Barnaby Sykes Pie Maker - Festival Food at Green Man.

Who ate all the pies at Green Man 2018?

With The War on Drugs and King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard (come on – who cares what they sound like with a name like that?) headlining on the main stage, and Brød headlining on the pastry stage (I’ve made that up), there was only one choice for this year’s weekend of long-term health damage: Green Man. 

You wouldn’t know, but, in another life, I was winging it as a music hack – with a failing bank balance but an infallible musical opinion (some would call me arrogant… I married her).

Whilst a move into digital marketing was necessary to ensure we would still be able to eat (life suddenly became very expensive post-2010), freelancing has allowed me to keep a finger in the pie.

With this blog, I also get to eat pie – and sometimes to combine that figurative pie with the actual pie (yeah, I’m confused as well)…

 

A proper base…

Green Man has been on the bucket list for as long as I can remember – primarily because it’s 45-minutes’ drive away, which means I’m only 45-minutes’ drive away from getting into bed when it’s over.

But there’s always been a bigger pull on our limited funds to a Latitude (Portishead), a Hop Farm (Prince) or a, umm, Cornbury (All Saints?!). Although it would mean missing our annual slip and slide around a muddy field to the Levellers (Beautiful Days), this year – this year! – they had The War on Drugs.

Travel to the site was as easy as we could have hoped for – well sign-posted and bizarrely quiet through the narrow country lanes, despite being absolutely rammed at the box office (we arrived around 11am on the Thursday). The queue wouldn’t let up for the two hours we trekked back and forth between the car park and our pitch (it was more painful on the Monday morning).

“The portaloos weren’t the horror scenes we’ve come to expect.”

The festival site itself is quite compact. At times, we found it quite overwhelming – hoards of people moving between stages, bars, food stalls and portaloos causing bottlenecks (and putting our £9 double G&Ts at risk!). But, actually, as we moved closer to the Mountain Stage, and became braver in the Far Out tent, the crowds were fairly sparse – camping chairs plugging the gaps and providing some ‘Some mothers do av em’-style amusement in the dark.

Health and Safety? Although it did feel busy, the festival itself is very laid-back. No bag searches (to be fair, you are encouraged not to sneak alcohol in given it also hosts its very own beer festival!); a lack of signage (we accidently pitched up in quiet camping – the chap who decided to pack up at 5am, and the couple who decided to pump up their mattress at 2am clearly missed that as well); and, to be honest, I didn’t notice any security or authority figures during the four days we were there.

audience-main-stage-green-man
Ominous-looking clouds – thankfully, the forecast rain stayed away!

I guess they can trust this crowd. There was a good mix – I’d say predominantly teens, retirees and younger families, but outwardly middle class. Put it this way, the portaloos weren’t the horror scenes we’ve come to expect. Still, not quite your “we require a Waitrose onsite” Cornbury types.

 

A packed filling

The War on Drugs were the main attraction, but I had my doubts. How would the beautifully textured but ambient sounds of the band’s last two albums transfer to a closing night’s headline slot.

I had nothing to worry about. Despite three nights of sleep deprivation and four days of beer bloating, I was a man possessed throughout an exhilarating performance. Given the rich, multi-layered soundscape on the band’s recent albums, it was easy to miss Adam Granduciel’s impressive fretwork – now I know just what a dazzling guitarist he is.

“They may only have one trick – but that is to mesmerise you. Job done.”

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard have an eclectic back-catalogue (crossing the boundaries of genre on each of the five albums they released in 2017 alone), but they stuck to a psychedelic rock formula for most of their set – in fact, I think they stuck to one song for 90 minutes! Not necessarily a bad thing when you’ve got that groove!

king-lizard-wizard-green-man
King Lizard and the Lizard Wizard

Talking psychedelia – nobody does it better than The Black Angels, and they delivered: big drums and hypnotic riffs! They may only have one trick – but that is to mesmerise you. Job done.

There were disappointments – missing Joan the Policewoman hurt most (damn you, schedulers!).

John Grant was a little more dimensional live than on record; Dirty Projectors overegged it as much I thought they would – but left out most of their fun songs; Whyte Horses managed to go from catchy indie pop to irritatingly repetitious within the space of three songs; and Snail Mail – wow, way to kill the vibes, man!

