Pub of the month, May 2017

There isn’t one. For the first time since records began, I don’t feel able to award pub of the month this month.

A bland chain pub with no frills? Meh.

A quibble over an optional 10% service charge? Nope.

A dull pub paella? Narp.

So there is no pub of the month this month. This gives the other (probably) eleven pubs a statistically improved chance of taking the overall title at the end of the year.

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Pub of the month, January 2017 – The Mortal Man, Troutbeck

January 2017 has been a tale of two parts. The first part (the first three days of January) contains all of the pubs in the running for pub of the month. The second part (the rest of the month) had three more pub visits, but to very disappointing chain pubs, including one that had no beer (Carling does not count as beer).

Off we go with our first contender. The King’s Head Hotel in Thirlmere is somewhere that we have been once before. However, the last time we came here (16th June 2010), all we did was park in the car park, before ascending Helvellyn. Yes, we have a list of Wainwrights that we have conquered and when, which is why I can quote that date.

Our visit was inspired by tropical storm Desmond, which had wreaked havoc in this area just over 12 months ago. We had a walk to take in some of the newly repaired and redirected paths in the area, and ending up at The King’s Head for lunch.

The King’s Head is one of those handy places that doesn’t down tools at 2pm, so when you arrive after that time you will be pleased to know that you can still order some lunch and a pint, such as this former Lakeland classic (now part of the Marston’s empire), Cocker Hoop by Jennings Brewery, a classic bitter golden ale.

Somewhere between our order being taken and heading off to the kitchen, my ham and cheese panino turned into bacon and brie, which is essentially just ham and cheese by another name. It was very nice, but not what I ordered. At this time, I was too tired to debate the matter, so tucked in. Nice side salad and always good to see some classic pickle on the plate too.

A nice lunch at this classic Lakeland inn.

We wind back the clock two days, and find ourselves in Wainwrights’ Inn, in Chapel Stile, part of the Langdale Estate. Again, we’ve been to the Langdale Estate before, way back in 1999 this time. Today, a largely familiar walk led us here for lunch.

Wainwrights’ Inn have subscribed to the tasting bat/paddle methodology, which allows you to enjoy 3 x 1/3 pint glasses of different beer. We managed to confuse them by requesting Tirril Pennine Pilsner as one of the three beers, but they eventually worked out that it was a proper beer so could be included. A light and refreshing pilsner, and it was joined by Derwent Brewery’s Cote Light (easy drinking light ale) and Penning Brewing’s Jingle Bell Rock (pleasant session bitter with standard festive pun name).

Lunch arrived on boards (boo – we want plates!) but was utterly delicious. A warm chicken, bacon & melted cheese baguette, served with a salad garnish and barbecue sauce. We also ordered some chips to share.

A great start to a New Year of eating and drinking. Three new beers to kick off #tryanuary, and a new pub too. Dog friendly and walker friendly, Wainwrights’ Inn is a jewel in Chapel Stile, and hightly recommended if you are in the area. I assume that the position of the possessive apostrophe means that the Inn is for all of the 214 Wainwrights rather than just Alfred…

We come on to our winner, somewhere which has featured here a few times already. The Mortal Man is definitely a MOFAD favourite, and we usually walk over from Ambleside via Wansfell to have lunch here.

The usual pint of Loughrigg by Hesket Newmarket awaited (I seem to have it every time we come here). The cider festival was on as usual so Mrs MOFAD treated herself to a few halves. The first was a Monkey Mango by Cockeyed Cider…

With so many visits, we can now compare the changing of the club sandwich. It’s fair to say that it was at its peak in 2014 and has deteriorated a bit since. The flavours are still good, but the removal of the plate and the lack of toasting change it from being a proper club sandwich.

Let’s see 2017 in close up:-

It was a tasty sandwich, featuring the right number of layers at last, but a club sandwich should be toasted. Mrs MOFAD also had a good sandwich which was enjoyed with Side-r Elderflower cider by Glebe Farm, intense floral notes but a little acidic.

My bonus beer today (no driving at the end of this walk) was a familiar name, Sally Birkett’s Ale. Until early 2016, it was brewed just down the road by Hawkshead Brewery, exclusively for The Mortal Man. The beer is now brewed in Carnforth, by Old School Brewery, and is still exclusive to The Mortal Man. A good session ale.

A lovely visit to The Mortal Man as ever, and a worthy winner of pub of the month.

Pub of the year, 2016 – The Needle & Pin, Loughborough

Continuing the end of year round up fun, we look back at the pubs of the month for 2016 and try to pick a winner.

