Archive for the ‘Pubs’ Category

Resto 73 The Agricultural Hotel, Penrith

December 11, 2017
IMG_1708

The Beacon, Penrith. The world’s stumpiest obelisk.

With time to kill before getting the train back to London I had a few hours to spare in Penrith. Apparently due to the terror threat to the people of the Lakes the train station isn’t doing baggage storage (me neither) so I humped my weekend bag up to the Beacon to earn my pub lunch, thankful that I’d let Sharon and Trav look after the trumpet in the boot of their car.

Lunch was taken in the Agricultural Hotel, picked because it wasn’t showing football. You can go table service or bar meal in the AH and I picked the latter. A pint of Jennings’ Best was the perfect accompaniment to a chicken curry and with a table next to the open fire I’d hit the sweet spot of unpretentious rural dining.

Fellow diners were all locals, mostly opting for Sunday roasts (they looked good, the roasts weren’t bad either (arf)) with a Christmas party in the Saloon. Service was cheerful, it’s easy to see how they’ve built a regular clientèle.

The curry could have been spicier but there was plenty of it with rice, a naan bread (I knew I was back on home territory when they asked if I wanted chips too, thereby achieving the holy trinity of stodge) and mango chutney as sides. A pint of the broodingly dark and powerful Sneck Lifter (a Timothy Dalton of a pint) rounded things off nicely and I was ready for the trip south.

8/10

#Food #LakeDistrict

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016/7 check out my GoogleMap

Resto 72 The Fish Inn

December 10, 2017

After a stroll around the glorious Buttermere we worked up an appetite such as us city dwellers rarely possess. The Fish Inn has a very homely look that tempted us in for good pub food.

If there’s a better place to be on a dry December day than Buttermere I’ve yet to find it.

They have local beer, I can recommend the Loweswater (?) Gold, and a selection of classics on the lunch menu (12-2, useful to know). I went for chill con carne. A generous bowl of chilli with lashings of rice on the side. To my delight the chilli had some serious heat to it but also a deep meaty flavour that was very satisfying. There was an old skool salad on the side and I demolished the lot.

The room is unpretentious with local artworks and photographs. In December it was busy enough with fellow walkers and a smattering of locals, I suspect it may be more like Pic Circus in the summer. But with a friendly barman and good service I’m sure they can cope with that.

8/10

#Food #LakeDistrict

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016/7 check out my GoogleMap

A short ramble round Leicester

March 30, 2017

Coming to a brief spell of teaching at De Montfort I thought it might be of use to the casual cultured  visitor to point out some of the less well-known elements of the town that are worthy of consideration.

I’ve largely eschewed chewing in Leicester (at least on a sit down and make yourself at home basis) and so there’s only one ‘restaurant’ review from my time there. This post will have a bit of food though, plus buildings, books, art, pubs and landscape since it’s those things that to my mind are the more obvious signs of an absence or presence of civilisation in a community.

Let’s start with …

Churches

IMG_0678

St Martin’s (Leicester Cathedral)

Leicester is blessed with good church, although the Cathedral doesn’t really make it into the top three. Sadly most good churches are closed to casual visits so I’ve only seen the best ones from the outside. The Cathedral (which is generally open) I didn’t go into because an officious verger told me curtly that at the time I turned up there was a service on and ‘there’s no visiting.’ She didn’t seem to want to venture what time the service would end so I thought, well I can manage without it given that there’s gurt-stonking church to be had elsewhere. Such as …

St Nicholas

IMG_0550

No, it wasn’t misty. I’d dropped my phone in beer thus turning the camera into an analogue of my own ale-soaken mind if I happened to get into the right company after a day’s teaching.

Through the mists emerges St Nicholas, a real piece of Midlands bricolage being bits of Anglo-Saxon built on through the mediaeval period and topped off with a twentieth century tower. All juxtaposed with fragments of Roman Leicester. And on the ‘wrong side’ of the ring road. If it was in London it would be a major landmark. Here it languishes feeling rather unloved. As does …

All Saints, Highcross Street

IMG_0686

Get road-side if you want to see the Norman zig-zaggy door.

Also hard on the ring road but not if you approach it from the John Lewis end as shown in this photograph. The tower has elements of Anglo-Saxon and the rest to my untrained eye is a bizarre conglomeration of mediaeval and Victorian. It is crazy in its haphazardness but this somehow just lends it charm. It also has good tombstones.

