Another Day, Another Burger – MOJO Bar, Leeds

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Did you know MoJo owns a chain of bars? He’s very successful in the hospitality industry and prides himself on his quality cocktails and relaxed menu, he just doesn’t shout about it, because he’s a cat.

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(I’m sorry, I lied, my cat doesn’t own any bars at all – it would just be handy if he did. I also wish he drove an ice-cream van. Very useful).

The other Friday I was up in Bradford hosting an event at the National Media Museum, and managed to squeeze in a super-sized lunch in Leeds, with Lisa.

I arrived in Leeds and parked in The Light carpark, apparently it’s won carpark of the year – twice, how interesting. I trudged up the hill with my still painful disco injury and my Fenny lack of ability to cope with slopes, to the MOJO Bar. I was glad I made the effort.

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Whilst I was waiting for Lisa to arrive I headed upstairs for a nose around the Rhum Room. I’d thought was called the Rhubarb room, so I was surprised to see so much Rum (and no Rhubarb). The walls were covered with pictures and posters. So much to see.

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Lisa joined me downstairs, where it was just as interesting. Full of imagery and energy, MOJO has a surprisingly relaxed atmosphere, laid back and cool. I am really not cool, but it was okay, I was welcomed and comfortable. MOJO team member Ben said, ‘You’re so cool, you’re ice cold!’ which was jolly nice of him.

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Lisa’s eyes were falling out so she had to keep her sunglasses on indoors.

We ordered our feast – veggie burger for Lisa, spicy chicken burger for me, and to share – onion rings, sweet potato fries and , mac ‘n’ cheese with ritz crackers!

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Ben thought we might struggle with the big portions, but I said he didn’t know how much I could eat, and that I was an eating champion. I’m not sure this was something to be bragging about.

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He was right though, there was a lot of food, and we didn’t manage to eat it all. I did try. It was great. We left no room for puddings, but we did get big mugs of tea, accompanied by dark chocolate orange bites that were so nice I floated one around on a teaspoon in front of us for a while, making my usual ‘angel’ noises.

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The MOJO team are like a proper family – proud, enjoying working together and helping each other.  We were well looked after and made to feel completely at home. (Nobody said a thing when I stood on the chair to get a better photo).

MOJO Leeds was the first MOJO bar to open, way back in 1996. Since then they’ve opened in Manchester, Liverpool and the Bahamas. They are soon to open in London.

Every time I write ‘MOJO’ I think of my cat. I am amused to think that he might also own a bar in the Bahamas. He doesn’t enjoy travelling, so it strikes me as strange, but I can picture him drinking out of a coconut whilst wearing a bright, floral print shirt and stroking a turtle.

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If you’re in the vicinity I strongly recommend you make a MOJO date and leave your car at home. If you enjoy their food, you’ll enjoy their cocktails, and you’ll wish you’d not got a job to do and car parked in the award-winning carpark up the road!

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After our epic fill we headed over to the Drawn by Light exhibition at the National Media Museum. If you like photography, then you should really see this exhibition.

The highlights for me were; Fading Away, by Henry Peach-Robinson, Contents of a Ostriches Stomach, by Frederick William Bond, and Hippopotamus 1852, by Don Juan – at first I thought it was lying on a bar, but it was in front of a crowd of people behind bars. The hippo had the most beautiful expression on it’s face.

The gallery was cool and calm, with low light and magical images. It was peaceful, and I was dozy – I knew I must be tired when I spotted a very large book laid open, and imagined using it like some kind of fixed hammock!

Drawn by Light is on until 21st June, see it if you can!

Dinner at Handmade Burger Co, Peterborough

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We left the house with high expectations and elasticated waistbands, slid into the car and headed off to Peterborough.

Handmade Burger Co have now opened a restaurant at The Old Still, and I was invited to take a party of 10 friends to enjoy a night of food and drink at the pre-opening dining event. At first I thought, ‘Ten people! Where will I find them all?!’ and then I realised that pretty much everyone I knew would appreciate this treat, so I needed to narrow it down rather a lot.

