Ye Olde Nags Head, Castleton, April 2017

Friday night is quiz night? Well, that’s most unusual, but who are we to argue? Tonight we were joined by MOFAD companions Andy & Kerrie for an evening of a few beverages, some nosh and then some good quizzing action.

First to the bar, and a good local pint to begin. Thornbridge Crackendale is a delicious Citra pale ale. It’s one of my favourite hops, and makes for a good pint.

Kerrie and Mrs MOFAD were looking at the gin tasting boards. For a very reasonable price you get three gins, a carafe of tonic, a glass of fruity bits and a glass of ice. You can then mix your own G&Ts. Kerrie indulged in a board, Mrs MOFAD just had one as she was driving us home tonight.

Brain food next. When a pub has a pizza oven, you should have pizza. Pizza is great. All that lovely gluten, all that lovely tomato sauce, all that lovely cheese. And so many toppings to explore. Tonight, BBQ sauce, BBQ chicken, smoked bacon, onion and sweetcorn combined on the “Smoky Special”:-

It was accompanied by a Green Devil IPA from Oakham Ales, which was probably the best IPA that I’ve ever had on cask. If you look back on my beer of the month posts, you will spot a lot of IPAs. What you will not spot are any served from a cask in a pub. They are all in a bottle or a can (with the very occasional keg). I wish that I had a photo to capture this moment, but it was just too good to stop and photograph.

There was time for pudding before the quiz began. A sticky toffee pudding is always a good choice, and that proved to be the case again tonight. Sticky and unctuous.

A pudding needs a pudding beer (and further hydration for the brain in advance of the quiz getting started). McConnel’s from Thornbridge is a smooth and sweet vanilla stout with smoky notes, and very sessionable for a stout.

A lovely meal was then followed by a fun quiz. We did quite well, and certainly had a moral victory over the team behind us who were desperately Googling for a few answers. No prizes for “My Pointless Friend Richard” tonight, but we had a lot of fun.

A great pub, lovely good, good beer and a great gin selection. A good pub quiz too. Well worth a visit.

The Needle & Pin, March 2017

A little “halfway between birthdays” event for us. We had a bit of a think about where we wanted to have a little event with a little group of friends. Often these happen in various chain pubs about the area, but I wanted our one to happen in my favourite pub. So we made it happen (with thanks to Sean who let us reserve the entire upstairs area for the evening).

My evening began with a pint of Beer Hub Brew #1 from The West End Brewery, a new Leicester brewery that opened up last year. This was a cracking session pale ale with good hoppy notes.

Some pizza arrived from Peter Pizza. We tucked in.

This was accompanied by North Riding Brewery’s Neapolitan Milk Stout, which is like childhood in a glass, the 1980s ice cream classic in pint form.

Downstairs, it was bar manager Jet’s birthday. Sean had very kindly rebranded one of the pumps to celebrate this 🙂

Whilst one or two people were confused by this, Mrs MOFAD was choosing another beer, Curse of Threepwood from Wild Weather Ales, a fruity and tart rhubarb and hibiscus sour wheat beer. If you don’t recognise the name, Guybrush Threepwood was the main character in the Monkey Island series of games. One for you 90s gamers!

One more pint to celebrate, a Thornbridge favourite, Lord Marples, a classic bitter.

A lovely night out with friends and beers.

Pizza Express, Loughborough, February 2017

With apologies to Don Covay and Aretha Franklin:-

Chain chain chain! Chain of foods…

Pizza Express opened its first restaurant in London in 1965, and has been expanding ever since. Over the last 20 years or so they have been a kind of corporate football, changing hands around four or five times. Whilst they’d like you to think that they are that same company with a Sicilian chef cooking authentic pizza, nowadays they are just another chain owned by a Chinese private equity firm.

We’ve always been well equipped with pizza places in Loughborough. I had my first Leicestershire pizza at the Purple Onion, way back in October 1992. We’ve had the big chains (Pizza Hut & Domino’s) for a long time. We’ve got a Papa John’s. We also have local places such as Croma, Mario’s, Sliced! and Dominic’s (definitely not Domino’s, honest). The most recent (December 2016) TripAdvisor review is hilarious, and it won’t encourage you to visit Dominic’s.

There is one place that is head and shoulders above all of these. That is Peter Pizza. I have written about them several times already. They do the best pizza. They are top on TripAdvisor. They even have the slogan “Come and try the worst pizza that one guy on TripAdvisor ever had”.

