Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Halfords and Boardman competition.

Afternoon guys and girls! How are we all doing? Well I hope!

Todays post is exactly as it says on the tin, a competition brought to you from Halfords and Boardman bikes where you can win a chance to go ride with one of the key players in the cycling world, Chris Boardman!

Now before I go into more details about the competition, firstly lets talk about the boom that has been cycling in the UK in recent years. Unless you have been living under a rock, you will have no doubt realised that in recent times, the roads and towns and have been taken over by 2 wheeled enthusiasts like a tribe of modern day vikings, claiming local cafes for their own and leaving no cake and coffee behind in their wake, its cyclist fuel in its truest form! But none the less cycling has really taken off and lets hope this continues for many more generations to come. Its keeps you fit and healthy and helps keep those KG's off your waist line, and if you are like me and have the BMI of pie, then this is always a big help!

The UK has seen the worlds most famous cycle race, the Tour De France come to its shores and my did we get behind it like a true brit should, armed with a pint of Ale and pork pie we cheered the riders on and really showed the world how passionate us Brits are about cycling and did it well!

As well as this the Cycle2Work scheme has been doing wonders with getting us up and mobile by allowing us to purchase cycles and equipment up the value of £1000 to then pay it back in monthly instalments through our pay and I think this has also added to the numbers of us 2 wheeled warriors on the road and cycle paths around the country!

Whether you love it or hate it, cycling is here and shows no sign of slowing down in its popularity and long may it continue!

Right back to the competition, if you decide to click on the link below, you will have the chance to head out with Mr Boardman himself to test out some of the latest bikes that are due to be released from the Boardman range. Not only this, but you can bring a friend along to share in the experience with you, then once you are over the excitement of that, you and your friend of choice (form an orderly cue friends) will get to keep a bike up to the value of £1000! There are runners up prizes also but to find out more, please go to this link and take a look for yourself!

I for one shall be entering as this kind of chance is just too good to pass on and I wont lie I may fangirl it massively being the cycle geek I am!

Best of luck everyone, whether you win or lose, just enjoy being out there on two wheels and get exploring!

Beers, Bikes and Bistro.

Monday, 18 January 2016

Really tapped into something here!

Hello everyone, hope your weekend was good and this Monday morning not getting you too down! Stay strong!

Anyway todays post is all about a place called Tap & Kitchen in the small market town of Oundle in Northamptonshire which is a restaurant that opened up just over a year ago. I have seen this place many times when visiting my favourite bike shop which you can read a little about in my previous post, and it has always looked like some where I wanted to go and eat at firstly due to the look of the place, and then as I knew that Nene Valley Brewery were the suppliers of the drinks at the location, which is also conveniently located next to Gorilla Firm Cycle shop! Its like all my favourite things here Beers, Bikes and Bistro in one location! Heaven! Anyway after my wife coming up with the idea we should go for my birthday the plan was set in motion and I got the table booked for a table on January the 16th!

We arrived at Tap & Kitchen and were greeted by very friendly, smart and professional staff who sat us at our table promptly and got our drinks ordered, at this point I noticed that there was a booth that looked like it would allow my guests to sit and talk to each other face to face rather than a long table, I asked the waiter if we could move who instantly set about trying to move us. This took around 5 minutes and I was really please and impressed they allowed us to do so.

Once we were sat down at our new booth location we started to eye up the menu which was full of such variety and scrumptious looking food! The menu appears to change due to all the ingredients being locally sourced which I really liked as I am a massive supporter of local business and I also feel that this allows return customers to not get bored with the same options. I did look at the website prior to attending, which my wife hates me doing, but this is how I knew the menu varies from time to time. After failing to choose anything straight away due to it all looking so good, we decided to to start tucking into our drinks. Now I have read about establishments that serve a multitude of ales giving you the opportunity to try ales on a platter but this was the first time I had seen it in person, at Tap & Kitchen they are called "NVB Taster Crates". Obviously I was excited about this as it allowed me to try quite a few brews at once, and yes I tried more than my fair share over the next 20 minutes ha ha!

Once the ale was flowing, it was then time to order the starters, I went with the "Char-grilled Avocado St Anselm", which came with prawns, lemon dressing, cocktail sauce and dressing and it was a really tasty starter, light tasty and full of flavour and a great warm up act for what was to follow later on. Everyone else finished their starters and there was not a single bite left which is a good start!

We then all started to chat away talking about life and soaking up the atmosphere of the venue and really enjoying the taste of more ales that continued to come out on the taster crates, naughty!

The waitress then came over to our table and said she would like to apologise for the wait for our main course and they would like to give us a free round of drinks? Now we all looked at each other confused because none of us thought it was was taking too long at all, now maybe this was because they like to have their customers served really quickly, or we were just that relaxed and having such a good time in the restaurant chatting away we didn't notice the time flying by? I like to think it was the latter as to be honest, it was one of the nicest and friendliest restaurants I have been to in some time and it was a busy afternoon so the chefs looked like they were working really hard, but still presenting some flawless looking dishes every time service was called. Either way, the customer service and thought for us was exemplary and I would like to say thank you quickly now for the rounds of drinks you provided, Cheers!

A few minutes later after our drinks arrived, our main courses arrived and all ill say is wow.
I ordered the Hanger Steak which was served with whipped goats curd, glazed carrots, coriander seeds & cress, chimichurri and roast potatoes, as well as this I ordered a side of macaroni cheese to share with a friend as since we are both big eaters. I think the only way I can describe this dish would be to say that it was full of so many flavours that make my mouth water while writing this, and its that kind of meal that just gives you a great big hug from the inside! It was so good that the everyone who ordered it instantly stopped talking and no one said a word apart from the occasional "ummmm" between mouthfuls and lots of head nodding to indicate that it was indeed as good as it how it looked, I ordered mine rare and it came exactly as requested. Im feeling so hungry right now thinking about it it again, it was that good. Needless to say, there was not a single bit left by anyone and even the guests that had a roast dinner were equally impressed.  Again Chefs, well bloody done!