But Green Man is all about the positive energy.

Wye Oak delivered a perfect blend of rock and dance indie, with Jenn Wasner’s inimitable vocals drawing a big crowd and one of the warmest receptions of the weekend – although it didn’t quite match the love for Cardiff’s own Boy Azooga (they would be huge if this was the ‘90s).

Belgium’s J Bernardt had the look of someone who had been kicked out of the dance tent at 4am. He amused us with his posing and exaggerated dance moves – but he had the vocal chops to get away with it. Baxter Dury entertained (primarily the children) with various foul-mouthed tirades (otherwise known as his back catalogue). And the virtuoso Bluesy guitar noodling and shrieking vocals from King Tuff made an impression – or at least his hat did:

king-tuff-snarl-green-man

No real household names – I suspect much of this year’s attendees were regulars and it’s the festival itself that serves as the big draw – but you couldn’t fault the quality of the artists on show.

But damn those schedulers!

 

A wonderful, shiny glaze

As much as we enjoyed the music, it was the quality of the food that made this a standout festival – and not just the pies (I only had two, but I needed a title!).

We didn’t eat one dud meal over the course of four days – I estimate that over the course of 22 meals (11 each! – come on now!), we must have visited 16 different food stalls. That’s not including braving the hornet’s nest for a Brød pastry every morning, nor repeat visits for chocolate brownie.

Here’s a countdown of the top-5:

Bearded Taco

Neither of us were willing to miss out on Bearded Taco.

I went for the Bahn Mi-guel:

bearded-tacos-bahn-mi-guel

The pickled carrot, daikon and cucumber really cut through the fat of the Vietnamese BBQ pork. A surprisingly clean eat with the fresh coriander and chilies providing plenty of kick.

I was concerned these small, delicate looking tacos wouldn’t suffice two beers in, but they were deceptively satisfying.

Mrs. B.B.’s Let’s Avo Cwtch tacos were arguably even more eye-catching:

lets-avo-cwtch-bearded-tacos

I’d never tried tempura battered avocado before – and Mrs. B.B. did well to keep her lunch once I had.

Again, wonderfully fresh, with a lemon ‘slaw offsetting the grease from the light and crisp tempura – although we couldn’t really pick out the gin and tonic (we’d have to fork out a small fortune for that at the bar!).

Le Bao

I was flying solo at Le Bao (or is it Boas, or Boas Steaming?):

le-baos-pork-green-man

The braised pork belly was simply divine. I’d go as far as to claim it’s the best cooked pork I’ve ever had (and I’ve spent out a fair few quid in many a restaurant) – absorbing all the hoisin flavour, they really packed a punch.

It was obviously quite fatty, but, as with Bearded Taco, the addition of pickles, coriander and chili ensured it was a fresh eat. The powdered peanuts adding a complimentary crunch to the heavenly moistness.

I was concerned the buns may be quite dense, but they were deceptively light and airy. Still, I knew I had been well-fed at the end.

Pieminister

My first experience of a Pieminister actually came at a music festival. And whilst I’ve eaten at their Cardiff restaurant on quite a few occasions, it’s never really lived up to expectations.

This one did.

I went for the festival ‘special’, Hurrikane Pie:

pieminster-beef-green-man

There was a definite cheese flavour running through the pastry – which wasn’t advertised, but I really liked it. A good thick, crisp pastry, with a flaky top (although it had been submerged in peas and gravy), and it was packed to the rafters with tender beef steak and roasted peppers.

Given the strongly minty peas and rich gravy, you couldn’t really make out the ale or red wine, but there was a definite heat coming through from the smoke paprika. It was delicious, and a level up from a Barnaby Sykes Pie Maker who I visited the day prior (in fairness, their pies are pretty decent as well).

Even Mrs. B.B. couldn’t resist – opting for the Moo and Blue pie. You couldn’t miss the stilton, which really complimented the succulent beef and generous filling.