The Beer Hall, Hawkshead Brewery, Staveley was the winner for January. A pub with a brewery attached, and even though the surrounding environment is perhaps less pleasing (an industrial estate in Staveley), the great food and brilliant beer on offer here made it the winner. It has also featured in brewery outlet of the year, as I choose to round those up separately. It’s a fine line between the two, but I think it is both.

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We sampled several beers on our visit, as well as having the “Brewer’s lunch”, huntsman’s pie (pork, chicken and stuffing), Brodie’s Prime sausages (made with the beer of that name), parma ham, slices of local ham, black pudding, sticky bbq ribs, a pickled onion, piccalilli, salad, sourdough bread and butter. Great food and great beer.

February was almost over when its winner came into view. The Shakespeare in Auckland, a hotel, pub, restaurant and brewery all rolled into one, and just a few hundred yards from our hotel.

Everything has a Shakespeare theme, from The Bard pale ale to The Jester pilsner and “The Works of Shakespeare” burger….

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That’s a burger, with a fried egg, bacon, beetroot, tomato, lettuce and a pineapple ring. Definitely the complete works of Mr S. A big portion and very tasty. A proper hand made burger, perfectly cooked, juicy and delicious. It lived up to their “best burger in Auckland” claim.

The Brewers Co-operative in Auckland was March’s winner. Somewhere we visited twice, after spotting it on our first morning in the city. We popped in for a drink after dinner at The Shakespeare (above). The Brewers Co-operative are all about quality craft beer from around NZ, which is a pretty good decision, since there’s so much to choose from. After you’ve been out there for a couple of weeks, you soon recognise some of the names like Garage Project, 8 Wired, Epic and Liberty.

On our second visit, we had dinner. They have a kitchen which specialises in fish dishes, and serves many of them in classic chip shop style, wrapped up in paper. Although I am a plate advocate, this lack of plates fits in perfectly with their laid back vibe. Lovely food, great beer, and a great place to escape the Auckland CBD.

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A well deserved pub of the month!

April’s winner was easy too, The Hanging Bat in Edinburgh. It took me several attempts to get there, due to some inclement weather conditions (rain, hail and snow). As it was over a mile from my hotel, it needed conditions to be right. Eventually they were, so I headed over, the lure of 20 taps of ale and lots of smoked meats was just too strong to resist.

Obviously I chose the pulled pork to eat (I’m the predictable pulled pork guy). With so much beer choice, that takes a bit longer, but they do “flights” of 5 x 1/3 of a pint. And they don’t need you to choose them all on the spot and pour them. You get tokens which you can use to order when you are ready. This gives you time to work out what to have next, either using the old fashioned “talking to people” method (this would never work in London), or more modern methods such as seeing if your mates on Untappd have had any of them.

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Many great beers were sampled, and the pulled pork was perfect. A fantastic pub in a city packed with so many great ones. Very highly recommended for anyone visiting Edinburgh. There’s bound to be a beer of your favourite style on. And the food is great.

May’s winner The Needle & Pin has featured many times during the year, and was nominated for pub of the month in April. May’s visit was not for any special occasion, just a chance to get together with the boys to drink good beer and eat good pizza. We did all of those things in the relaxed surroundings of Loughborough’s newest micropub, which is now my favourite town pub. Great beer, no gimmicks. Where else in Loughborough would you find “Hickey the Rake” by Wylam brewery, an attack of lemons and hops and full of good sharp flavours. Answer – nowhere!

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The unrivalled range of beers on hand pull and in the fridges (in our sleepy little town at least) made this a deserving winner for May.

We return to Edinburgh for June’s winner, The Potting Shed. We happened to be there on the night of our tenth wedding anniversary and celebrated with a very nice meal. It started off very well, with this awesome selection of beer to choose from:-

So much choice, so little time. My first choice was Findhorn Killer by Speyside Craft Brewery. I quickly christened this Hoppy McHopface, a deliciously balanced ale.

For dinner, Mrs MOFAD opted for the slow cooked spicy lamb, with coriander, coconut milk, fragrant rice and “flat breed” (that’s Scotch for bread). This was spicy and delicious, walking that fine line between spice and flavour and just about getting it right in Mrs MOFAD’s eyes.

I opted for the half roast peri peri chicken, with red slaw and skinny fries. A simple chicken dish isn’t something I’ll often eat because it is something that can easily be done badly, but I had faith here as I’d heard good things about the Potting Shed.

This faith was well placed, juicy and delicious chicken, nice and spicy peri peri, good red slaw and crisp fries.As this was a special occasion, we both opted for pudding (we will often share). For me it was Potting Shed Windfall; fruit & nut “soil”, chocolate mousse and a medley of mixed berries. This was as delicious as it looks, and I’ll forgive the plant pot, since it is jokey and there is a plate to actually eat from.