As does …

St Mary-de-Castro

IMG_0695

Part of the castle complex and thus difficult to get a 360 degree look from close up, Pevsner goes nuts about the interior. Alas it’s shut quite a lot, or at least on Tuesdays when I’m in town. Below the castle hill there is a lovely garden with such a beautifully textured assemblage of hedgery with all kinds of bird life teeming in it. Shame they had to stick a crappy Holiday Inn above it. This is a good place to eat a sandwich. I know, I’ve been there.

Books

Like all good second hand bookshops Maynard & Bradley has an idiosyncratic style of service (read that how you will). It also has green Penguins by the yard and a good section on local history, which is what I was there for. I’ve been twice and both times bought more than necessary. A good thing.

Art

IMG_0710

New Walk Museum. Entrance is currently from the rear.

The New Walk museum has a tidy and eclectic collection of stuffed creatures. Sadly, my own taste being for the bizarreries to be found collections of this nature …

250355_10150246310955703_7812640_n.jpg

A tragic visage from Güzelyürt Municipal Museum

… but of more interest is its tidy and eclectic collection of art. One room (while they’re renovating) is a broad survey of about 500 years of Western European art with the emphasis on the solid Victorian Frithish stuff. But there are a few gems of which the best is a de la Tour of a choirboy. De la Tour was not prolific (around 40 canvases apparently) so it was a very pleasant surprise to find his Choirboy hidden away in a corner of the stage area of the main gallery. Even poorly exhibited one can see that his handling of light is extraordinary. And the choirboy don’t look like no choirboy if you know what I mean. V sinister. Also there’s a good Orpen of an Old Bag on a Couch. Look at the Sisley too in that room and a good, solid 19thC depiction of the Thames.

Pass by Hogarth secure in the knowledge that he did far better things and go to the other room which houses twentieth century British stuff. Apparently this is just a small sample of their collection which means that it’s ideal. About twenty pieces, all high class. Some by artists you’ll know (eg Stanley Spencer) but also others who you won’t like Robert Beven (sp?) and his View of St John’s Wood. The gallery is worth a lunchtime of anyone’s time.

They also have occasional concerts – I was absolutely GUTTED to have missed Mahan Esfahani doing Goldberg.

Pubs

IMG_0715

The Globe. Zach pulls a mean pint.

As I pointed out in my review the Parcel Yard is better than your average station pub, on the ale side at least. But superior options are to be found (‘Don’t go to the Spoons!’ wailed my students when I asked for a recommendation). The Globe has a good range of booze and what’s more has a DMU graduate called Zach on the pumps. He’s a nice feller and so is his boozer if you’re looking for a pubby pub. Also a good find was the Brewdog pub – good music, excellent chips and tasty beer. They also do carry outs for when you’re the only person leaving Leicester when Seville are in town and you need to drown your sorrows at missing the match while you’re on your way back to London.

IMG_0712

Brewdog: Knowledgable bar staff, cracking ale and good, quick food.

Buildings

IMG_0696

De Montfort itself has a fine collection. Though the place seems to be in a permanent state of construction there’s peace to be found down by the river. Just by the university is Newarke House Museum. The museum is a typical local museum that tells the history of the city succinctly and very well with good bits of oral history about the industries that made the city what it is. They also had a good exhibition on the First World War when I was there and it seems that they turn round exhibitions quite frequently, which encourages repeat visits.

IMG_0680

Unmissable if you go to Leicester is the Guildhall. It’s one of a smattering of picturesque half-timbered survivals but the real glory lies within.

IMG_0683

That is a proper fireplace. The room it’s in ain’t bad either with 17th Century wall paintings, injunctions to clean living (the hall acted as a seat of justice back in the day) and a couple of yeomanly portraits of local dignitaries from the past.

Food

But what if you’re hungry? You could do any one of a number of chain sandwich places but I prefer to find somewhere a bit more independent.

IMG_0714

Samosa central

For food on the hoof Currant Affairs does the best samosas I’ve ever had outside of a restaurant. It’s all vegan/veggie friendly and their boast that’s it’s freshly made in the day is not an idle one. You can taste the freshness.