Welsh Venison Centre Beacons Farm Shop

Faggots and peas from the Beacons Farm Shop – it had to be done:

beacons-farm-shop-faggots-peas

Slightly depressed by the couple who had no idea what a faggot was, but these were the ‘posh version’ – and huge (there was enough meat here for four burgers). Not quite as smooth or moist in texture as I’ve become accustomed, there was a nice peppery heat running through and a deep venison flavour, which really elevated the dish.

And there were proper mushy peas!

Chock Shop

We couldn’t go without talking about these beauties from the Chock Shop:

chock-shop-brownie-display

We returned on three separate occasions, which tells you a lot. These pics will you more:

chock-shop-black-forest

chock-shop-white-chocolate

Each brownie had a crunchy thin topping and a moist centre (we like a bit of gooey) – it was pretty sexy, with the warm chocolate sauce and cream just adding to the filth.

We were both particularly taken by their crunchy peanut butter offering (sorry, we couldn’t wait long enough to take a picture by that point), topped with a sneaky slither of Snicker, but I just wish there was time – and room in my belly – to try them all.

 

I’ve run out of workable pie references

It’s fair to say, I’m not a big fan of jeans right now – and pies are off the menu.

There were so many great places serving food over the festival that I haven’t mentioned, but I can only recommend you head along to an event if you see any of the following in attendance: Smoking Buns (the fries were stunning); The Chai Shop Organic (lovely mellow vegetable korma); Café Dish (fresh-tasting butternut squash and goats cheese tart); Manna (Singapore red curry tofu noodles with a serious chilli kick); Dosa (chilli cheese dosa wrap with masala paneer and a cracker of an onion bhaji); Flavors of Africa (fried plantain to die for); Made of Dough (lovely thin, crispy pizza dough); and Wrappers Delight (thick but light flatbreads packed with falafel, halloumi, hummus and salad).

I haven’t even mentioned the wonderful ales from Wales’ finest independent breweries that also contributed to my weight gain.

But now it’s time for a few weeks of salad 

Follow us on Instagram and Twitter to see more pictures from Green Man and to keep up-to-date on our other adventures.

Close-up of burger and chicken wings at Kongs Cardiff

Practicing Burger Theory at Kongs in Cardiff

My first Burger Theory meal was a disappointment. Would crossing over the bridge and setting it among the most impossible arcade games of my youth make any difference? It was time to get wet…

I’ve resisted jumping on the ‘gourmet burger’ bandwagon.

I’ll admit, I’ve frequented The Grazing Shed more often than any sensible person would advise (to be fair, most of these visits have been enforced on work socials), and it’s always served a purpose (a quick fill so we don’t lose too much drinking time) – but, let’s be honest, it is cheap meat sold at a ridiculously over inflated price.

But, hey, who wants to support McDonald’s?!

So, when I had the post-beers burger munchies recently, I needed some advice – where’s the best place to go for a burger in Roath? (I asked Twitter).

Well… a week later… when I was less committed to the idea… I took people’s advice on board and went for a burger… in the city centre – Kongs if you didn’t read the title! (disclaimer: the bigger motivation at this point was the opportunity to play Double Dragon and Street Fighter II again).

 

The four-beer rule

Now if I was going to make a fair critique and comparison of Kongs burgers, I needed to consume at least four beers beforehand.

I’m a professional after all.

Hopping off the bus near the Welsh Government building, we cut across to Pen & Wig.

There was a big push on Wye Valley Brewery (not sure if this has always been the case or even if it’s a permanent residency now, but they even had people stood at tables with merchandise), so I quickly scanned the little preview bottles and picked the darkest looking option:

the-hopfather-pen-wig-aug2018

The Hopfather is probably false advertising – perhaps, the Hopson? Just an easy going red, which went down way too quickly.

“No halves, so she went rock’n’roll with two-thirds.”

A few steps across the back lane and we were into the recently opened Twenty Nine Park Place – ooh, very smart.

I will return for food in the very near future, but there was only time for a swift pint – and Mrs. B.B. indecision was eating into that! (No Corona, you see.) She eventually settled on the Cherry Dark Case (no halves, so she went rock’n’roll with two-thirds), which wasn’t too overpowering, but I think I’d struggle with even a third. Quite bitter.