Mrs MOFAD’s eyes were bigger than her belly – a sticky toffee pudding proved to be too much of a challenge – it was delicious though. Being a perfect gentleman, I had some in order to help out🙂

A chocolately pudding needs the right kind of liquid accompaniment. I tried Fathom by Jaw Brew, full of chocolate, coffee and burnt treacle flavours, although it was very thin (they might have boiled the sugar out of the brew).

A lovely anniversary meal, probably one of my favourites. And I haven’t even mentioned that they also have a pizza called Boaty McBoatface:-

Great food and beer, a nice relaxed atmosphere and funky decor. The Potting Shed is a lovely place for a meal or even just a drink or two on a night out in Edinburgh.

July’s winner was also May’s winner, The Needle & Pin. With the 24 hour return of former regular MOFAD drinking companion Bruce, we decided that we had to start and end our little walking tour of Loughborough there.

A Magic Rock High Wire “unapologetically hop forward in character” started proceedings, and it delivers on that promise with mango, lychee, grapefruit and hops hops hops.

An international mash up followed. New Zealand hops (motueka, and it was amusing to hear Alec’s attempted pronunciation) made into a beer by North Riding Brewery in Scarborough. Sadly it needed loads more hops to bring out that distinctive NZ hoppy goodness. Pleasant, but not a showcase for this hop.

Always a pleasure to be at The Needle & Pin, it’s just a great pub with so many great beers to choose from, and changing all the time.

On to August, and Ye Olde Mustard Pot in Midhopestones, on the outskirts of Sheffield. Bank Holiday Monday must involve some kind of pub trip, but so many establishments seem to give their chefs the day off and stop serving food. Great for the hard working chef of course, but what about the hungry customer?

We were in transit from our camp site for the weekend to a family BBQ. After a nice drive across the northern edge of the Peak District, we were on the look out for somewhere near to Langsett Reservoir, where we were planning on having a little stroll in the summer sunshine.

Whilst driving around, we chanced upon Ye Olde Mustard Pot in Midhopestones. Despite the massive car park looking a little empty, they were in fact open and doing food (until 4pm), so we parked up and found a table in the bar (there’s a patio with benches out the front and also a beer garden around the back).

We had both ordered the same thing, a roast chicken baguette with chorizo and smoked cheese.

It was absolutely delicious, probably the tasiest thing of the whole month. The baguette was stuffed to the gills with filling, loads of chicken, plenty of chorizo and no skimping on the smoked cheese. Proper home made chips and a decent bit of salad on the side. One of the sandwiches of the year.

A lovely cosy pub serving great food. There was also a good pint on (Bradfield Farmers Blonde) but there was lots more driving to do, so I passed. Well worth a visit if you’re in the area and a worthy winner of pub of the month.

The Globe in Alresford took the title in September. After a lovely day out at the Alresford show we had booked a table at The Globe for dinner. We ordered some food and drinks and relaxed. There was also some local cider for Mrs MOFAD, which we had sampled at the show a few hours earlier. Meon Valley Cider was lightly sparkling from the bottle, a classic cider with toffee apple flavours.

Lots of nice choices on the menu, and I was on a fishy quest again, pan fried fillet of hake, with watercress (if you don’t have it on your menu in Hampshire, something must be wrong), burnt pineapple puree (much nicer than the word burnt implies), roasted sweet potato, ginger, chilli & coriander dressing. This was absolutely delicious, a lovely piece of fish with great flavours to accompany it.

This was joined by the always reliable Bath Ales Gem, a balance of malt and hops that makes for a classic English bitter.

A really nice meal at a really nice pub. Nothing was rushed, everything was relaxed, and their was a friendly atmosphere. Lots of diners on a very busy Saturday night, but the team were able to cope with everyone.

October was an Adnams heavy month, as we were in Southwold for a week. The Jolly Sailor in Orford was the winner, featuring the usual range of Adnams beers and lots of enticing food.