IMG_0675

For coffee and a sit down you can’t beat St. Martin’s coffee bar. They have excellent coffee and if you’re hungry you can get hot food made to order. A favourite of mine was an Indonesian pork stir fry with bacony slabs of pork on tangy spicy noodles and plenty of vegetables. And good value too.

Leicester is a good place and I’m looking forward to going back for a bit of cricket/football/rugby soonest.

Resto 13 The Parcel Yard, Leicester

February 21, 2017

Chatting to a friend at the weekend he told me that I appeared to have had far too much good food this year. On the face of the reviews thus far he’s right but what he didn’t know was that I had a rotten experience up my sleeve just waiting for publication.

img_0624-2

The Parcel Yard, from the drinking point of view, is an old friend. For a station pub the beer is good and reasonably cheap, with decent loos and cheerful staff. So I didn’t think there could be anything wrong with getting a quick bite before getting back to London last week.

Oh well, things don’t always work out how you want. I got there at seven and my train was at eight. Ample time I thought for a burger to be delivered and demolished even for a clock-fretter like me. I ordered and went to find a table. Argh, all that was left was high stools! Well, that’s not their fault and mebbe it’s just a quirk of mine that I hate high altitude seating so I put up with it and waited for the burger.

Waited.

Waited.

Looked around the room … was there a charabanc party in the far room? It appeared not. Had they run out of cow? If so nobody thought to let me know. I told myself that if it got to 7.30 I’d go and ask for my money back. As if the chef could read my mind the burger arrived at 7.29. I asked why the delay … busy in the kitchen. I raised a sardonic eyebrow but my rumbling stomach told me not to pursue the matter any further.

But what’s this?! Looking down I see a collection of nonsense straight outta Shoreditch. One child sized burger and an aluminium buckette of chips with some (admittedly v good) coleslaw on the side. But the size of the food wasn’t the chief source of my consternation.

The eats were assembled on the kind of wooden crate in which job lots of satsumas are retailed by the Turkish grocers of Green Lanes. Rough board base (with a greaseproof paper on top), four substantial sides and four lumps of further wood sticking up at each corner. I believe there are whole websites dedicated to the ludicrous means (planks, slates, dog-bowls) various knobheads have chosen to deliver their product to the poor consumer. This is my own contribution.

If I were the Labour candidate for Stoke I would make it my no. 1 campaign pledge that all food should be delivered ON A PLATE. I would win by a landslide.

The burger was dry.

3/10 (for the beer and coleslaw)

p.s. I did make the train but at the price of indigestion.

#Food #Leicester

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2017 check out my GoogleMap

 

 

Resto 12 The Lion and Lobster, Brighton

February 15, 2017

In Brighton for a cousin’s birthday we were needing to lay in some bait before taking on Crazy Mouse.* She’d booked the Lion and Lobster and we trooped upstairs as a pack of Levetts to a room all to ourselves. A wise precaution given the occasionally combustible nature of such events in the past.

The building is a wonderful Regency warren of rooms – getting to the bogs (and back) being a challenge on a Thesean level. The room was perfect – panelled walls, pictures of Essex and a doorway to the decking for the fag addicts.

It was a Sunday so roast was the offer. I went for the bovine variety, two good slabs of topside with excellently cooked veg (and plenty of it), roasties, Yorkshire and gravy. It was sumptuous and made me very happy. To go with that a reasonably priced South African Shiraz. And dessert? Oof, well, I guess I’m only going to spend the next two hours on rides on the pier, what a splendid idea! It was a decent crême brûlée but a bit of a let down after the main event.

Happily, no tempers having been lost, we staggered off down the front for our rendez-vous with death.

IMG_0613.jpg

Crazy Mouse. Fearsomely oxidised.

*I have no doubt as to the lunacy of said mouse, but the adjective that most came to mind while riding the rodent was rusty.

9/10 (I was tending to an 8 but my son insisted on 9)

#Food #Brighton #CrazyMouse

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2017 check out my GoogleMap

Review #111 Rowley’s, St James’s

December 31, 2016

iu

A little visual pun for the kids as I forgot to take a picture of Rowley’s

A festive meet up with the family in St James’s saw us take on a classic British one two – G&T in the Chequers followed by a solid lunch in Rowley’s. The Chequers is the pick of the pubs around here and the G&T slipped down nicely even if the FT crossword seemed more difficult than usual.

