Berlin – Prost! (2)

Last week, I reviewed some of the excellent beers that Berlin has to offer. This week, I thought I’d recount some of my culinary experiences in this great city.

Currywurst if you’ve not yet experienced this particular German delicacy – is perhaps the most ingenious, yet simple snack ever invented. It is up there with Belgian frites and the hot dog. As the name suggests, currywurst involves little more than a German sausage or bratwurst smothered in curry ketchup. It is normally quite spicy and often served with a big piece of bread as shown below. It isn’t much to look at, but take my word for it, you are in for a tasty treat! A currywurst can be enjoyed any time of the day, so long as it is served with an ice-cold German pilsner.


Currywurst (SMALL)

Currywurst and beer!


The schnitzel is best associated with Austria, but it in fact originates in Hungary or so I’m led to believe. Like currywurst, schnitzel is in fact quite a simple dish – a piece of meat (normally pork or veal) hammered until it is very thin, coated with breadcrumbs and then fried in oil. A schnitzel can be served with bratkartoffeln  (fried potatoes), or oftentimes with spätzle which is a kind of egg noodle as seen below. Schnitzel is served with a wide variety of sauces; one of my particular favourites is schnitzel with mushroom sauce – known as jaegerschnitzel. 

Schnitzel and beer

Jaegerschnitzel with spätzle

In Berlin, you’ll find an endless array of bakeries selling all manner of delicious pastries. For me however, there is one particular pastry which really stands out and that is the humble Schoko-Wuppi. Little more than a hunk of bread with chocolate chips, this is nonetheless the perfect snack to eat on the go and I enjoyed many of them during my trip to Berlin. You’ll find the Shoko-Wuppi on sale in Kamps, a German bakery with branches all over the city and beyond.



World clock













Berlin – Prost!

Me with bear smallWie gehts?

Last month, I spent three memorable days in Berlin. I’m due to get married next year and so my great friends decided to take me on an adventure filled weekend in Germany’s legendary capital city.

Over the course of the weekend, we got to see the many awesome sights the city has to offer, from the Reichstag to the Brandenburg Gate to the remnants of the Berlin wall. Needless to say, we also managed to sample quite a few of Berlin’s brews!

Over the course of my next couple of posts, I will recount some of the beers we sampled during our Berliner Ausflug.

Berliner Kindl
The staple beer of Berlin. You’ll find it anywhere – bars, shops, supermarkets restaurants, street food stalls, vending machines. As mass-produced lagers go, this one isn’t too bad, either as an immediate thirst quencher or as a session beer. It’s by no means exceptional, but it deserves a mention all the same.

Berliner Kindl (2)

Berliner Kindl

Maisel’s Weisse
Brewed by Brauerei Gebrüder Maisel, this is exactly what I would have expected for a German wheat beer. Medium-bodied, fruity, creamy texture, frothy head with a hint of spice in the aftertaste. It’s a bit too heavy for a session beer, but certainly one that can be enjoyed at a steady pace.

Maisel's Weisse (SMALL)

Maisel’s Weisse

Holy Shit Ale
With a name like this, how could you not be curious to give it a go? Brewed by Brauhaus Südstern, this imperial IPA definitely packs a punch at 10% ABV.  Full-bodied and extra sweet, this beer needs to be sipped slowly. Worth a try, but I probably wouldn’t have two in a row.

Holy Shit Ale (small)

Holy Shit Ale


Me with stein (SMALL)



Guys with beer

A great bunch of guys!




Beers of the week – Telenn Du & Sant Erwann

Flag_of_BrittanyDemat dit (hello)!

Continuing with the Breton theme of last week’s post, I thought this week I’d share my views on two more brews from the Brittany region – Sant Erwann and Telenn Du.

Telenn Du

Hmm…. dark ale. Not normally my first choice of beers. With such a distinctive name however, I decided to take a chance and try Telenn Du, a dark buckwheat beer brewed by Brasserie Lancelot. Unlike other dark ales which I’ve tried, Telenn Du is actually quite light and easy to drink. In terms of flavour, there’s quite a bit going on, with notes of coffee, chocolate, spices and caramel. Despite my initial hesitancy, I was quite impressed with this beer and would certainly have it again.