I opted for Mitchells & Butlers Brew XI, which is a light copper bear. Crisp and easy to drink but nothing to distinguish it.

brew-xi-twenty-nine-park-place

Realising I still had all my CAMRA vouchers to use up for this quarter, we had to make the obligatory stop in Wetherspoons – Central Bar.

Mrs. B.B. was ordering, so I thought I’d have fun by making her ask for Slobberchops.

She refused.

I ordered a Slobberchops:

slobberchops-wetherspoons-kongs-meal

Another mild, easy to consume in twenty minutes, amber coloured, malty beer – although a bit more character and a few fruity notes.

We lost a bit of time here winding our friends up on WhatsApp, so headed straight for Kongs and ka-ching! Gamma Ray.

I was in hipster territory now – full ‘80s industrial future imagined décor – so had to give in to the light side and a very hoppy, fruity concoction from Beavertown Brewery.

gamma-ray-kongs-burger-king
Don’t be shy! (it’s the one on the left)

This American Pale ale was whacking my taste buds like a sledge hammer after the ‘old man’ bitters – with strong hits of mango and grapefruit.

I was ready…

 

Garlic burger – the non-veggie option

I didn’t have high hopes.

We visited Burger Theory in Bristol last year and it was poor – I can’t remember what I ordered, but I was underwhelmed. In fairness, I do also remember having the best fries and garlic dip ever – apparently, they like garlic…

The whole menu sounded mouth-watering – the KFC would have been a sure bet had I not clocked the jerk chicken wings as an essential side dish. After a little deliberation, I went for Bacon Jamin… Beef patty, ale and bacon jam, Swiss cheese, Dijon, crispy fried gherkins and, of course, garlic mayo!

When it arrived, it certainly looked the part:

kong-cardiff-bacon-burger-king

I could see this was going to be a challenge to even get a hold of. I cut it in half to reveal it had been served medium-rare.

“I wasn’t going to enquire about whether or not they’d received permission from the Food Standards Agency.”

Now I’m not against pink burgers – I’ve eaten burgers in the past which were basically raw (I shouldn’t have – I’d had more than 4 pints!) and survived – but I think this should at least be communicated when you order (at best, you should have the choice).

I’d had a few, so I wasn’t going to enquire about whether or not they’d received permission from the Food Standards Agency. I set about making a right mess of things.

Somebody was clearly a bit over enthusiastic with the garlic mayo, which ensured it was moist – but also ensured it was the dominant flavour.

Not the end of the world – it was delicious. But you couldn’t really pick out the Dijon or, crucially (given its name), the ale and bacon jam. It did elevate the battered and extremely crispy gherkin though – providing a good contrast in taste and texture.

close-up-kongs-burger-gerkhin
Go on, have a close-up!

The bun was just basic sesame seed, but I was happy with that – nothing worse than a big posh dense brioche bun. And it tasted pretty darn good once it had absorbed all of the juices.

And you could tell the meat was good quality – the shorter cooking time ensuring it wasn’t excluded from the moistening party.

I forgot to order chips, and Mrs. B.B. stole half my chicken wings (nicely cooked with crispy skin but not enough punch from the scotch bonnet sauce), so I didn’t finish in pain – which meant I was ready to kick some serious butt on Street Fighter II and Double Dragon!

arcade-machines-kongs-cardiff-082018
There were other arcade machines as well – I’m sure they were just as impossible.

Either age has caught up with me, the beer had, or they’ve got these machines on the hardest setting possible, but that was a very costly 10 minutes!

Before, I forget…

Mrs B.B. went for the Dirty Hippie Burger – a bit of a risk given she normally complains about how dry and dull veggie burgers are (although she keeps coming back for more?! A bit like our m…).

However, this had a “heavenly crunch”. An impressive (for) tofu and quinoa burger, topped with melted cheddar, halloumi, pink pickled onions and a gallon of dirty burger sauce, which meant Mrs. B.B. had to resort to cutlery (excused as she’s a ‘lady’).

kongs-halloumi-burger-close-up

It would have held its own even without the copious toppings. But no complaints when it’s halloumi!

 

So, is it King Kongs?

Well, I couldn’t tell you – I think I should visit a few others first.

What I can say is it wasn’t perfect – they were both a bit sloppy, they drowned some of the key ingredients, and they need to improve their communication on how their burgers are served.