Once the mains had been devoured, you could tell that it had hit the spot with everyone on a cold winters afternoon and we all sat there rather pleased with ourselves with our full bellies chatting away about how we would return again. The drinks continued to flow and then the waitress turned up once again with desert menus! Now normally after being so full, I would of said no but on this occasion, due to just how good the previous two course were, i was intrigued to see what was on offer, and instantly from reading the desert menu,
I though this was too good a chance to miss, so settled with a sticky toffee pudding sundae, got to watch that figure ha ha! Once again this was delicious and was not to sweet and strangely not to heavy going and it managed to last around 4.3 seconds ha ha! A great finishing piece to a great meal!

We sat talking in our booth full of food for a good hour after all the food and it was a lovely afternoon, people booked tables again for the coming months they were that impressed and I could also see text messages being sent out to friends to let them know that they would have to come to this gem of a restaurant in the near future.

I am pleased to say that the choice to come here with friends and family for my birthday was the right one, the atmosphere, staff, food and drink were all five star to me, and I cannot wait to return to see what else they have on offer in the future.

Tap & Kitchen thank you for having us all, you made us feel very welcome and you delivered a first class dining experience and your staff and chefs are a credit to you.


Beers, Bikes & Bistro.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

A tale of two rides!

Hey guys hope you are all well and these colder darker nights aren’t getting you down too much!
Todays post is all about bikes and year round riding and how best to stay on two wheels regardless of the weather outside!
I am one of the lucky souls who recently managed to recently get a second bike that is more suitable for winter riding and taking a bit more of a beating in these harsher conditions but more about that later!
Firstly Im going to start of talking about my summer machine and basically my sports car of a bike that I use during the drier warmer months to get the miles in around the awesome English countryside. It is a Cannondale Synapse with an Alloy frame and is basically my pride and joy. I bought this bike as my previous bike was stolen from my place of work on November 2014 and to say I was not impressed was an understatement. However it allowed me the chance to purchase a new ride and after many weeks of thinking about what kind of level of rider I am and what I actually need, I settled on the Synapse. Now if you are aware of the road cycling scene you would amaze me if you have not heard about the Synapse in the last few years, from winning bike of the year and receiving great reviews all round. My model is an older one but still is a fantastic ride. Its carried me through my first cycle sportive in Rutland where I foolishly thought that there wouldn’t be any hills, how wrong was I, and then again through a rolling Suffolk Spinner course with a friend on his first sportive. The bike hasn’t faulted me at all and truly is a pleasure to ride. I have added a few upgrades gearing wise but I won’t bore you with that kind of stuff on this post! All round you can see why this bike predecessors have gone onto win such awards worldwide and has converted me into a huge fan of the Cannondale brand.
Right then for those of you reading from UK shores, you’ll know that having a good weather bike is somewhat limiting with our weather system, and as nice as it is getting to ride the summer bike for all 4 days of summer we get, the majority of the time the UK is wetter than an otters pocket. So as such riders in the UK either retreat to a turbo trainer to sweat out the colder months or they man up and get out there. I had the whole turbo trainer system set up in my shed as you can see from my pictures, it’s otherwise known as the pain chamber and regardless of surround sound and TV set up. It still has nowhere near the thrills that actually being out and about on a bike gives you. This is where my new ride comes into play.

I am lucky enough to work for a service that provides its employees with the Cycle2Work Scheme. For those of you not aware of what this is, its basically a scheme to offer employees the chance to purchase a bike and safety equipment at a price cheaper than usual that is then repaid over 12 months from the employees pay cheque. If you want to read more about this ill pop the link in below.
Anyway back to my new toy! I wanted something that still offered me the chance to put down some speed when I wanted but yet was versatile enough to be able to take the harsh winter weather, was comfortable enough for a day to day use and also tow a trailer for my summer adventures with the hound. Again the research commenced, many hours of reading through reviews but yet once again, Cannondale had got me. I opted for a CAADX which has the appearance of a road bike but it actually can be taken more off the beaten track and used on grass/gravel tracks with no problem. This is an area on the cycle scene that has been there for some years but recently has really picked up steam and has gained a huge following. Again ill post the link below for those of you who want to read more about the Cyclocross world!
So I settled for the CAADX, the reviews were awesome, it ticked all the boxes for what I would use it for and my favourite local bike shop could get one in for me! Result! I was that confident in Cannondale and the reviews I had read that I actually bought the bike without physically seeing or riding one and after its first ride out, I was not disappointed. I took it down every wet muddy track I could find, puddles, ditches the full works, I really put it through its paces and came out at the end of a muddy 20 mile ride grinning ear to ear. Off road test, passed.
Like I said the CAADX was bought also as a commuter to get me to work so that was its next test. I have a near 40 mile round trip to get to work through flat open roads and back river tracks and once again the bike performed like a beast! Even with wider than what I’m used to tyres on the road, the bike still has plenty of speed when you put the hammer down and it handles amazingly with the disc brakes doing their job amazingly well even in the wet weather.
I could write another few hours worth of how to ride all year round and really go into detail about kit and tech but for now I shall just leave you with the bikes that do the job for me to keep me out on the road.
Hopefully this will give you an insight into the biking part of my life and future posts will show you more and more about this crazy world of lycra that I take part in ha ha!
Keep an eye out for an upcoming post on my local bike store and the awesome stuff they make including the above two beautys! Always keep an eye out for the gorilla!

I hope this inspires some of you to get out on two wheels, feel free to let me know what adventures you get up too on a bike!