I opted for a Cumberland sausage baguette with onion jam, and it comes with a really nice dressed salad and vegetable crisps (Tyrell’s I suspect):-

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A lovely sausage baguette, great sausages, nice crusty baguette and sweet onion marmalade (they call it jam). Hearty and delicious. Mrs MOFAD opted for the ham & cheese toastie, which was well filled with ham and cheese, and nice and warming on a day of sea breezes. Our cycling and dining companions Hazel & Matt had the cheeseboard and some accompaniments, all very tasty stuff. I also got free grapes from the cheeseboard 🙂

The Jolly Sailor is a lovely seaside pub, and there’s a nice big beer garden out the back for warmer months too. Really nice food and good beer. And they allow dogs. Well worth it if you’re in the area, and definitely worth stopping off at if you’re riding the Suffolk coastal cycle route, which passes within about 50 yards of the pub…

November was a very quiet month, and there was only one pub in the running for pub of the month, because we only went to one pub. The Poppy and Pint in West Bridgford.

We were off to a little film festival being held above the pub, so it was the perfect location for a spot of dinner beforehand. Nestled between the Lady Bay tennis club and bowling green, the Poppy, a former British Legion venue, has become a firm favourite amongst the Lady Bay community and visitors alike, and it has very much a community centre feel to it.

Given that we visited just after Halloween, it was no suprise to find a pumpkin beer, Most Haunted by Castle Rock brewery, in Nottingham. It only had a 2 mile journey to get here – travelling fewer miles than we did tonight!

It was a tasty light porter, a mix of light and dark, with warming spices like a pumpkin pie.

Lots of menu options in the pub too, either the “standard” menu on the table, or lots of choice from the specials board on the wall. Mrs MOFAD and I both turned to the wall for our choices. For me it was this chicken in peppery cream sauce, with good pub chips and a decent salad on the side. It was really tasty, a great pub dish.

Mrs MOFAD went for this sweet potato curry with chickpeas, rice, mini naan, mango chutney and raita – a great pub curry.

A lovely pub with good food and a great selection of beer, both local and from further afield. It really is the heart of this community and well worth a visit if you can navigate your way through the streets full of parked cars. It may have won by default, but it’s a good pub which deserves to be in the company of all of these others.

December’s winner was another new pub. Cumbria provided it, and just like last year, it was visited on New Year’s Eve. The Crafty Baa opened in Windermere in August 2016 and it’s somewhere I’ve been keeping my eye on, hoping to squeeze in a visit. An opportunity arose to stop here for lunch, so we popped in and grabbed a table and then stood for quite a while scratching our heads and looking up and down the board of almost 100 things to drink. The delightful agony of choice.

In the end I kept it local with Fell Brewery’s Robust Porter, full of roasty and smoky flavours with a hint of chocolate. Very nice indeed.

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We were here for food too, the combo sharing platter, with three cheeses, plus a whole baked camembert, four different meats, sun dried tomatoes, olives, chutneys, grapes, and several different breads. Nom!

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It was even tastier than it looks. Lovely meats, interesting cheeses and the gooey camembert was unctious, warming and delightful. And if that wasn’t enough (in all honesty it probably was) we also had a bowl of nachos, with sour cream, salsa and guacamole. Because nachos.

The Crafty Baa had an awesome line up of beer (which is always changing) alongside simple, delicious food and some funky 1970s soul on the sound system, a crackling real fire lovely friendly staff and a great atmosphere.

So now the hard bit. Choosing a winner. So many great contenders, but in the end it has to the the pub that has featured in the monthly round up in every month that I’ve visited it.

The Needle & Pin is the MOFAD pub of the year for 2016, a very well deserved victory. It’s been a great first year for the pub, Sean and the team (Rebecca, Tom, Jethro, Sam and Ben) have achieved so much in a short space of time. Several craft beer nights, a gin night, Xmas shopping events, the launch of the craft beer club, and an ever changing line up of perfectly kept casks of beer complemented by two fridges full of brilliant bottles and cans from near and far, to drink in and take away.

They don’t forget the cider drinker either. There are always plenty of good ciders available, usually up to six. Sean is a cider fan so this is why they’ve had around 50 different ciders on since opening. This also led to them being crowned as Loughborough and North Leicestershire CAMRA Cider Pub of the Year.

In their first year, thirsty drinkers have made their way through 500 casks of ale, and created something else – a community of people who are involved with the success of the pub. As well as the people in charge, a pub is made by the people who support it. This community is on social media (1500 followers on Facebook and 450 odd on Twitter), but most importantly the community is inside the pub, the people who go to the events and who pop in for a pint when they are in town.

As well as numerous trips throughout the year, I had three trips there in December alone, including the brilliant Thornbridge tasting night where we sampled five Thornbridge brews, as well as a deconstruction of Serpent, their Belgian style golden ale, brewed with cider lees (the leftover bits from fermenting cider, yeasts, skins and whatever’s left), and then aged in Four Roses bourbon barrels for two years.