However, boy were they tasty. And I was safe from vampires for 24 hours.

Follow us on Instagram and Twitter to see more pictures from this meal and to keep up-to-date on our other adventures.

Bill's asian ribs and coleslaw in Liverpool

A fab time in Liverpool with John, Paul, Ringo, George + Roger (and don’t forget Bill!)

Liverpool may be the birthplace of the biggest and best band of the ‘60s, but for one night only its people made the biggest and best band (well, sort of) of the ‘70s feel right at home – despite what they’d been charged for a ticket!

Finding a wife who, like me, had grown up infatuated with her dad’s record collection has its pros and cons.

On the plus side: a shared love of ‘60s and ‘70s rock and pop acts.

Not so great: Abba; a loft full of 2nd hand brown and orange curtains; and having to spend a small fortune to see musicians now compensating for several hefty divorce bills.

Plus, you often need to travel – on this occasion: Liverpool to see ‘the Messiah’ aka Roger Waters.

 

Taking the long and winding roads (to avoid the M6)

Having endured endless road works and average speed limits on the M5 and M6 a few weeks prior, we decided to take the scenic route from South Wales – ok, it was an excuse for cake!

We timed our packed lunch perfectly (well, an hour after leaving home), to arrive in Ludlow at ‘cake-o-clock’.

Unfortunately, the DeGrey’s Tea Room was no more – replaced by a Deli that looked far too clean and modern for our tastes. Turning the corner, we quickly found what appeared to be a suitable alternative.

Carvell’s The Art of Tea

Creaky floor boards, antique but ‘not worth any money’ furniture; nonmatching, tea stained china; and an engraved table top filled with dust and crumbs – all sure signs of a fat, just out of the oven, home-made scone.

Well, it looked good on Instagram:

carvells-tea-scone-cream-liverpool

The reality: too small, too dry – in fact, had I bought a multiple pack from Tesco (that had been open for a few days), this is what I would have expected.

To make matters worse, we had to share a meagre portion of clotted cream – it wasn’t too sickly, so I could have happily indulged… And the jam? I guess it came 2-4-1 with the scones.

Don’t get me started on the unbrewable tea! Maybe it was art – I didn’t get it.

 

A warm welcome in Liverpool

I say warm. Wow! The sun was angry.

We hid for a few hours in our surprisingly chilled Ibis hotel room – no need to use the air con, as we hadn’t travelled over from the Antarctic!

Ridiculously well-priced at £65 p/night considering it was only 5 mins walk from the Liverpool Arena / docks. Clearly, they are yet to adopt Cardiff’s policy of quadrupling room prices when there’s an event on.

Ok, it was a box room, but there was enough space to crack open this beauty for pre-drink drinks:

fraoch-heather-ale-liverpool
Fraoch – William Bros. Brewing Co.

The ginger / space flavour and floral notes took me by surprise (guess I should read the bottle), but it was a nice divergence from my customary malty choices. Although I think the bottle deserved a meadow for its photographic setting.

 

All you need is… a sticky, moist rib

Not wanting to veer too far from our prime location, we opted for the first casual restaurant that wasn’t a Pizza Express or a Nando’s.

Bill’s had updated its menus since my last visit – and a quick Google photos search was enough to persuade me to order the Oak Smoked Asian Spiced Ribs – despite the £16.95 price tag!

bills-asian-ribs-body-close

Admittedly lacking in The Plate Licked Clean’s considerable rib eating knowledge / experience, I have rarely come across ribs as meaty, moist or tender.

“The size of the dish nearly put me to sleep.”

Borderline acceptable if you want more than a little chew left in them – but I was content in the knowledge I wouldn’t be distractingly tonguing at the dry meat which had wedged into my gums throughout Roger Waters’ set.

Although the size of the dish nearly put me to sleep – and I’m sure it has taken a few years off me.

Mrs. B.B.’s Macaroni Cheese was well cooked – the pasta still had bite left – but was really lacking a creamy, cheesy sauce.

macaroni-cheese-bills-liverpool

Plus, “there wasn’t any garlic bread” (I’m not sure if that’s a standard combination?). Overall, “a bit dry” is never a positive statement.