Once we were assembled we strolled up Jermyn Street, a trip just long enough for one of us to have a crafty fag while we mused on the tragic fate of Stewart Lee, a sad clown it seems for his inability to escape the chrysalis of comedian and transform himself into a fully-fledged public intellectual.

They found a table for us (in a room which has a beautiful period interior) near the window. There were plenty enough fellow diners to make for a civilised atmosphere while we looked at the card. Rowley’s does grown up food – cuts of beast, pies, fish and a couple of veggie things. After days of feeding off scraps and party food I was definitely in the mood for something solid with a good dose of vegetables on the side. I’d come to the right place.

Artichoke and asparagus soup to start was an excellent idea – a deep bowl of yum with a generous portion of bread and butter alongside. This was followed by a fillet steak, cooked perfectly medium rare and arriving on its own little gas warmer. You get unlimited chips at Rowley’s to go with, plus I took a cauliflower cheese which was golden and crusty on top. I surveyed my food and demolished it with glee, slurping down a hefty quantity of Berry’s claret to aid digestion.

The service was polite and attentive and though I was tempted by dessert I had one eye on an evening engagement and just had a coffee. Conversation roamed widely from family matters to the dubious delights to be had at Torture Garden, then to the miraculous survival of Mark E Smith in the year of pop death. We also talked about the reviews of 2016, which like a lot of internet journalism are done on a pro bono basis. But the question was, cui bono? Well, I hope that I’ve encouraged in a minor way my readership to reward the good stuff with their patronage and avoid the stinkers. I’ll be  drawing up a digest (arf) of 2016’s postings in the New Year with a top ten and a bottom three (possibly more) to laud the champions and trash the sinners.

9/10

#Food #London

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016 check out my GoogleMap

 

Review #82, The Shoeburyness Hotel

September 25, 2016

Standing on the beach

With a sub in my hand

Staring at the sea 

Staring at the sand*

Staring down my sandwich 

At a seagull on the ground

I can see his open mouth

And he’s making a right bloody racket, he’s a fackin’ seagull.

I’m alive

I’m dead

I’m the stranger

Feeding a seagull

I visited my mother today. Or was it yesterday? In Shoeburyness. A place that seems at the end of the earth looking one way but the gateway to civilisation (of a sort, I mean a lot of it is Kent) the other. This being the season of the Estuary Festival it was time to make the decision of whether to go down the route of Radio 3 Nightwaves type analysis of the psychogeography of Essex and spend a morning of reverie gazing at the majestic dereliction of the Mansell Forts. Or go back to my roots as a Sarfend native and think to myself ‘Bollocks to that, let’s get some fish & chips.’

I chose the latter.

The Shoeburyness Hotel has had a miraculous refurb since the last time I was in it. It involves a lot of stripped wood, white linen on the tables and fit-for-human-habituation toilets. So not all bad.

Five of us were looking for lunch and we sat down in a room that seemed a touch formal for lunch in an infrequently visited part of the coast. Until you tuned into the X-Factor megamix coming through the speakers. We soon forgot about the formalities and got stuck into some decent fish and chips. The portion size was perfect for if you’ve been tramping up and down the front for a while with good battered fish, even better chips but rotten peas. 70s peas in fact and thus enjoyable for their nostalgia enhancing properties.

Service was cheerful and swift – the room was soon half full, which seems pretty good for a Friday lunchtime. For five it cost £75, miraculous value to someone who lunches in London but probably normal around these parts. I’ll be back for a pint before the year is out and for dinner in 2017.

7/10

*Well, mud really. This was Shoebury, not Oran.

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016 check out my GoogleMap

 

Review #69 BFI Riverside, South Bank

August 17, 2016

I was at the South Bank killing time before going to see Notorious and thought to meet up at the NFT bar (as it’s still known in my head if not in reality) and grab some meat’n’cheese or similar to keep hunger at bay.* But as I was early for my rendezvous I thought I’d get a G&T and cool down while I read my book. Well, that’s what I thought I’d do.

It was late afternoon, before the office crowd had escaped their cubicles and so trade was leisurely at the bar. As I got to the counter one guy was dealing with a family of four while the other member of staff was staring into space. I stood to the left of the family and looked at her. She glanced my way and then carried on chewing imaginary gum. I fixed her with a laser-like beam. No reaction.

