The Oyster Shed, Angel Lane, London, March 2017

After a lovely afternoon tea up the Shard, we had a wander around Borough market. We didn’t buy any food as we were full as an egg, but it was lovely to explore the market. We will definitely come back another day. After that we had a stroll along the south bank for a little bit.

We were meeting up with our good friend Gale, who happened to be working nearby today. We had arranged to meet in another pub, but that was closed for refurbishment, so we strolled east along the north bank for a short while to find ourselves in The Oyster Shed.

This is not one of your historical London taverns that has stood on this site for years, playing host to Samuel Pepys or the Krays. If you’re looking for an historical boozer, go elsewhere. It’s very new but doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb, blending nicely into its surroundings. Huge glass windows give good views over the river.

We met Gale here and stayed for a couple of drinks. Luckily (and slightly unexpectedly) there were a couple of decent ales on. This was a Naked Ladies by Twickenham Fine Ales. Those keywords ought to bring a few extra hits to this post. It was a hoppy and bitter golden ale.

Next up, a former craft beer. Camden Pale Ale is still a reliable beer, despite the fact that it is now owned by AB InBev. Camden Town Brewery grew very big very quickly, and around 70% of its beer is currently brewed elsewhere. By June this year, all brewing will be back in house at a new brewery site in Enfield, the investment coming as a result of the AB InBev takeover in December 2015. The initial backlash seems to have subsided, so Camden Town look to have ridden the storm.

The Oyster Shed claims not to be part of a chain, but Geronimo Inns are owned by Young’s, so they are. It’s not a bad thing in this case, as there are plenty of good pubs owned by Young’s.

If you find yourself around Cannon Street, Monument or London Bridge this is a cracking modern London pub to meet friends in for a drink. The food looked good too, plenty of pub classics on the menu, although we were too full to even consider anything, even a bowl of chips.

Recommended.

Centro Lounge, Loughborough, January 2017

Another evening at Centro Lounge can probably only mean one thing. A cinema trip. It has become our post cinema haunt, but a change of itinerary tonight meant that it became our pre-cinema haunt.

If that change wasn’t too much to take in, here’s another one.

Wine!

Tonight was “Tapas Tuesday” where you can get three dishes and a glass of house wine for £9.95. A pretty simple offer, very clearly stated on the menu, and most people were partaking.

Except it confuses the bar staff. If you order this offer, stating you want to order “Tapas Tuesday”, for some utterly unknown reason (although the cynic in me can hazard a guess), they assume that you don’t want the free glass of wine that comes with it unless you very slowly and carefully specify that you want the free glass of wine that comes with it. So you stand at the bar staring at the staff. You ask where your wine is. “You didn’t order any wine”. “This offer comes with wine.” “You have to ask for it.” Even though the menu clearly states that it comes with wine.

As you might have guessed, this annoyed me. Implying that I’m an idiot because I didn’t order the thing that the menu explicitly states comes with the thing that I ordered. I think a change of policy is required. Or maybe a spot of training.

On to the food. We ordered 6 dishes between us:-

Patatas bravas with roasted garlic mayo (2 portions, pictured below)
Chicken teriyaki skewers with sesame dressing
Beef and pork meatballs in a tomato & red wine sauce
Honey-glazed shredded five-spice pork
Salt and pepper squid with lemon mayo

I was underwhelmed by the patatas bravas. The potatoes should be crisp and golden after a nice roasting in the oven. The sauce should have finely chopped onion, garlic, paprika and usually a touch of chilli. And if that mayo had roasted garlic in, I’m a monkey’s uncle. Uninspiring. And actually not all the necessary as the dishes are served with some good fresh ciabatta, which is great for mopping up sauces.

The chicken teryaki skewers were very nice, as was the five spice pork. Although these Asian flavours don’t sit easily alongside the more traditional meatballs (albondigas) and potatoes. The squid sits a little better, although a sprinkling of pimenton would have tipped it a bit more towards Spain.

After we finished, we nipped next door to watch Passengers, which was really good apart from just a couple of scenes that needed to be reined in a bit. A great slow build of menace…

Flight NZ2 Los Angeles to London, March 2016

Nearly there! The last flight of the NZ 2016 epic adventure. Somehow, it’s still Saturday. Soon it will be Sunday. Another long flight and some more meals to keep you sustained through out.

The starter on this leg was prosciutto with rock melon, coriander salsa and queso blanco (cheese), with black olive bread.

Another interesting choice of main courses:-

Wood roasted chicken with curried fruit and nut rice, tahini garlic yoghurt sauce and steamed broccolini.

Soya basted cod with garlic chives, and hokkien noodles, snow peas and spring onions.

Slow cooked beef with crushed minted peas (the pea hammer is at work again), gingered sesame carrots and potato wedges – this was my choice and was another nice one.

A pear mousse cake to finish.