We were back again just eight days later, and “The twelve days of Thornbridge” was still in full flow, which gave us the chance to try Rattlesnake, a dangerously easy to drink 6.5% west coast IPA, and Lucaria, an ice cream porter brewed with lactose for a smooth finish.

Just two weeks later, a special trip was required, as the N&P had procured one of only 12 casks of Christmas Cake Imperial Stout, brewed by Cloudwater Brew Co in collaboration with ToØl of Denmark. It’s this kind of thing that makes an award winning pub.

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Congratulations and cheers to The Needle & Pin, a very worthy winner. I’ll bring your certificate in the next time I’m down…

Pub of the month, December 2016 – The Crafty Baa, Windermere

December is usually a good month for pub visits. A few Christmas parties are usualy in the offing, the odd impromptu gathering with friends perhaps, and a few trips out after Christmas too.

This month’s round up starts at The Otter in Kegworth, which is my team’s traditional Xmas dinner venue. Every year I take my team out for Xmas lunch, a small token of appreciation for another year of hard work. I think it’s now 5 out of 7 years that we’ve been here. We tried a couple of other places, and they were nowhere near as good. If it ain’t broke, don’t try to fix it, as The Fresh Prince wisely advised us.

Instead of a photo of some dinner, here’s a view instead, because it was a glorious December day:-

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It’s still a Vintage Inn and not much has changed in the last 12 months. They still have an excellent online booking system which makes sorting out your reservation a doddle. Once inside, there’s pretty much the usual selection of ales. I did want the Purity IPA but it was off so it was Sharp’s Atlantic again, a good pale ale that is much better coming from a pump than a bottle. The full three courses were consumed, baked mushrooms in garlic and cheese sauce, slow cooked short rib of beef (not even spoiled by a sneaky sprout in the spiced vegetable fritter) and a lovely chocolate orange torte.

To Cumbria next. After a morning of walking, we descended into Little Langdale for lunch at The Three Shires Inn. It seems like everyone else had that idea, as we managed to grab the last free table inside (most of the outside tables were also full). A lovely pint of Loweswater Gold was soon being consumed, and it wasn’t too long before Mrs MOFAD was chomping on a tuna savoury sandwich whilst I had sausage ciabatta with chutney, which was very tasty, with a bit of salad on the side, and a bowl of chips to share.

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Staying in Cumbria, and travelling back 24 hours, we find ourselves in Tweedies, one of our favourite Lakes pubs. We usually manage to visit it on one of our winter walks. Because they have great beers and do great food. And you can opt for the beer bat/paddle/thingy where you get three different beers all served in 1/3 pint glasses.

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Good food as usual, a posh fish finger sandwich for me, and Mrs MOFAD opted for the rarebit (total cheese fest!) with a nice chutney on the side. It was warming and delicious, and went well with her beer choice of Sleeping Lemons which cuts through the richness of the cheese. It’s even more lemony than it sounds.

Back home next, for three trips to my favourite local pub, The Needle & Pin.

On the first day of December,
My local pub gave to me,
A great event with Thornbridge brewery…

We sampled five Thornbridge brews, as well as a deconstruction of Serpent, a Belgian style golden ale, brewed with cider lees (the leftover bits from fermenting cider, yeasts, skins and whatever’s left), and then aged in Four Roses bourbon barrels. For two years.

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We were back again just eight days later, and “The twelve days of Thornbridge” was still in full flow, which gave us the chance to try Rattlesnake, a dangerously easy to drink 6.5% west coast IPA, and Lucaria, an ice cream porter brewed with lactose for a smooth finish.

As if that wasn’t enough, just two weeks later, a very special trip was necessitated, as the N&P had procured one of only 12 casks of Christmas Cake Imperial Stout, brewed by Cloudwater Brew Co in collaboration with ToØl of Denmark. The cakey Imperial Stout was infused with fresh ground spices and dried fruits to create something fruity, and rich, with lingering warming spices.

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Christmas cake in a glass, boozy dried fruits and gentle winter spices. Well worth the brief cycle to get there and try it. Nearly everyone who walked through the door during the couple of hours that we were there wanted to have some, the exception being a couple of people who had other things to do, such as driving home or operating heavy machinery.

We decided to stay for something a little lighter, Binghams Vanilla Stout, voted CAMRA’s Supreme Champion Beer of Britain earlier this year.

It was a gentle vanilla stout, very tasty, but it certainly won’t be my champion beer this year.

We return to Cumbria for our winner, and just like last year, December’s winner was visited on New Year’s Eve.

The Crafty Baa opened in Windermere in August 2016, filling a much needed gap in the town’s “drink in” beer provision. The “drink at home” customer is well served by Booths, just up the hill from here.