Just about to say something a feller rocked up the other side of the family and she served him immediately. This was starting to feel personal. As the other customers took away their drinks and the barman turned to chopping up limes or somesuch I commented in a neutral voice to the barmaid that I’d been next at the bar.

‘Yes, but the till is over here.’

‘And that makes a difference?’

‘Yes, you have to order at the till, you didn’t come to the right place.’

‘I thought it was the job of bar staff to serve the customer rather than the other way round.’

‘No, you have to order at the till.’

‘I have to guess that?’

‘It’s what we do here’

Or in other words, ‘NO SOUP FOR YOU!’

I retired to the other side of Waterloo Bridge and picked up an excellent G&T in the Lyceum Tavern and calmed down over a chapter of Cyril Hall. But after twenty plus years of going to the bar at the NFT  (hell, I even proposed to my wife in there in one of its former incarnations!) I’ll not be back again.

(No rating)

*Despite the feelings expressed in the rest of this post the NFT remains a pleasure to visit. To see Notorious with Bergman and Grant at their best in the plush surroundings of NFT1 was one of the highlights of my summer.

To see where else I’ve eaten (or now haven’t) in 2016 go to the GoogleMap here

Cris Brodahl

March 24, 2016


For Magritte, Simenon, Franck, Merckx, Scifo, Delvaux, Brel, Montevideo and the good people of Kortrijk.

Tuesday saw a walk on the theme of the Blitz with some students that finished in an old home, The Approach Tavern. The Approach was itself blitzed during the war and has the photographs on its walls to prove it. Further, the barman told me, its landlord not only carried on living on the premises, once the rubble of the top storey had been cleared away he continued trading the very next day. Which you might say perfectly encapsulates the ‘Blitz spirit’, a much abused term but in this context surely appropriate. I commented as I ordered a pint of Ordinary, London has always been a very thirsty city.

On our walk from the City to the East End we had passed through Bank station to see the photographs that recorded the damage done when it was hit by a HE bomb in January 1940. Being paid to be loquacious as a guide I nevertheless thought it was wiser to let the images speak for themselves at this point, commentary being unnecessary given what happened this week.

Despite having been a regular of The Approach in the 2000s, when my children went to school around the corner, I’d never been to an exhibition in the gallery on the first floor – I always had an exactly FT crossword and pint-sized gap in my day. So it was serendipitous in the light of the events in Brussels that the first time I should visit, at the insistence of a friend I’d met for lunch, it was a Belgian artist whose work was on display.* Her work reminded me of why I love Belgium, why I love Brussels and why I want to go back as soon as I can.


Like all good art the work of Cris Brodahl is not flattered by being photographed. This is why those photographing hordes clogging up the galleries of the world who see without looking are to be pitied and disparaged. The illustration above is more to underline a point about how the work in this show needs to be seen as a whole rather than as a collection of individual canvases. It is a suite, like a suite of music (emphasised by the spare title of each canvas). The shifting colours and interventions in the structure of the frame act as variations on a theme and I think would be far less effective if seen in isolation. Which is a good argument for going to see them now isn’t it?

The work itself, to quote the bumf, may ‘explore the hauntological’. It certainly operates in the hinterland ‘between Surrealism and Symbolism, photography and painting.’ Each is an image of a woman, a glamorous woman, one might say noir-ish, a woman whose image is cut up, obscured and stretched. Magritte obviously comes to mind but Brodahl is less quotidian in her motifs than him, her work is distinctly filmic.

They seem less portraits of an individual than expressions of a type of personality – a personality disrupted or obscured. This made me think of the Bazille in the Delacroix exhibition at the NG where the central woman in a portrait of three stares back at us brazenly, with an erotic charge that surely mostly comes from the artist’s (and his client’s) desire of what a woman should be. Brodahl seems to take that female subjectivity and look inside it and re-present it fractured by the spectator’s gaze until it explodes the traditional frame of portraiture.

Ok, maybe that’s the Ordinary talking, although it wasn’t that long a lunch. But the show made me think, and that’s what shows should do. I urge you to go to it. And then go to Brussels, or indeed anywhere else in Belgium, as soon as you feel that you can.

* Lunch was paid for at the bar and therefore not subject to the Rules of 2016. Thank heavens! I feel like I’ve done nothing but write about food (and mark essays) for the past week or so. For the record the haddock and chips were excellent. 8/10


%d bloggers like this: