Afternoon tea, Aqua Shard, London, March 2017

We do enjoy a spot of afternoon tea. Normally it’s in slightly more low key surroundings, but today is Mrs MOFAD’s birthday, and we wanted something special to celebrate. I booked this a few months in advance, and even though it was just an “ordinary” Tuesday, it was just as well that I did because it soon got very busy very quickly.

After a relaxed morning of present opening, breakfast and then an easy train journey (despite East Midlands Trains doing their best to spoil it by screwing up their reservations again), we were soon at London Bridge station, and outside the Shard. We stood and gawped for a little while and then entered the gift shop. Let’s get the Shard facts out of the way and then move on to lunch.

The Shard is a 95-storey skyscraper in Southwark, London. It is 309.7 metres (1,016 ft) high, currently the tallest building in the United Kingdom, the fourth tallest building in Europe and the 107th tallest building in the world. That will change soon I’m sure.

The glass-clad pyramidal tower has 72 habitable floors, with a viewing gallery and open-air observation deck on the 72nd floor, at a height of 244.3 metres (802 ft). It was designed by the Italian architect Renzo Piano and replaced Southwark Towers, a 24-storey office block built on the site in 1975.

So, there are the facts, let’s move on to our visit. You arrive at the ground floor, after a short stroll from London Bridge station. You can have a look around the gift shop if you’ve got some time to spare. When you’re ready, you are greeted in the lobby, and then your bags go through an airport-style x-ray scanner. Once they pass, you enter the lift and zoom up 31 floors to Aqua Shard.

We ordered the full afternoon tea experience for our lunch, and spent two hours leisurely grazing our way through it, accompanied by a glass of champagne and infinite tea.

Here is the tower of cake (more on those later).

There’s a huge selection of teas to choose from but we kept it trad with some English breakfast style teas, and they just kept on topping them up with as much tea as you want. You can also spot chocolate/meringue lollipops, more on those later too.

A slightly blurry sandwich shot next, some very traditional ones in this line up. Smoked salmon and cream cheese, cheese and pickle, egg, bacon and tomato, and cucumber on rye bread. This was the first plate, another was to follow.

Some cakes next, a light sponge with chocolate and caramel, and a shard of chocolate on the outside. If you have a restaurant in the Shard, you have to have a shard somewhere in your food. You can also see a fruity/moussey/crumbley thing.

No afternoon tea would be complete without freshly baked scones, both plain and with golden raisins. You will note that these are pictured being served correctly, jam first.

More cake? Ok then. A light and fluffy victoria sponge with cream and jam. I’m not sure that the WI would quite approve, but I certainly did.

There has to be a chocolate cake somewhere, and this chocolate brownie with an orange cream was a delicious cocoa-ey bite.

And last but not least, that chocolate meringue lollipop, blurred here to show you the view from the Shard.

The service was relaxed, friendly, unhurried. A comedy French maître d’hôtel kept us entertained, jokingly chastising a junior colleague on a small error, photo-bombing some old ladies’ selfies and just generally keeping things light. No need for lots of starched stuffiness. When you opt for a dining experience like this one, there’s always a worry that you will be made to feel uncomfortable if these surroundings are not places you spend a lot of time in. That was not the case.

Nor were we surrounded by hordes of hooray Henries, which is another potential worry. There were a few corporate lunches going on around us, but the overwhelming majority of tables were filled with couples enjoying a pleasant lunch and relaxing, high above the hustle and bustle of central London.

When the bill arrives (as it inevitably must), it also appears with understated elegance.

And even the view from the toilet is rather splendid.

Just time for one last look down before hopping into the lift and zooming back down to the ground. floor

A fantastic lunch. If you are looking for a special experience for a special occasion, this won’t disappoint. Aqua Shard has put together the right mix of everything to make things feel just right.

Farewell to Moomba

My first farewell post.

Today I heard that Moomba, Loughborough’s first and only Australian restaurant has just closed down. Very sad news indeed. It was one of our favourite restaurants in town, although not somewhere that we have visited recently, for no other reason than there have been so many other places for us to explore.

Moomba is a combination of 2 Aboriginal words, but its etymology is unclear. The alleged translation is “let’s get together and have fun”, but the word is a compound of “moom” which means bottom or rump, and “ba” which means at, in on or up in Victorian Aboriginal dialects. Some say that the president of the Australian Aborigines League proposed the name to Melbourne City Council to get back at them, although his wife is later supposed to have said that he chose it as a generic term for ceremony or celebration.

Enough of words, let’s talk a little more about the restaurant itself. I’ve lost count of the number of visits we made. It opened some time in the famed year 2000, and they initially avoided the more “clichéd” Aussie dishes of kangaroo, crocodile and the like. However, lots of people turned up expecting this, so they did add these items to the menu, alongside their take on modern Australian cuisine, lots of fusion food and Asian inspired dishes. The Backpackers BBQ was a great menu item, a very good value take on a mixed grill, with various meat items, a fluffy jacket potato and interesting salads and a lovely seedy/fruity slaw.

Here’s Mrs MOFAD from October 2013 when we were getting in some practice for the 2014 “Oz Odyssey”:-

Moomba1

We had many great nights there, including quite a few work meals out. The night that Jim’ll ordered the garlic bread starter and was faced with a bread board with a 24 inch ciabatta with a knife stuck in the middle will now live longer in the memory than Moomba itself.

Moomba is where MOFAD companions Gemma and Ian revealed their pregnancy news (although we had guessed it!) and also a place where we have had a meal with most of the people that have come to stay with us.

They were always evolving, changing things around, but retaining the essence of Moomba, which had an authentic Australian feel to it, but without that ever feeling forced. They always had some good wines on, as well as better examples of Australian beers than those that most people are used to. Their cocktail menu was a good one too, with such comedy names as Sex on Bondi and Matilda’s Chuff.

The dessert menu was also something special. Not your standard chocolate fudge cake or strawberry cheesecake here, lots of interesting things to choose from, again with Australian flavours like wattle seed.

Moomba2

Sadly, we must bid farewell to Moomba, one of the nicest restaurants to grace the streets of Loughborough.

Hooroo Moomba mate!

Lakes Bar & Bistro, Keswick, June 2016

We fear change!

No, actually we don’t. We like most change. Some is not always required, but that doesn’t stop it from happening. Why am I banging on about change?

Well, because the Lakes Bar & Bistro has not changed in the last year. We visited in June 2015, and had a nice meal. We visited tonight, and had exactly the same nice meal. Let’s look at the evidence.

First the Shipyard Pale Ale. Still made by Marston’s (not the American beer it pretends to be), but still a pleasant pint. 2015 on the left, 2016 on the right.

Next, the main course, a chicken breast, stuffed with smoked applewood cheese and sun-dried tomatoes, then wrapped in parma ham and panko breadcrumbs, served with a small wild rocket salad, and spicy potato wedges and garlic mayonnaise. This was very nice indeed, juicy chicken, and good flavours from the stuffing. Slightly different presentation this year, once again, 2015 on the left, 2016 on the right.

Here’s 2016 in fuller glory.

The main difference this year was pudding, an end of holiday treat for Mrs MOFAD with this tasty creme brulee accompanied by some tart summer fruits.

The Lakes Bar & Bistro is clearly still MOFAD approved, and is still perfect if you’re looking for a quiet meal out in Keswick. Why change a winning formula?