It was hastily lined up as today’s lunch stop. We grabbed a table and then stood for a number of minutes scratching our heads and looking up and down the board of almost 100 things to drink. It took a while, the delightful agony of choice.

In the end I kept it local with Fell Brewery’s Robust Porter, full of roasty and smoky flavours with a hint of chocolate. Very nice indeed.

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We were here for food too, and they keep it simple and tasty with various bar snack options (pork pies, scotch eggs, olives, breads, nachos etc.) as well as a cheese board (slate), a meat board (slate) or a combination of the two.

We had the combo sharing platter, with three cheeses, plus a whole baked camembert, four different meats, sun dried tomatoes, olives, chutneys, grapes, and several different breads.

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It was even tastier than it looks. Lovely meats, interesting cheeses and the gooey camembert was unctious, warming and delightful. And if that wasn’t enough (in all honesty it probably was) we also had a bowl of nachos, with sour cream, salsa and guacamole. Because nachos.

The Crafty Baa has all of the ingredients needed to be pub of the month. An awesome line up of beer (which is always changing). Simple, delicious food. Funky 1970s soul on the sound system. A crackling real fire. Lovely friendly staff and a great atmosphere. We could have stayed there all afternoon, but we had to drive back to Ambleside, so reluctantly left.

A worthy winner of the final pub of the month for 2016. Stay tuned for pub of the year…

Pub of the month, November 2016 – The Poppy and Pint, West Bridgford

A quieter month this time, after all of the Suffolk hostelries in October. In fact it was so quiet, there’s only one pub in the running for pub of the month, because we only went to one pub. The Poppy and Pint in West Bridgford.

We were off to a little film festival being held above the pub, so it was the perfect location for a spot of dinner beforehand. Nestled between the Lady Bay tennis club and bowling green, the Poppy, a former British Legion venue, has become a firm favourite amongst the Lady Bay community and visitors alike, and it has very much a community centre feel to it.

Given that we visited just after Halloween, it was no suprise to find a pumpkin beer, Most Haunted by Castle Rock brewery, in Nottingham. It only had a 2 mile journey to get here – travelling fewer miles than we did tonight!

It was a tasty light porter, a mix of light and dark, with warming spices like a pumpkin pie.

Lots of menu options in the pub too, either the “standard” menu on the table, or lots of choice from the specials board on the wall. Mrs MOFAD and I both turned to the wall for our choices. For me it was this chicken in peppery cream sauce, with good pub chips and a decent salad on the side. It was really tasty, a great pub dish.

Mrs MOFAD went for this sweet potato curry with chickpeas, rice, mini naan, mango chutney and raita – a great pub curry.

A lovely pub with good food and a great selection of beer, both local and from further afield. It really is the heart of this community and well worth a visit if you can navigate your way through the streets full of parked cars.

It may have won by default, but it’s a good pub which deserves its place in the POTM line up.

Pub of the month – October 2016 – The Jolly Sailor, Orford

A pub heavy month this month due to spending a lovely week in Southwold and having a trip to a pub nearly every day of the holiday. I love holidays.

A special (but not in a good way) mention first to The Marquis Wellington, which became the first place to gain MOFAD approval and then have it revoked. Six visits in the last 2 years before this month, although it’s fair to say that during the previous one, the cracks were showing. On our last ever visit, we were there for some pre-show dining as usual, but after 45 minutes of waiting, half of the food hadn’t turned up, and 2 of our party had to go hungry.

On to better tales. A special mention for previous winner The Needle & Pin, who held an IPA tasting night at the start of the month. Patrons went on a tour of beers from the pale ale category, whilst Sean entertained us with some of the history of IPA. This is just the kind of thing that happens in “that London” so it was nice to be a part of it in a local setting. A great night at a great pub. Great beers too, including some oddness like the IPA full of peach flesh. It wasn’t an IPA.

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On to one of last month’s runners up next, the Church House Inn in Sutton. Three visits in 3 weeks, which must count for something (as I mentioned up above, we don’t go back to places if they let us down). October’s visit came after another lovely long walk in the Peak District, and saw us “upgraded” into a different room for good behaviour (the behaviour of Suzy the Ninja Hound who was with us). Another tasty triple pork nirvana was achieved here with these lovely ribs:-

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A lovely little village pub that deserves to keep thriving (it has been packed out on all of our visits).

For the rest of this month’s contenders, we find ourselves in Suffolk. On our first real active day of the holiday, half of us (Matt & I) were cycling, and the other half (Hazel & Mrs MOFAD) were touring by car (Mrs MOFAD was a bit under the weather). After visiting three different car parks to attempt to rendezvous with them, we had a little stroll and then headed into Walberswick for lunch.