So what did a sleepy market town need? Two new Italian chains of course. As part of the new Cineworld development in 2016, we got Bella Italia and Pizza Express. Tonight, we were off to the cinema again with MOFAD dining companions Karon & John. We decided to go to Pizza Express beforehand, as it is very close to the cinema.

There’s only one decent beer choice on the menu, the Peroni Gran Reserva, a pleasant double malt beer. The standard Peroni is just dull, but this has interesting sweet and malty notes that go well with pizza.

On to that pizza. I must admit that I found the menu a little uninspiring. There are nine pizzas with chilli on. There’s one with chicken. There’s one with ham. La Reine. I had that. It was quite nice, but it was no Peter Pizza.

Mrs MOFAD had the same, but in Romana form. What this means is that they roll the dough out a bit thinner, to make a larger base, and then charge you another couple of quid for the privilege. However, it just seems to go colder more quickly. We also had a mixed salad on the side, which was also a little uninspiring. A tomato chopped up, five half slices of cucumber and a handful of leaves. Not exactly value for money. We could have had twice as many (better) pizzas, better salad and better drinks at Peter.

You expect your local independent to be more expensive than the chain, but it’s the other way round. Pizza Express is over priced and underwhelming. There was nothing specifically wrong and it was convenient, but if you’re going to charge £13.50 for a pizza, it should be stunning. Even though we weren’t in a hurry (for once!) we did feel rather rushed out of a largely empty restaurant.

The Parcel Yard, Leicester, February 2017

Have you guessed? Another night out at the Leicester comedy festival. If you look back through February 2015 and February 2016 (and all “pre-MOFAD” Februarys) you’ll find this familiar pattern. The Leicester comedy festival goes from strength to strength, with this year’s shows stretching out through three and a half weeks, and a huge mixture of “standard” tour shows, work in progress shows, podcast recordings, new material nights and a few special events (such as Robin Ince’s only live solo show in 2017).

On then to our choice of dining tonight, The Parcel Yard. We came here last year before a show, it’s perfectly placed for Leicester station (which is why it was absolutely packed tonight, more on that in a moment). It’s also a short walk to De Montfort Hall, which is where we were heading afterwards.

Why was it so packed? Ah, that’s an easy one when you spot lots of striped rugby shirts inside. Leicester Tigers had been playing at home, having beaten Bristol 50-17. The pub closest to the station is very likely to be busy, as fans eventually make their way home, once suitably refreshed. And there were quite a few that were suitably refreshed.

This does lead to one other thing. A limited menu. This is a sound business decision, and a very sensible one. If you know you are going to be packed out, the last thing you can possibly do is offer a full menu and get all those hungry people fed in good time. So you limit your offerings in order to keep service speedy and customers happy. As a customer, if there’s nothing you fancy from the more limited menu then you can vote with your feet and go elsewhere.

There was something that we both wanted so I trundled off to the bar and ordered. My beer choice was a pint of Ruckin’ Flanker, a collaboration between Steamin’ Billy (owner of the pub) and Charnwood Brewery.

The limited menu contains a selection of burgers from the usual menu – not all of them, as there’s one missing, sadly the one I was going to choose. There are also “favourites” such as fish’n’chips, steak, vegetable lasagne and all day breakfasts, the full selection of pizzas, and some salads, sandwiches and sides. Plenty of things to choose from.

Because we were right at the front of the pub (it’s quite a long building), Mrs MOFAD was pondering how they would spot us to bring the food out (there are no table numbers, spoons with numbers, flower pots with numbers, wine bottles with numbers or any other identifying items). Thankfully (perhaps), the barman serving had entered “middle aged guy by front door” into the till, so they would know where to find their customer. I guess I can’t really argue with that.

On to the food. I am often a creature of habit, so I had the Q burger again, beef burger topped with pulled pork, crispy bacon, Red Leicester cheese, onion rings and pickles served with fries and coleslaw. Just like last year, it was very tasty. And just like last year, there was no plate, just this wooden tray that you’d expect to find in your greenhouse or shed. How do I sprinkle vinegar on my chips? Where does my blob of sauce go to dip those chips in? We want plates!

Mrs MOFAD had a pizza again, this time the Steamin’ Hawaiian, topped with ham hock, spiced pineapple chunks & mushrooms.

This was less good, as it appeared to have either been over cooked (although not burnt) or left under a heat lamp for too long, as the ham was quite dry, and the base was almost cracker-crisp in places.

