Vapia-no pizza, Soho, March 2018

This is going to be one of those moany posts. I ordered pizza. I left without eating pizza. I went to the Soho Theatre. I bought a wrap. I ate that after the show. I was still thinking about pizza.

Let’s get on to the good bit first. I like the Vapiano concept (when it works). If you’ve not been to one before, a quick explanation. When you go in, you get a contactless card (much like a hotel room card). You find yourself a table or a spot at a shared bench (more likely on a busy Friday night in the west end). You visit the counter that you want to order food from, you order food, drinks etc. You tap your card on the reader and the charge for whatever you’ve ordered is applied to the card. When you’ve finished, you take your card to the till, and pay. Easy. Simple. Quick.

When it works, it works. However, if it is a really busy Friday night, and you choose pizza, you might run the risk of not getting pizza. I’m willing to take that risk for pizza, but it backfired. I did manage to get a pint of “British Pale Ale” from Caledonian (yes I know, evil Heineken subsidiary). Six quid a pint though – super ouch!

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Coupled with eating some of Mrs MOFAD’s chicken alfredo (chicken, mushrooms, onion, cream, egg and Grana Padano), this was all that I had to sustain me. The pasta orders are cooked in front of you while you wait. Despite ordering pizza in what seemed reasonable time, there appeared to be a backlog of pizzas, and orders that went in after mine were definitely coming out before. When they messed up another order (missing three quarters of it!) then they had to get the rest of that through the oven.

In honour of the recently departed Jim Bowen, let’s have a look at what we could have won, with a previous visit to Vapiano in April 2011…

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My plan to come here because it would be quick rather blew up in my face. You can’t win them all. At least they were good enough not to charge me for the pizza I didn’t eat. I would come back, but I’ll make sure there’s another half hour available next time. Can’t win them all.

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Brewdog Nottingham, January 2018

A very rare excursion to Nottingham. Very rare. In fact, I think the last time we came here was because the Derby Assembly Rooms had burned down. So that puts it in 2014. Four years on, and there’s still no Assembly Rooms. Apparently it will be knocked down in 2020 and rebuilt in 2022. On that occasion, we were here to watch Sarah Millican’s rescheduled show. Today, there was a Christmas present to exchange. We just don’t come to Nottingham these days.

After achieving our goal, we wandered down to Brewdog for lunch, as it was our closest option for good food and an interesting beer. Well, one of us had an interesting beer. My Indie Pale Ale was a very dull biscuity lager which did not exhibit any of the “pear and banana notes” that were claimed in the tasting notes.

Mrs MOFAD’s beer was far more interesting. Raspberry Popsicle Parade was fruity, smooth and a little tart, a 0.5% raspberry Berliner Weisse. If only all low alcohol beer was this good.

Lunch was pizza. My Brewdog dining experience is generally formed of burgers or pizza, and this is a pizza establishment. Which means I will be choosing King of Pigs, gyula sausage, leeks, tomatoes, with mozzarella and watercress. As usual, it was delicious. Pizza done simply and done well is a thing to behold. This had tasty sausage, with the piquancy of leeks and great peppery watercress. I wouldn’t mind a few more slices of sausage and a lot more watercress.

Another solid Brewdog experience.

Pizza Express, Loughborough, October 2017

Another quick pizza post as a result of another night out at the cinema with regular cinema and dining companions Karon & John. It’s always a bit tricky to judge which of the various restaurants to choose when you’re on the clock. We thought that pizza would be a safe bet, because once you’ve made it up it cooks pretty quickly. Were we right? Find out in a moment.

My choice tonight was pizza campana, a current special featuring crumbled pork & fennel sausage, friarielli (a kind of Italian broccoli leaf), tomato, garlic oil and mozzarella, finished with Gran Milano cheese and parsley.

It was a nice pizza, good to have something a bit different for once. We also shared a standard side salad, which is ok, just rather uninspiring.

Pizza Express have not upped their beer game since last time, so I opted for the Belvoir (pronounced beaver if you’re not from round here) ginger beer, a lovely and refreshing ginger beer (non-alcoholic).

So did they manage to get our dinners out in time? No. The trailers had nearly finished by the time we had got out and in to the cinema.

Tonight’s film was Kingsman : The Golden Circle which was a really good fun action romp, the perfect action nonsense antidote to one of the busiest weeks of work I’ve ever known.

The Narrowboat #1, Skipton, September 2017

After a gentle bimble around Skipton this afternoon we wandered back to the hotel and then back out again for dinner. We’ve booked a table somewhere for tomorrow night (a lesson learned from 2015) but tonight we just decided to wander until we found somewhere. We didn’t take long to find our dinner destination, settling on The Narrowboat, which we’d visited as part of 2015’s walking tour of Skipton.