The Bell is a lovely coastal pub, and is an Adnams pub, like so many in Suffolk. A lovely lunchtime menu offers some good choices, with three fishy sandwich options, two ploughmans and other pork and cheese choices alongside the usual full menu (which includes a very tempting Vietnamese style slow-cooked lamb shank with lemon grass and lime basmati rice).

Hazel & Matt had one of those ploughmans which was very good indeed and meant a free apple for the Minister 🙂. Mrs MOFAD opted for the crayfish tails and prawns in lime and dill mayonnaise sandwich, which was very tasty, with a very nice side salad. A posh fish finger sandwich for me, smoked cod fish fingers with mayonnaise, lettuce and parmesan pea pesto in toasted ciabatta – this was crunchy and delicious, a proper posh fish finger sandwich. With parmesan pea pesto, it can’t be anything but posh! Mushy peas for the Kensington set.

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The Bell Inn is a lovely seaside pub, well worth cycling to (or driving to). It’s a very easy ride from Southwold, with very little road involved if that’s your thing. There’s a nice (and big) beer garden out the back for the warmer months, and plenty of tables inside.

To our final day of holiday now, when we encountered two more great pubs. The Sole Bay Inn was the venue for our final dinner out. Much like the previous evening, we tried to get in to The Nelson again, but it was full. We split into two groups, to wait for tables in The Sole Bay Inn and The Nelson, harnessing the power of the internet to communicate when we had found one. The Sole Bay Inn got a free table first, so we grabbed it and sat down for dinner. It’s an Adnams pub, #obvs.

Triple pork nirvana was at stake again today (spoilers for the upcoming mention of the lunchtime pub), I had passed a few times during our week away due to lots of lovely fish to choose from, but on this visit the lure of the pulled pork burger was too strong to resist. It turned out to be a good call, a decent portion of pulled pork, not too sweet, served in a good roll with chips and a decent home made coleslaw. Good work team! Mrs MOFAD had the same, Hazel had some lovely ribs and Matt went for gammon. All good for our final meal out of the week.

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A good pint to go with it too, Jack Brand Mosaic Pale Ale which I also had earlier in the week. Hints of lemon, peach, mango and pine and a nice little blast of mosaic hops.

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There was also a tasty pudding to finish things off. You can’t reserve tables, but it is well worth the wait if you have time for one to become free. A lovely cosy pub with a friendly atmosphere.

Earlier in the day we had been on another lovely Suffolk cycle ride, which with some simple planning meant that we found ourselves in the Jolly Sailor in Orford for lunch. We parked our bikes in the beer garden, popped in to reserve a table for lunch (it gets busier than you’d imagine for an October lunchtime), had a quick stroll around the village, and then came back to eat.

As with the other Suffolk pubs in this month’s round up, it’s an Adnams pub. The usual beers and lots of enticing food. Five options on the sandwich menu:-

Hoisin duck and spring onion wrap
Buffalo mozzarella, tomato and avocado open sandwich
Prawn and crayfish Marie rose
Smoked ham and Gruyere cheese toasties with Suffolk chutney
Cumberland Sausage Baguette with onion jam

I opted for that last one, and it comes with a really nice dressed salad and vegetable crisps (Tyrell’s I suspect):-

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A lovely sausage baguette, great sausages, nice crusty baguette and sweet onion marmalade (they call it jam). Hearty and delicious. Mrs MOFAD opted for the ham & cheese toastie, which was well filled with ham and cheese, and nice and warming on a day of sea breezes. Our cycling and dining companions Hazel & Matt had the cheeseboard and some accompaniments, all very tasty stuff. I also got free grapes from the cheeseboard 🙂

The Jolly Sailor is a lovely seaside pub, and there’s a nice big beer garden out the back for warmer months too. Really nice food and good beer. And they allow dogs. Well worth it if you’re in the area, and definitely worth stopping off at if you’re riding the Suffolk coastal cycle route, which passes within about 50 yards of the pub… A worthy winner of pub of the month.

Pub of the month – September 2016 – The Globe, Alresford

Despite visits to the pub this month entering double figures, there are only four pubs on this month’s shortlist. Two of them are a couple of hundred yards from a camp site we stayed at (which also has 2 other pubs within walking distance), and the other two were also visited as part of another camping trip.

We start with Ye Olde Kings Head which is on the border between Gurnett and Sutton in Cheshire, which was marginally the closest to our camp site. An extensive menu to choose from and some good local ales to try, such as this session pale ale, Seamless from Redwillow Brewery.