We did return the following morning for breakfast – again, we didn’t fancy Pizza Express or Nando’s.

The porridge was smooth and plentiful – the coconut milk making it a little richer than usual without being overpowering. The compote was more like a very sweet jam.

bills-restaurant-porridge-liverpool

My Eggs Royale was edible, but not up to their usual standard (we were served by the same staff as the previous evening, looking suspiciously less sprightly). One egg was slightly under, one was slightly over. The hollandaise sauce lacked punch – and was a little on the thin side. And it was served cold.

bills-restaurant-eggs-royale-liverpool

 

Us + Him

Now Roger Waters likes to tell us we are one and the same.

£105 a ticket says we’re not.

Neither does preaching against plastic waste whilst swigging out of a bottle of water. Nor does complaining about inequality and mocking wealthy public figures, whilst charging your fans more than even the Rolling Stones would dare (even the t-shirts were £30!)…

“Some of the protestations were embarrassing for their hypocrisy.”

I’m sure he means well, but some of the protestations were embarrassing for their hypocrisy.

And Roger’s habit of strutting across the stage to reach his arms out as a messiah-like figure made me uncomfortable – if not numb.

Because you can’t get past the fact he’s authored some of the greatest rock songs in the history of music – and has a live band as authentic to the group he founded as you could possibly wish for. Dave Gilmour wasn’t missed at all between the virtuoso guitar work of Dave Kilminster and uncanny vocals of ‘resident hippie’ Jonathan Wilson.

roger-waters-live-onstage-liverpool

Opener ‘Breathe’ lulled us in, before ‘One Of These Days’ attacked every sense – the repetitive bass guitar, distorted vocals and aggressive guitar and drums were heightened by the lighting and visual effects. It was a real jolt to the system that demanded your attention – and Roger & co. kept it until the end.

Of course, The Wall and Waters’ latest album provided plenty of ammunition for anti-Trump / anti-establishment imagery:

roger-waters-anti-trump-pram
Mrs. B.B. can’t fathom why he hasn’t been sued – although, maybe that accounts for the ticket price!

‘The Happiest Days of Our Lives’ was particularly powerful, with local school children dressed in orange Guantanamo bay detainee uniforms lined up at the front of the stage, faces masked and heads bowed – before revealing black ‘resist’ t-shirts and lightening the mood with some enthusiastic dance moves for ‘Another Brick In The Wall, Part 2’.

roger-waters-resist-liverpool-arena

The audience seemed to appreciate the more restrained moments – ‘Wish You Were Here’ and ‘Comfortably Numb’ giving the mostly shaven-headed, pot-bellied 60-somethings a chance to show off their tender sides. Arms aloft, swaying and singing their hearts out en masse as they brought to mind The Kop in full voice on a European night.

roger-waters-fans-arms-aloft
“… And you’ll never walk alone.”

I could not have imagined these Floyd classics sounding any better had the original line-up played them in their heyday.

I’m just about over the cost.

 

Let it be! You also got to see The Beatles

Well, not quite. But The Beatles Story was the next best thing only alternative.

I couldn’t wait to buy my t-shirts, ensuring I looked extra nerdy armed with the store’s branded carrier bag and audio guide as I photographed everything in sight.

There were some nice touches – recreating the Mersey Beat office, the inside of a ‘Yellow Submarine’, and the Cavern Club, which brought back fond memories of my less-costly gig going youth at the Cardiff Barfly.

beatles-story-cavern-club-liverpool

But it was largely a collection of photos and anecdotes that you’ll have surely have seen / heard already. However, you feel like you’ve had value for money – the audio tracks ensure you don’t move too quickly.

And the baked potatoes taste better than they look:

beatles-cafe-baked-potatoe

 

Getting back to where we still belong

We did all the touristy photos we could manage in the heat – plus one of a seagull:

seagull-liverpool-docks

And made our way back – unfortunately, via the M6 (no cake!).

Our stay was sadly brief, but who else can say they’ve seen the biggest and best bands of the ‘60s and ‘70s within 24 hours?

Ok, technically, I can’t. But it was the closest someone born in the ‘80s was ever going to get. 

Follow us on Instagram and Twitter to see more pictures from our Liverpool trip and other adventures.