As I often do, when it comes to food related concerns, I turned to Facebook and asked the question, ‘Who likes burgers?’ – probably not the most profound or descriptive question I’ve ever come up with, but it was enough. Many people expressed their hatred for McDonalds, which was pleasing to me as I’ve pretty much boycotted them since the ‘roundabout hedgehog trapped in a McFlurry cup’ incident of the early 2000’s.

This dining event was not a Ronald McDonald mega party. The burgers at Handmade Burger Co are far removed from anything that filthy clown knocks out.

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We were a little late to arrive, half of our guests were already inside waiting to be seated and a queue of eager people streamed out of the doorway. We joined the back of the line, but once spotted, the front of house staff beckoned us in. The dense queue parted for us to enter, and I was somehow compelled to attempt the sounds of ethereal angel song as I glided by the unamused burger lovers.

We were united with our group, the minced-meat massive, and were soon seated.

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Immediately the waiter announced, ‘You won’t find any microwaves here!’ and I felt glad that we weren’t looking for one – you won’t find a microwave in our kitchen either. He continued to tell us about the menu, the way in which we could order, and how he really likes a squashed avocado on his chicken. As I took notes I drew a small bird wearing an avocado saddle.

We ordered all the food, and then wondered how we would cope, and if they’d have enough left for the following night when they opened to the public. (It’s okay, they messaged me to say they’d re-stocked. Phew! I didn’t want a peeved Peterborian pattie posse on my trail!)

The food formed a ridge down the centre of the long table, like a geological fault, tectonic plates coming together, sweet potato fries and onion rings, toppling over.

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We ate… EVERYTHING! Well, that’s not true, but I am sure it was close. The great thing was, as they make the burgers to order, we could mix and match our food to our own tastes, so where I went for a standard American Cheese, Neil was able to add extra Jalepenos to his Barbecue Cheese and Bacon burger – though obviously not enough because I did notice him adding a rather heavy dose of Tabasco sauce too!

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Everyone loved their burgers. Of the sauces, the barbecue was the favourite, like a sweet and tangy chutney, and I can highly recommend the Rosemary Salt chips which were lovely.

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As we sat there and took in our surroundings I recalled buying two handmade tiles from a potter in the very room we were sat, they were propped on the mantlepiece there, when the building was being used as an artist’s space.

Before that I remember The Old Still as a pub, the upper floor of the building is apparently haunted by a lost woman, also Adam once played in a Stereophonic’s covers band there – I don’t know which is more frightening, an upstairs lady ghost, or the Stere-faux-phonics!

All burgers eaten, all plates cleared, all waistbands expanded to maximum capacity and belt buckles moved to the next notch, we waited.

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Eventually I went to ask about puddings, I didn’t realise we were supposed to, and although the bar and kitchen had just closed, the Manager very kindly allowed us another round of drinks and a set of desserts for the guzzle gang. In the rush, the waiter spilt a bottle of coke over my seat and the table, I was luckily elsewhere, wandering around looking at the fixtures and fittings, prodding the exposed wattle and daub.

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Laura still wanted a drink, so reluctantly I went to the bar to ask if we could have a replacement Coca Cola, I didn’t want to take the mickey, we’d been treated so well.

‘Could I have another Coke please, to replace the one that got spilled?’ I asked. I must have appeared rather sheepish.

‘Why don’t you give your friend a straw, then he won’t spill his drink!’ was the quick-witted reply.

‘Oh no, it wasn’t one of my guests, it was the waiter, but I’ll take the straw anyway!’ I said, clutching the straw and sloping off, smugly!

There were a couple of comedy glitches, as you’d expect at a pre-opening run through, and we certainly didn’t mind. There was also the ‘Come on guys, don’t you know what you ordered?’ ‘Yes, its not that though!’ moment, as they tried to deliver another table’s food to us. It was good to test this all out on us, we were very happy and grateful to be well-fed, lucky guinea pigs.