Telenn Du


Me with Telenn Du beer

Enjoying my Telenn Du in Concarneau

Sant Erwann blonde
With a deep golden amber colour and a shallow frothy head, Sant Erwann blonde was one of the more memorable beers I encountered during my week in Brittany.  Brewed by Brasserie Artisanale Du Trégor which is situated in the Côtes-d’Armor department, Sant Erwann can be found widely in bars and restaurants in the towns and villages around Brittany. It has a deep, distinctive aroma of yeast and herbs and a flavour to match. Overall, the taste is quite bready and sweet with notes of banana and spices. A good beer to go with a barbecue – as I discovered!


Sant Erwann blonde

Yec’hed mat! (cheers!)

Brews in Brittany!

I’ve just returned from a week’s holidays in Brittany on the west coast of France where I was staying with my fiancée and her family. It was not my first visit to France’s famous Celtic region, but on this occasion, I thought I’d recount some of my experiences of the marvellous array of beers, food and culture which can be found there.

Alors…….. first lets talk a bit about the beer.

Lancelot Duchesse Anne Triple
I found this beer on sale in many bars and cafes in the towns and villages around Brittany. As you might expect for a triple, Duchesse Anne is quite a full bodied beer with a deep amber colour and a rich flavour, with notes of caramel and honey. Left to linger on the tongue, you’ll also detect hints of various fruits like banana and pear. Duchesse Anne is brewed by Brasserie Lancelot which describes itself, quite modestly, as one of Brittany’s ‘premier breweries’. I only came across Duchesse Anne in bottles, but apparently you’ll also find it on tap.

Me with Duchesse Anne beer

Enjoying a Duchesse Anne triple


Lancelot blonde
Produced by the same brewery is Lancelot blonde (pictured below, left). Lancelot blonde is a mild, slightly sweet, slightly hoppy lager with a deep amber colour and a decent frothy head. The taste isn’t quite as pronounced as its sister beer Duchesse Anne, but it is a good quality blonde nonetheless and well worth a try.



Crepes are to Brittany as fries are to Belgium. You’ll find a abundance of ‘creperies’ wherever you go, each serving a wide selection of both sweet and savory crepes for about 7 or 8 Euro apiece. They are, incidentally as I discovered, a great snack to have alongside a beer. Whilst on a visit to the very picturesque port town of Concarneau, I tried the crêpe saucisse de bretagne, followed by the crêpe chocolat noir maison, both of which were very tasty!

Crepe sausage

Crêpe saucisse de bretagne


Crêpe chocolat noir maison



A typical creperie in Concarneau, Brittany



Concarneau, Brittany

Yec’hed mat! (cheers!)


Craft beer in Cambridge

Cambridge is a charming city, full of impressive architecture, green spaces and of course, the world-famous University of Cambridge. Being only an hour’s train ride from central London, it is the perfect place to escape the big city on a hot day and that’s exactly what my fiancée and I decided to do yesterday.


Crowds in Cambridge

If the weather is pleasant, it is well worth punting down the River Cam which meanders through the city, including past some of the main university buildings. If you’ve not encountered a punt before, it is a shallow wooden boat driven by someone holding a very large stick (see pics below).

Cambridge’s architecture is both impressive and beautifully preserved. It is perhaps unsurprising therefore that it draws so very many tourists.


Cambridge architecture

After wading through crowds of camera-clicking, selfie-stick waving tourists, it was a relief to take a pit-stop in what Google reliably informed me was one of Cambridge’s most trendy craft pubs. I wasn’t disappointed.

Cambridge Brew House & Microbrewery
The Cambridge Brew House is centrally located, only a few minutes walk from the main shopping thoroughfare of Sidney Street. The decor is what you’d expect of a microbrewery, with casks for seats and beer paraphernalia adorning the walls.