We were soon fed and watered, and then wandered back up London Road to De Montfort Hall to watch Sue Perkins in “Spectacles” – some readings from her recent autobiography mixed with amusing photos and other stories, and a Q&A section in the second half.

An entertaining night out, which would have been even better if the chuntering women behind us could have kept their mouths shut for more than 30 seconds. When their mouths weren’t full of wine they were nattering away about nonsense, occasionally related to an on stage anecdote. It’s fair to say that there were a lot of people out tonight who had not been out to a comedy show before.

The Needle & Pin, February 2017

So often, you have to compromise when out for food and drink. If you go somewhere where the food is good, the beer will often be very limited, or not very good. If you go somewhere where the beer is good, the food may have been neglected, or they don’t do food at all.

Thankfully there are places where compromise is not necessary, and my pub of the year 2016 is one of those. As you might expect 🙂

How do they do this? Simple. There’s no kitchen. You bring the food, they bring the beer. If you’ve read some of my previous posts, you’ll know that’s something that we do quite often. If you just want a quick sandwich or salad, you can pop over the road to The Hog Stop to stock up on porky goodness. You can bring other things in from nearby food outlets. Or you can do what we usually do, which is to order pizza from our local pizza place, Peter. They deliver here, by hand, and it was one of the only places that they delivered to until they signed up with Deliveroo.

So, on to the thing that the Needle & Pin does best. Beer. Since my last visit, a fourth hand pump has been installed, so they now have four ales on cask at all times. Tonight my choice was Barefoot Blonde from Tenby Brewing company, a delicious pint full of delightful grassy, citrus hoppiness. I’ve had a few Tenbys now, and all have been good. And luckily I know someone who regularly visits Tenby, so I shall make sure he brings me some more back 🙂

Here comes the food bit, my favourite Peter pizza, number 3, “The Sausages”. More on that (briefly) here.

On to another beer, this time from the bottle. Thornbridge’s Raindrops On Roses was the winning brew from their 2016 “Great British Homebrew Challenge”. This hazy gold beer has a gentle aroma of rose and lemon, something like Turkish delight with a slight hoppy character.

As it was a work night, it was time to be off home. Back again soon!

Peter Pizza (takeaway), February 2017

Another prompt pizza post. We’d been out at the cinema watching T2 : Trainspotting and decided to head out to The Needle & Pin for a pizza and a pint. The N&P was one of the few places that Peter delivered to, although they are now using Deliveroo to deliver pizza to hungry fans.

However, they still deliver to the N&P by hand. So we ordered by phone whilst walking from the cinema to the N&P. We arrived, ordered some beer, sat down, and then just a few minutes later, the pizza arrived. As usual I ordered number 3, “The Sausages”. Mrs MOFAD had number 7, “No 7”, which features ham and salami.

Tasty pizza as ever, a perfect accompaniment to a tasty pint at the N&P.

Dodd’s Restaurant, Ambleside, December 2016

Mmm, pizza. We love pizza. In a break from tradition, we opened our holiday with something a bit different, a trip to Dodd’s. As usual, there was a wait for a table, but tonight we came prepared to wait (by arriving much earlier than we wanted to eat). We grabbed the last 2 seats at the bar, ordered some drinks and then sat back and waited whilst the queues started to build up behind us. Learning from experience is a great life lesson.

Here is a bottle of Brathay Gold, enjoyed at the bar whilst we were waiting. Sadly the Montano Italian cider from our last visit (a Magners subsidiary) is gone, so Mrs MOFAD’s options were very limited.

I am very predictable when we go to Dodd’s. I almost always have the Cumbrian pizza. Occasionally I will choose something from the specials board, but I love this pizza so much I just have to have it. Cumberland sausage, pancetta, local cheese and crowned with a free range egg. Some MOFAD companions have turned their noses up at the egg, but it works perfectly, the velvety rich yolk (lovely colour) going well with some crisp pizza crust.

We always like to have a dressed mixed salad on the side, and this one is crisp and crunchy although Mrs MOFAD is not a fan of the frisée (aka curly endive) as she says that it looks like the slugs have been at it. I like it, especially with the richness of pizza. A good salad, and much better than the limp iceberg that some places serve up.

Some more beer to accompany. Hawkshead Red is a gentle red ale with good maltiness that works well with the pizza.

Another nice evening of pizza and beer at Dodd’s, although I didn’t spot the previously left MOFAD card anywhere. Still recommended.