The first reason for visiting was because I had spotted Hawkshead’s Passion Fruit Gose on the bar. Mrs MOFAD has been looking out for this beer since it was first announced, and we missed it at this year’s Thornbridge Peakender (along with many other great beers which came and went in the blink of an eye). It looked like it was finally time to try it.

So near, and yet so far. I’d ordered it at the bar, but the last few drops dribbled out of the keg. The pub let Mrs MOFAD have it for nothing (to compensate for the sadness), and she had to choose something else. Pogo by Wild Beer Co is fruit salad with a little hop character.

My first was Sorachi by Bristol Beer Factory, a decent cask ale but for me the Sorachi Ace hop was too muted. It’s a Marmite hop but I love its flavour which is why I was looking for more here.

A gentle golden ale next, in the form of Mallisons American SIPA. A decent pint but nothing to really excite.

Just in case you weren’t sure that we were in the North. Chips and gravy. Northern gravy. Although sadly Hazel’s pie had to go back, as during the likely reheating they had burned it rather badly, and it was inedible. It was eventually replaced with pizza, but they didn’t refund the difference.

No such problems with my pizza which they got right first time. A porky fest with bacon, sausage, pulled pork and black pudding.

Black pudding is northern filth, so it was distributed to other plates… Apart from the filth, this was a tasty, porky and crisp pizza, just what I wanted on a Friday night. If that wasn’t good enough, then Mrs MOFAD was even more delighted, as they had found some more Passion Fruit Gose. Her review was simple:-

“OMG. Best. Beer. Ever.”

Fairly clear cut.

My final pint tonight was Citra Star from Northumberland’s Anarchy Brew Co, one that I’ve had before in a can, and it’s even better on cask.

A shame that they burnt the pie, and didn’t really sort the situation out properly, but we did all eventually have a nice dinner and some great beer.

Dodd’s, Ambleside, August 2017

It usually takes about 3 minutes to walk here when we stay in Ambleside. Regular readers may recognise Dodd’s as it has appeared here twice, at either end of 2016.

Today it took us 7 hours to get here from Brothers Water. Via Middle Dodd and Red Screes. So we didn’t take the easy route. Because there isn’t an easy route. There are mountains in the way, so you have to go up and over them. Particularly if you are bagging Wainwrights.

This was the view from Red Screes earlier on this afternoon.

Once we had arrived in Ambleside, it was a simple choice.

“Pizza?”

“Pizza”

That means Dodd’s. We always come here for pizza. I always have the same beer:-

The good thing about nerdy beer app Untappd is that it can tell you things like this. It tells me that I’ve had Brathay Gold three times. All at Dodd’s. It’s obviously a head turner, as the man at the next table wanted to check it out, and was soon ordering one for himself.

Same same!

In keeping with the “same, same” theme, I had the same pizza. I always have the Cumbrian, because it is delicious. Breakfast on a pizza. Slices of Cumberland sausage, pancetta and a local cheese, all topped off with a fried egg. The egg on a pizza always creates divisions amongst MOFAD fans – there are many who turn their noses up at the idea but it really works. I always save it until last as it’s the best bit!

Same same!

It’s fair to say that we’ve earnt a pudding today, this fruity take on a tiramisu had Mrs MOFAD’s eyes lighting up!

We had soon demolished it. Out of the corner of Mrs MOFAD’s eye, she had spotted a taxi arriving at the Market Cross where the taxi rank is, so we paid up and headed for that. We were soon speeding up “The Struggle”, down the Kirkstone pass, and back to the camp site in no time at all. It was certainly an easier journey than the one that got us here 🙂

Another lovely visit to Dodd’s, next time it might be an easier journey though.

Sours night, The Needle & Pin, Loughborough, June 2017

Yes, it’s another “night” at the N&P. The latest in a long line of great evening events, including Belgian night, dark beer night, Thornbridge night, IPA night and the original (and messiest) craft beer tasting evening.

Tonight was the rearranged sours night, a month later than planned due to Sean’s man flu which caused the postponement of the original date. The best things come to those who wait, and wait we did, for the new date a month later. Mrs MOFAD was here again tonight, as sour beers are very much her thing. We were also joined by regular MOFAD companion Alec, and managed to have a table all to ourselves.

We started the night a little early, with pizza (from Peter as ever) and a beer from the bar.  This was a Platinum Blonde from Byatts, light and refreshing bitterness.

And this was a tasty pizza as usual:-

On to the main event, the sours. We began our journey with a very refreshing little number, a super sunny summer time beer, Jasmine Dragon from Dugges. Subtle jasmine notes, very nice. These Swedes know what they are doing…

Beer number two was standard saison stuff from Wylam, in the form of Le Saisonnier. The label hints at subtle rosemary and lemon balm flavours, but they were too subtle for me, because I couldn’t find them anywhere in here.

Snacks started to arrive next, humous and breadsticks first. We moved on to a “wild card” beer next, which Sean added in to the line up late in the day. Duchesse de Bourgogne is a beer that we have both come across before, in the famous Eagle pub in Cambridge (where Watson & Crick first announced their discoveries around DNA). Mrs MOFAD hated it (vinegary coke) but I quite liked it. That continued tonight, as I enjoyed the sweet, sharp and sour funky cola flavours, and Mrs MOFAD did hop face once more, despite no hop profile. Hop face appears when an unpleasant flavour is encountered.

Back to the plan next, and we journey up the A515 (or A6) to visit our friends at Buxton. In fact, you will notice the next beer in my haul from our last visit:-

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Superluminal is a collaboration with Stillwater, and they has produced a sour IPA. What you get is enoromous grapefruit flavour, but no hoppiness. Even Mrs MOFAD quite liked this one, the first time she has said that about an IPA.

Another wild card next. Vandervelden 135 Oude Geuze Vielle is a geuze released to honour the founding of Oud Beersel in 1882. It was released in the spring of 2017 and is a blend of a 1-year old lambic aged in 30-year old Tuscan Brunello di Montalcino barrels and a 3-year old lambic aged in Beersel’s own foudres. I’d already pre-ordered a bottle of this, so it was nice to “try before you buy”. It has a best before date of 20 years hence, so I can safely cellar mine for a little while. I’m going to do just that, it was like a champagne amongst beers. It also went very well with a subtle goats cheese.

We return to the plan with another collaboration, NxSE, a joint effort from Gypsy Hill (the SE), and North Brew Co (the N), who have made a kettle soured raspberry beer. This was full of raspberry tartness and no sugary nonsense. Lovely stuff.

We move on to one of my favourites, mostly for the flavour, but partly for the artwork, which appears to feature Calculon (the acting robot from Futurama). Wild Weather make great beers, and they also do great names and artwork (cf. Curse of Threepwood and its Monkey Island homage). Dark of Ages Past was a lovely blueberry beer, which matched perfectly with Rebecca’s chocolate and cherry brownies, which complemented the sweetness of the beer very well.

We end on something more subtle, Morello Cherry Gose from One Mile End, very subtle cherry flavours and a hint of saltiness.

Another great “night” at the N&P. It’s been quite a journey from that inaugural craft beer night, and a sold out sours night shows that local drinkers are ready to explore all kinds of areas on their beer journeys. Looking forward to the next one, whatever it may be.

The Crown, Coniston, June 2017

We got here eventually. It wasn’t our planned dinner destination, but as we toured around a few pubs, there was a lack of space in one (we did have a table but as we hadn’t made a reservation we couldn’t be served), and a lack of things that Mrs MOFAD wanted to eat in another.

There were a few tables available here, so we grabbed one, grabbed some menus and sat down to peruse. Moments later I was off to the bar to order, 2 pizzas and a salad. I do like a pub pizza when they do it well. As The Crown also acts as the pizza takeaway outlet for the whole village, I had high hopes.

Pub pizza is not a derogatory term, more a reference to the type of pizza you find in pubs. It’s not going to be an authentic crispy base sourdough pizza, but more like the kind of pizza that we grew up on in the 1980s. That’s not a bad thing though. I have fond memories of some 80s pizzas.

These hopes took a slight dashing just a few minutes later when someone arrived from the kitchen to explain that my choice of pizza (crispy duck #obvs) wasn’t available, so I had to choose a new pizza. This was duly done and we sat back to enjoy our drinks and wait. A pint of Socks and Sandals for me, a new one from Robinsons (whose pub this is). A smooth and bitter pale ale, not an IPA as described, but a decent rye ale. Mrs MOFAD had Timmermans Strawberry, which turned out to be too sweet for accompanying a savoury dish.

Soon afterwards, the pizzas arrived, along with our salad. And good pub pizzas they were. Mine was a twist on a Hawaiian with added pulled pork. Because everyone likes to add pulled pork nowadays. Lots of cheesey goodness and a doughy base.

The side salad was somewhat of a let down. Not so many leaves and drowned in lots of dressing.

No pudding tonight, we will earn those over the coming days. A decent pub with a decent pizza, definitely worth a visit if you’re in Coniston.