The food was lovely too. With lots of things to choose from, like pie of the day (several of our party had this), lasagne, gammon, lamb casserole, steak, a burger, chicken, pork and more, you might have a hard time choosing. My choice was sea bass, pan fried with lemon, garlic and parsley butter.

Some more liquid accompaniment was required, and I had Feckless by Redwillow Brewery, a classic malty English bitter. Very nice indeed and the maltiness worked well with the garlic. Don’t get caught out by “Ye Olde Kings Head” ale though – GK House Ale by Greene King, which is often found in their pubs rebadged as “Insert Name of Pub Here” ale.

A lovely little village pub, well worth a visit, although they don’t take dogs, which is why we didn’t come back on our next trip to the village a few weeks later.

The following night, and a few weeks later, we visited the Church House Inn, Sutton. Three visits in total (although one was on 1st October). Much like Ye Olde Kings Head, this is a classic village pub with good food and local ales, such as this Concept #14 from Mobberley Brewhouse, a fruity red ale, heavy on the malt and very tasty.

Lots of good food to choose from, a standard menu and specials board. For me on our second visit, it was fish pie, something I make loads at home, but rarely have when out and about (for just that reason). This one was a good effort, served simply with peas and a few straggly bits of rocket.

This fish pie also contained boiled egg, which is a very classic addition, although it seems I was the only one of our party who was aware of this. You can catch a glimpse of this, as well as other dinners in the next photo. There’s also a pint of Bosley Cloud in the foreground, a good pale ale that went well with the fish pie.

As we had the Suzy the Ninja Hound in tow, we were squeezed into a little side room, but she was as well behaved as ever, and made a good impression on everyone, particularly the friendly staff. This led us to get “upgraded” in to the main room on our visit the following night. A lovely and friendly village pub.

On to another one, in Cheriton, Hampshire. The Flower Pots has the added advantage of having a brewery attached to it. No beer miles here, just beer yards as the barrels are transported across the car park from brewery to pub. Once again, we were camping down the road and given there were very few facilities on the camp site, pub dinners were in order.

I started our first visit with a pint of Perridge Pale, a light and hoppy delight to refresh the weary traveller.

As you might expect in Hampshire, there are also ciders available and Mrs MOFAD enjoyed a couple of these. This is an uncomplicated place, and that’s reflected in the menu. All food is freshly prepared and they will even stop taking orders for a bit if they can’t get them out in a reasonable time. Simple food done well isn’t something we see enough of in places like this, so it’s always nice when you encounter it. You’re not going to get people drinking out of jam jars with straws, or things served on slates, bread boards, skateboards or anything other than a sensible plate or bowl.

There were several stews on offer (so easy to do and so tasty when you get it right). Mrs MOFAD had one of those, and dining (& camping) companions Chris & Caroline also did. The stews were very tasty indeed, and the garlic bread accompaniment was also well endowed with garlic.

There was another option on the menu, which echoes my sentiment about simple things done well. Steak and chips. No messing around with trying to get you to pay another 2 pounds for a peppercorn sauce, onion rings, or some garnish. Just steak and chips. Meat from a local butcher. Uncomplicated, brilliant. It was delicious.

We stayed on to drink some more and play some card games. A pint of Goodens Gold was a good and hoppy golden ale. It was so good we came back the next night for another drink and some more gaming. Dog friendly too (we met several nice dogs).

The Globe in Alresford is this month’s winner. After a lovely day out at the Alresford show we had booked a table at The Globe for dinner. We ordered some food and drinks and relaxed. There was also some local cider for Mrs MOFAD, which we had sampled at the show a few hours earlier. Meon Valley Cider was lightly sparkling from the bottle, a classic cider with toffee apple flavours.

Lots of nice choices on the menu, and I was on a fishy quest again, pan fried fillet of hake, with watercress (if you don’t have it on your menu in Hampshire, something must be wrong), burnt pineapple puree (much nicer than the word burnt implies), roasted sweet potato, ginger, chilli & coriander dressing. This was absolutely delicious, a lovely piece of fish with great flavours to accompany it.

This was joined by the always reliable Bath Ales Gem, a balance of malt and hops that makes for a classic English bitter.

It would be rude not to have pudding. Sticky toffee pudding in this case, with salted caramel sauce and vanilla clotted cream. Sweet and tasty.

A really nice meal at a really nice pub. Nothing was rushed, everything was relaxed, and their was a friendly atmosphere. Lots of diners on a very busy Saturday night, but the team were able to cope with everyone. A worthy winner of pub of the month.