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.

Bradgate Park Conservatory Tea Room, Leicestershire

A sunny Sunday in spring. A weekend at home. So we were off out for a walk, parking up at Groby Pool (not for the reasons that most people park at Groby Pool), and heading off for a walk around the Leicestershire countryside.

We had planned our walk to arrive in Bradgate Park at lunchtime, and that is exactly what happened. As it was a nice sunny day, we found a table outside and then popped inside to order some lunch. The usual cafe selection of sandwiches, panini, etc. is available. Keeping it simple with ham and cheese panino today, tasty if it’s done right, a travesty if it’s done wrong.

Nothing to complain about here, decent ham and cheese, and speedy service. The anaemic salad garnish wasn’t anything to write home about, but then it so often isn’t. We also had some crisps and drinks and then treated ourselves to some cake (we still have to walk back to the car, so it’s important to be properly fuelled).

As ever, I chose the chocolate cake, rich and moist.

The Conservatory Tea Room is a great little place if you’re visiting Bradgate Park. Plenty of seating inside and out, and they open every day from 10am-5pm (4pm from March-November).

Manor Organic Farm tea room, Long Whatton

Spring is springing! Around our way, this means an annual event – lambing days at a local farm. On these days they open up to the public so you can get up and close with nature, and cuddle a few of their pet lambs.

I think this is a great idea as it gets children closer to the world of food, and where things come from. It also shows the love and care that most farmers put into raising their livestock. There is much negative propaganda out there, and yes, there are poor farming practices still in this world, but if you think all farm animals are raised in sheds and kept in appalling conditions, come and see how it is done by people who care about their animals.

Anyway, enough gentle tub thumping, on to a quick lunch stop. The farm has a great farm shop, and a tea room that is open all year round, Wednesday to Saturday, 9:30-16:30. We popped in for a late lunch before going off to see lots of springy lambs bouncing around.

We were quite late so a few things had sold out (jacket potatoes in particular) but we all opted for variations on the sausage/bacon/egg bap (cob in local dialect).

Freshly cooked and delicious, a very tasty lunch. As we had spent some time staring longingly at the cakes, we had some of those too, with my choice of tiffin being the correct one – chocolatey, gooey and delightful.

If you are in the area, this is a lovely little tea room, and you can do some shopping at the farm shop afterwards.

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.

King Richard III Visitor Centre, Leicester

Interesting how a dead bloke in a car park can generate so much interest isn’t it? In August 2012, a new archaelogical dig began in a car park in Leicester. Richard III was famously killed in battle at the Battle of Bosworth Field (memorably depicted by Peter Cook in the first ever episode of The Blackadder). His body was taken to Greyfriars Friary and buried in a very crude grave. With Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries just around the corner (only 50 years later), the grave was lost, and the story that Richard’s bones had been chucked into the River Soar at Bow Bridge arose.

However, in September 2012, there was some certainty that the body found on the first day of the dig was that of Richard III, and DNA analysis showed that mitochondrial DNA extracted from the bones matched that of descendants of Richard’s sister Anne of York. Alongside other evidence, there was enough to convince the University of Leicester “beyond reasonable doubt” that the skeleton was that of Richard III.

In July 2014 a new visitor centre opened up in the former Alderman Newton School, and it has a very “old school” feel to it. As you enter (through the gift shop in a Banksy style) you are met with a throne and a projected film about Richard’s early life.

Off you then wander through displays about his short life, with stained glass, tapestry and classic museum style information boards. Upstairs is the Discovery zone, which tells the modern story of the archaelogical dig, the science involved in identifying the body, dramatic depictions of Richard III and a glowing skeleton on a fake CT scanner.

Once all that is explored, you can go and stand in a quiet room above the actual spot where the body was found. A glass floor allows you to stand right over it, and a tasteful projection of light recreates the shape of the skeleton in the grave site.

After that, there’s a cafe for lunch. There are brunch dishes served until 1:30pm and lunch dishes served from 12-2:30pm. There’s a choice of sandwiches, toasted sandwiches, jacket potatoes, quiches and salads. Later on you can also have afternoon tea.

We popped in for lunch. There were no jacket potatoes today so Mrs MOFAD had a toasted tuna crunch panini and I had the Leicester Ploughman’s – Melton Mowbray pork pie, Red Leicester and gammon ham.

It appeared on a slate. A medieval trencher I could have perhaps forgiven, but not a slate. A trencher may be edible, metal or wood, but never stone. Serving method aside, it was very nice. Good cheese, really tasty ham, a nice bit of pickle, a decent roll, decent pork pie and some good salad (a little let down by the strands of iceberg). A good ploughman’s and Mrs MOFAD’s sandwich was also good.

All in all it was a great morning out, a very interesting wander through a very local piece of history that has captured the nation’s interest. And the cafe’s not bad either. Shortly after this we were off to a comedy show in a curry house. The Leicester comedy festival is up and running!

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.