Cambridge Brew House


Watching the world go by



Beer making the old way

Cambridge Sweet Chariot IPA
I tried one of the house brews, the ‘Sweet Chariot‘ IPA and it was just the thirst-quencher I was looking for in 28C of heat! Sweet Chariot is a well rounded IPA, with a hoppy, citrus flavour and a bitter aftertaste as you’d expect for a good IPA. The colour is a golden amber and the aroma has hints of peach and grapefruit. Well worth a try.





Portsmouth – Battleships, Gunboats & Grog!

Did you know that in the golden age of sail, a seaman in the Royal Navy was entitled to a ration of 6.5 pints of beer per day? OK, pretty poor quality beer in all likelihood. When the beer supplies ran out, sailors would depend upon an alcoholic cocktail known as grog which comprised rum, water and lime juice; the latter being added not for flavour, but to ward of the dreaded disease known as scurvy.


A grog barrel

I’ve always had a fascination with the age of sail and for this reason, decided to pay a visit to what is arguably the most famous harbour of that era, Portsmouth. P1280321.JPGYou won’t come across a story about Admiral Horatio Nelson or (the fictional) Horatio Hornblower without hearing Portsmouth mentioned at least a dozen times. While the town has of course changed considerably from that remarkable era, it has nevertheless preserved much of its built heritage impeccably, from Admiral Nelson’s famous flagship the HMS Victory to the only surviving gunship of the First World War.

I decided to purchase the ‘Portsmouth Historic Dockyard All Attractions’ ticket which costs £24 but is well worth the price given the huge amount to see.

HMS Warrior
Have you heard of the HMS Warrior? Perhaps not. Launched in 1859, Warrior hasn’t gone down in the annals of history with more famous ships like the Victory, the Titanic or the Bismarck. HMS Warrior didn’t fight in any glorious battles or sink in tragic circumstances, but she does hold the distinction of being the first iron-clad warship and therefore in many respects, the template for the modern naval vessel.


HMS Warrior

P1280215.JPG  P1280233.JPG

Above decks she seems like any ordinary sailing vessel from the era, but below decks she is quite opulent; well, for those of loftier rank anyway!


Dining in style aboard HMS Warrior

HMS Victory – 6 pints a day!


HMS Victory from the stern

Having long had a particular fascination with the swashbuckling era of Nelson and Napoleon, I was very eager to visit the HMS Victory. Notwithstanding her age, Victory is still in fact a serving naval vessel, being the flagship for the First Sea Lord, the head of the Royal Navy.

Despite the hardships experienced by the men aboard, from brutal discipline to horrific battle-inflicted injuries to rotten food, there were apparently a few perks of the job. According to “The men’s daily ration included 6 ½ pints of beer, though if they were serving away from home waters this might be replaced by a pint of wine, or a half-pint of rum”. Not too shabby as bonus schemes go really. Though you must also remember that being drunk aboard was an extremely serious offence which could lead to a flogging or worse……


Gourmet cooking: rotten beef, salted pork and ‘hard tack biscuits’


HMS M.33 – Last surviving gunship from the First World War
One of the more fascinating exhibits you’ll find in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard is a peculiar ship by the very uninspiring name of M.33. Small and not particularly striking as ships go, M.33 nonetheless played a very important role during the First World War as a ‘monitor class ship’ – essentially a floating gun platform. Built in only six weeks, M.33 and her sister ships saw plenty of action, including at the gruesome Gallipoli Campaign. As with all other vessels in the Dockyard, M.33 is faithfully restored and fascinating to visit.


HMS M.33


A spartan officer’s cabin aboard M.33

Conditions aboard were very basic; apparently men were not intended to remain aboard for more than a few weeks but ended up doing so for several years owing to the outbreak of war which of course was expected to be over in a matter of months.



To give you an idea of just how much detail has gone into restoring the vessel, her hold is all stocked up with provisions authentic to the early 1900s.


Provisions for sea

After spending most of the day at the Dockyard, I decided to sample the local pub grub. I had an excellent lunch of bangers and mash with a pint of Oakham Ale in the lively Ship Anson pub which is located about five minutes walk from the entrance to the Dockyard and very close to the train station.


