middle of our walk as a lunch stop. This lovely sunny day saw our first outdoor pub lunch of the year, although that does unfortunately mean you get to sit with lots of smokers puffing away…

A few different cask ales on at the bar and I thought this was a new one to me, but it turns out I’ve had Hen Harrier from Bowland Brewery before, and it was in better condition the previous time too.

Lots of things on the menu to choose from, classic pub dishes like Hunter’s chicken, steak pie, sandwiches, jacket potatoes and some amusingly named and intriguing dishes such as:-

Elvis’ Last Burger

6oz beef burger, melted cheddar cheese, peanut butter, pickle, crispy bacon & onion rings with “Frank’s hot sauce”

Today it was time for another fish finger sandwich, the “Giant Fish Finger” baguette:-

No false advertising here, that is certainly a giant fish finger. Nice bowl of chips and a few leaves on the side.

A good pub lunch enjoyed in the sunshine at a lovely village pub. Well worth a lunch stop if you’re in the area…

Ladybower Inn, April 2017

We do like a lunch time pub stop. Another day out walking today, walking around the northern “spur” of Ladybower Reservoir. The Ladybower Inn is reasonably placed for walks around Ladybower, situated as it is just on the eastern edge. A little detour on most walks should get you here.

We stopped in at the halfway-ish point on our walk and ordered some lunch. Sometimes the menu description doesn’t do justice to the plate (hopefully it’s a plate) that arrives at your table. This was one of those times. Something called “The Fish Finger Sandwich” sounds like it will be a fish finger sandwich. There’s quite a detailed description:-

“Succulent beer battered strips of haddock topped with Monterey Jack cheese and tomato sauce on a bed of rocket served on a toasted ciabatta. Served with chips and tartare sauce.”

Even that doesn’t quite prepare you for what arrives…

A whale in a mega bun. It’s a carb fest. Batter inside a ciabatta. Cheese, tomato sauce, rocket. And chips as well. It was a big lunch for sure, and would have been more suited on a more arduous day, but it went down very nicely.

You will notice a lack of beer, and that’s because there was a lack of beer on the bar, just one pump serving some very average Bateman’s which I politely declined.

The Ladybower is a lovely pub, walkers are welcome, and there’s plenty of space outside in the summer months. They obviously get a lot of passing traffic from the A57 which keeps them going.

The Bulls Head, Castleton, April 2017

Another sunny April day, and a twist on a familiar Peak District walk. We’ve walked from Hope to Castleton and back quite a few times over the years, and via quite a few different routes. Last time we did it, we stopped off at The George in Castleton for lunch.

Today we did the low level bit first, and arrived in Castleton with plenty of time to stroll around the shops (picking up a beer or two at the village shop), as well as buying some gifts elsewhere. As before, you are spoilt for choice in Castleton, as there are so many great pubs. We opted for The Bulls Head, a Robinsons pub that we have passed by so many times.

We sat down, checked out the menu and then popped up to the bar to order. This interesting looking concoction is Lucy Jack (Grapefruit Edition) from Norwegian brewery Lervig, full of juicy grapefruit goodness, although it could have even more hops and grapefruit for me. Very refreshing after a morning of walking.

My lunch was predictable, because pulled pork was on the menu. Pulled pork was ordered, in the form of this sourdough sandwich, served with salad, and we ordered some sweet potato fries on the side.

It was delicious. So often pulled pork can be sickly stuff, but this had the right balance to it, and it was a very tasty lunch. Another great Castleton pub.

We headed off soon afterwards, as we have the high bit of the walk still to come, returning to Hope via the Lose Hill ridge.