You might just spot some nasty American cheese in those photos. As I mentioned in the write up of NZ5, cheese should not bend.

Once again, a light breakfast is served before landing, this time, herb scrambled eggs with spiced turkey sausage (why waste a sausage casing by filling it with turkey?) and tomatillo salsa. There were also cereals and yoghurt.

After 4 flights with Air New Zealand, they are certainly MOFAD approved. Sky high dining is hard to get right and Air New Zealand have done very well.

Flight NZ2 Auckland to Los Angeles, March 2016

Another “post on a plane”. As our NZ adventure draws to a close, there are just a few more food opportunities to go. We left Auckland late on a Sunday evening, and after a small snack at the airport before take off, we were still hungry enough for some dinner, as we were about to start Saturday afternoon all over again.

Good food again on this leg of the journey, a light starter of lemongrass chicken with mint dressing, crispy shallots, cucumber and chive salad, organic sourdough bread.

Several choices of main course:-

Chicken tagine with olives, figs, chickpeas, sauteed kale and smoked yoghurt (!)

Paprika dusted hapuka (a native fish of NZ) with chive mash and sauce vierge

Slow cooked beef with wild mushroom jus, crushed parsnips and green beans – this was my choice and was tasty.

Pudding was apple and manuka honey (#obvs!) crumble torte with feijoa cream. Feijoa is another popular NZ fruit which has an odd soapy taste.

Before landing, a breakfast is served, a potato and spinach baked egg frittata with veal sausage and ratatouille with tomato relish. The ratatouille was a bit of a mis-step, it doesn’t quite work with everything else. And the sausage could do with some more browning!

Still another tasty in-flight meal though, Air NZ have really done a good job on their catering.

 

 

Clearview Estate, Hawkes Bay

Elephant Hill was a bit of a let down. We carried on down the road, to our final winery destination for this trip, Clearview Estate.

Tim Turvey was told in 1985 that the location was “too cold to grow wine grapes”. Along with business partner Helma van den Berg, he ignored that and bought it anyway, planting vines in the winter of 1988 to produce the first red wine vintage in 1989, and adding to the cellar door and restaurant as the business grew.

The ‘Red Shed’ Restaurant was opened in 1992, made from materials salvaged from the old Napier railways’ locomotive repair workshop, and including three roller doors from a dismantled Ford garage from Hastings.

Today the shed was absolutely heaving. A lovely Sunday afternoon had seeen a lot of people out and about, and many of them looking for some food and drink. Luckily we had already eaten our impromptu picnic at a previous winery, as tables were all fully booked, and they even had to suspend tastings for 20 minutes or so whilst they got some more orders out of the kitchen.

This gave us a chance to relax for a little while and ponder our tastings. We enjoyed a couple of whites, some rosé and a couple of very tasty dessert wines, with a couple of bottles ending up in my trusty backpack for the long cycle back to the camp site.

It’s been a lovely couple of days of wine cycling. The perfect way to enjoy wineries at your own pace.

Elephant Hill, Hawkes Bay

After the unabashed charm of Beach House wines, we rode on to our next intended destination of Elephant Hill. It’s a bit of a culture shock after Beach House, lots of German money, efficiently invested in things like a state-of-the-art biological water treatment system that allows them to recycle winery waste water back into valuable clean water. Gone is the dusty brick of Beach House, replaced by “pre-aged copper wall cladding”.

We decided to turn around, head back down the drive, and pedal on to our next destination. This just didn’t seem to fit in with our tour.

Beach House Wines, Hawkes Bay

After yesterday’s epic cycle ride on the “wineries ride” (taking in such delights as Abbey Cellars/Fat Monk brewery), today we were on another epic trip, with the “coastal ride” our inspiration today. After a long ride out from Hastings, through the excitingly named Clive, and along the coast (great views), we reached Beach House around lunchtime. We had not planned this to be the venue for our lunch stop, so we made a quick trip to the nearby supermarket to grab some emergency picnic supplies, and had a pop up picnic sat under the vines outside the cellar door. This is encouraged by the lovely owners.

After lunching, we popped in to say hello to owner and winemaker Chris and his wife Jill and their dog Teddy (he was very friendly). The Beach House cellar door is described on their web site as a “hay bale” style – there are no frills here. It’s not quite spit and sawdust, but it’s all very simple and has a rural charm about it. They have three vineyards, chardonnay and riesling up here, and then the Track vineyard down in Gimblett Gravels (where we were yesterday) as well as some more white grapes at Ohiti Valley Road.

We sampled a dry rose, a nice Pinot Gris, a Sauvignon Blanc and a very fragrant 2014 Riesling, which found its way into the rucksack for export. We had a good long chat with Chris and Jill, talking camping and travelling and more.

Beach House is a lovely, no-nonsense, winery which is well worth a stop if you find yourself out on the coast at Te Awanga.