The Ship Anson Pub


Pint of Oakham Ale and pub lunch!

Of course, before leaving Portsmouth to return to London, I picked up a souvenir….


Jutland Battle Ale (Cerne Abbas Brewery)


A Beer Sabbatical…..

I’ve lived in London coming on two and a half years. However, as with many others who have made this mystifying metropolis a home, I’ve discovered that there is much of London Town that I’ve yet to, well, discover.

Walking briskly through central London’s labyrinthine streets, squares and ‘circuses’, my eye is oftentimes drawn to a bizarre building or a peculiar pub which I make a mental note to return to visit, but sadly rarely do.

Taking advantage of a week’s holidays I was due, I’ve decided to take some time to go back and explore those places which have peeked my attention. Needless to say, I will also endeavour to sample the city’s more obscure ales, whether locally brewed or imported from afar!

National Army Museum
On Tuesday, I visited the recently re-opened National Army Museum which is about 10 minutes’ walk from Sloane Square tube station. It may not be as well known as the magnificent Imperial War Museum in Lambeth, but, as with most of London’s myriad of museums, the Army Museum is free and certainly well worth a visit.


National Army Museum

Having worked in a museum myself many years ago, I know the sensitivities involved in presenting the past in a way which is both impartial and inoffensive to all communities and cultures. The National Army Museum, in my opinion, does so impeccably. You won’t find floor after floor filled with guns, tanks and other high-tec military hardware. The Museum instead focuses on the life stories of individual servicemen and women in a way which is both innovative and genuinely engaging.


Screens telling the stories of individual soldiers

In perhaps another departure from your typical military museum, there is an entire section dedicated to how the Army is perceived within society both in peacetime as well as in wartime. This exhibition showcases a large selection of newspaper clips, news reports, magazine articles and protest banners.


Society and the Army


Society & the Army

An army aperitif anyone?
One very bizarre exhibit which caught my attention was an Army recipe card for cocktails! I’ve heard of the Molotov Cocktail, but I must say the notion of the Army aperitif  took me by surprise. In case you were wondering, NAAFI stands for The Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes and according to Wikipedia, is an organisation created by the British government in 1921 to run recreational establishments needed by the British Armed Forces, and to sell goods to servicemen and their families.


Ching ching!

The National Army Museum is well worth a visit and a credit to the staff who run it. They have planned a series of talks and seminars which I’ll certainly been keeping an eye on.

Pub spotting…. in Whitehall?


The Old Shades, Whitehall

When you think of Whitehall, what’s the first thing that normally pops into your mind? For me it would be: Downing Street, the Treasury and the machinery of government busily rattling away. You might be surprised to know that Whitehall has in fact got some terrific authentic old-world pubs as good as any you’ll find elsewhere. One which stands out for me in particular is The Old Shades. I’ve walked past this pub on many’s an occasion and took it to be a potential tourist trap given its proximity to Westminster and Trafalgar Square. But, with some free time on my hands, I decided to finally go inside for a look.

I’m pleased to say that my expectations were completely wrong. This pub not only serves a terrific selection of ales like Yellow Hammer , it also has some very tasteful decor which fits perfectly with the political history of the neighbourhood. Adorning the walls are replica paintings of some towering figures like Benjamin Disraeli, prime minister during the nineteenth century.


Having a pint with Benjamin Disraeli



Yellow Hammer Ale

Just a few minutes walk a little further up in the direction of Trafalgar Square you’ll find another charming pub called Chandos. It can get very crowded in the evenings, especially given its location between two of London’s biggest tourist attractions – Trafalgar Square and Leicester Square.



Samuel Smith’s bitter ale

Nevertheless, if you manage to visit at a quiet time as I did, you’ll find a great selection of beers on tap and a nice relaxed atmosphere away from the hustle and bustle outside. I’m not a major fan of bitter ales I must admit, but I thought I’d give one a try which I hadn’t sampled before…. and was pleasantly surprised!