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We all had sundaes. I had a Lemon Meringue sundae and it was quite refreshing. Jane and Tim both had lucky dip sundaes, it’s not a thing, but they made it one!

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We thoroughly enjoyed our dinner at Handmade Burger Co, and we all agreed it’s another good thing for Peterborough and it’s developing city centre.

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Full of food and fun, it was time to go home. We came out just as the Queensgate security gates were being closed, said our hasty goodbyes whilst keeping an eye on the exits, and went our separate ways across the city.

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The Handmade Burger Co kitchen is fully viewable from Westgate Arcade, burgers get flipped behind the old glass shop front. As we walked away I wondered – how many people are going to push their bulging bellies up against the cold glass as a gesture of burger appreciation? I mean, I was tempted.

Lotus Cup UK Speed Championship 2015 – Snetterton (Round 2)

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It was kind of weird driving over to Snetterton without the Elise. Both Adam and I in the same car, me dozing in the passenger seat. I knew our car would be there, as it was being dropped off by ES Motorsport, having been recovered to their garage after a rather vigorous outing the other weekend, but it was still strange, and I wasn’t as awake as I would have been normally.

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We signed on, got scrutineered, and then went into Tyrells for the talky bit, which, Adam had to remind me, is called the ‘drivers briefing’. Here we got prep’d for the day and the complimentary bacon sarnies were circulated, leading to a bacon induced frenzy. In all the pork product excitement I shouted ‘Mexican wave!’ but it fell on deaf ears – or bun filled hands.

The weather was cold and damp. Drizzle made it hard for people with glasses on to see. We were very lucky to be at Snetterton as part of the Lotus Raceday, with Lotus Cup UK and Elise Trophy races also happening throughout the day.

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Within no time at all, it seemed, we went out to practice. Being the second driver has it’s benefits – a warmed up engine, but for me it also has it’s downsides – I am easily confused. I didn’t know where I was supposed to wait, Adam was in the car on the grid, I was in the pit lane, and there was a wall in between. Luckily, before I did anything embarrassing, Danny from the Lotus Driving Academy appeared, like an expert organisation ninja, and he helped me get to the right place in time to swap over with Adam.

There was a bit of a rush to get me up to the start line, no sooner had I got there they’d dropped the flag. I didn’t even realise at first. I think I said something like, ‘Oh, is it my go?’ before realising that, yes it was, and putting my foot down.

The track was wet, and incredibly slimy. I took it really slowly, but still, at every corner, I wondered if I would make it round or just glide off in slow-mo.

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I came back in, and swapped with Adam again. Whilst he was out on track it was discovered that his first run hadn’t been timed for some reason (maybe because he was so fast? Yes, that’s it, I am sure). When he came back in they sent him straight out again, much to his confusion. Another practice for me, and then time to wait.

Back in the paddock, to everyone’s delight, Tony and Fiona had brought a mini mountain (I think that’s a hill, or a hummock) of Creme Eggs, and Tony played the part of the Easter bunny, delivering them to happy drivers.

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While I wasn’t looking, a new team had formed, Team Smurf. Bearded Smurf with a winky. Intriguing. The blue skies gradually moved in and the track dried out ready for our first timed run.

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As the cars were going out of the paddock, and off to the assembly area, a family walked round looking at them all. Emma got into her car and the Mum shouted, ‘You go girl!’ rushing over to take her photo. She was very impressed to see a woman driving a car, and she told her kids this. As the other drivers drove passed, one of the little boys, feeling some gender rivalry, I assume, started shouting, ‘Beat the woman! Beat the woman!’  Once I’d finished laughing I offered him a brief explanation as to why that might not be an appropriate chant to remember.

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I took my first timed run slowly, I needed assurance that the track had dried out. It had, so on my second run I tried harder, so much harder that I thought I’d had 4 wheels off, but it turned out to be just 2… twice!

Because the first and second runs were run back to back, nobody had any idea how they’d done. I was really pleased with my results, I’d done okay.

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My cake of the day was a Victoria Sandwich. I brought a proper knife along so I could cut it without difficulty. At North Weald I knelt in the back of Duncan’s trailer, snapping plastic knifes off in the dense chocolate cake, but at Snetterton I could do my cake duties in the luxury of the LoTRDC hospitality vehicle. Basically,  it’s a mega truck with a huge awning, cool decals and pictures of race cars on it, and  the lovely Paul Golding hanging around the back doors keeping everything organised / running riot and causing havoc!

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I did really good for me, my third timed run was 1 44.9, the fastest time I’ve ever achieved at Snetterton. I came in 10th out of 14 in our class, just 0.08 seconds behind Gary Thwaites (who I was almost 6 seconds behind this time last year where I did 1 51.2) He’s good. That’s good.

Adam, on the other hand, did doubley-good. 1 42.3, putting him in 6th place, which, when you compare the cars and the drivers, was bloody incredible.

Last season I was determined to beat Duncan, and today was the day, by just over 4 seconds. After all that, it didn’t feel good, I felt bad for Duncan. I don’t think I am cut out for competitive events. (I’m reminded again of the time I went go-karting in France and kept stopping to check on everyone).

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The Production class was won by Graeme Foley. Second place went to Philip Stratton-Lake, and third to good ol’ Rob Clark. Hooray for Rob! Hooray.

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In the SuperSport class it was a close call between Xavier Brooke, Dave Mann and Tony Pearman, with Xav pulling out his fastest time (and most of the interior of his car) on the final run.

And Dave Saunders won a special trophy for doing really well. Look how happy he was, bless him!

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I’m really happy with my time, for me, but I can’t help thinking, if Adam can do it in our car, then why can’t I?! Well, maybe I should stop paying so much attention to cakes for a start!

If you want to see some more photos, there are some in this here Facebook album.

(Not The) World’s Greatest Hot Cross Bun

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I made a promise that I cannot keep. I promised my cousin I’d make him the worlds biggest hot cross bun, but having googled my competition, for reasons relating to aesthetics and portability, I’ve had to break my promise and do something more handleable.

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This is not to say the process has gone without effort. There has been some trial and error. I’m not a seasoned bun maker.

I still let out a hearty guffaw when I pull back the damp tea towel to check the progress of the dough and prod the bulging lump that it has become.

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Today’s buns are an acceptable success, I’d say. I definitely think there’s room for improvement still. I’ve read a dozen recipes and compared them all. I’ve opted for standard good quality plain flour, over the strong bread flour suggested, and I’ve tripled the quantity of dried fruit. Next time I’ll add more cinnamon, and I will pre-soak the fruit so that the sultanas grow chubby and full. I have a plan.

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My previous attempt was not such a success. After hours of proving and kneading and proving again, the results were a disappointment, to say the least. They tasted like car filler and looked like jacket potatoes.

‘How am I ever going to give Alex a giant hot cross bun!’ I cried as I removed them from the oven.

I phoned my mum, ‘Delia’s trying to F us over!’ I exclaimed.

‘Stuff Delia!’ said my mum as she googled and found that I was not the only one who’d been tricked into making bricks by this tempting recipe. ‘I’m going near Norwich tomorrow,’ I continued, in a fit of bun rage, ‘I could put one of Delia’s windows through with her hot cross bun!’ My mum said that in court they would say it was justified.

Once the chickens got over the fear of being crushed by a raisined boulder they pecked away at them, so at least the weren’t wasted.

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I was so very nearly put off, but I am glad I persevered, as this morning we got up, made tea, toasted our homemade hot cross buns and it was lovely.

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Happy Easter! May your hot cross buns be sticky and soft, and your chocolate at room temperature.

(Apparently, this bun has ‘smashed the record’ of the bun I linked to above, but that’s not a giant hot cross bun if you ask me, it’s just a lot of buns in a novelty shape, and I’m not happy about that!)