HawRADen 2015 – BMX Fun Ride

HawRADen BMX Ride

Saturday 24th October 2015

Hawarden, Flintshire

My mate Danny is into BMX.  He gets BMX bike parts, builds the BMX bikes, rides the BMX bikes too.  Proper, old school BMX bikes – Haro, Mongoose, Raleigh – all the vintage legends.  He was into BMX when he was a kid in the 80’s, and a few years ago rediscovered his passion.

Nowadays, in addition to hunting down vintage bike parts to build his dream machines, he also meets up with other enthusiasts for a ride.  Apparently this is what these BMX geezers do: all over the North West, even all over the country, they meet up and go for a ride together.  There’s usually breaks in the ride for refreshments (ie they stop at a pub or two – soft drinks, obviously…). IMG_20151024_130248497_HDR

Dan decided to organise a local gathering for riders, which would take place in and around the home area of Hawarden in Flintshire, North Wales.  This all sounded like good fun to me.  I was invited and decided to tag along.

My only problem was the fact that I don’t own a BMX bike, at least not anymore.  That left me with two options: my mountain bike or my Schwinn low rider.

It had to be the low rider.  The Schwinn is a retro styled bike that looks like a Harley Davidson chopper, but pedal powered.  I figured this bike was my best bet, it has a cool look and was a little different.  Also I decided to kit myself out in heavy metal/biker gear – rock t-shirt, bandanna, mirrored shades.  Not taking the mickey, but I thought I might as well go the whole hog, on my hog.

So off I went, a Happy Shopper Dennis Hopper, to join the ride.

The meet up point was the Fox and Grapes pub in Hawarden village.  Luckily they were a friendly bunch, so although I only knew Dan, I wasn’t left out.  With a few stragglers to round up, we just made the train from Hawarden station up to Buckley.  It was just one stop and a free fare for most of these BMX bandits.

A short ride then up to the Shamrock in Buckley, where the owner, also a BMX aficionado, laid on some food.  Good stuff, great boozer.  More BMXers met up with the original party here and the group grew a few more.

By the time we left the Shamrock on the ride across Buckley, there must have been twenty odd BMX riders (plus one Easy Rider interloper).  The ride was through the streets and finally the first downhill stretch of the day, which was a relief.  It’s hard work without gears, this bike riding malarkey.

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A short break at the Parrot in Drury and we were off again, this time a nice long downhill stretch to Ewloe.  I think a few heads turned as drivers and passers-by clocked the throng of bikers rolling down the road.  One rider got a little too rad and ended up with the only injury of the day – but we all have to pay our dues some time.

The final stop, for me, at any rate – was the Running Hare in Ewloe.  Never my favourite pub, never the less the open space outdoors for bikes and riders was ideal.

Throughout the afternoon, there were stories told and memories recalled of bikes and adventures from our youth.  There was a very positive and fun atmosphere.  It was all very light hearted and I was made to feel welcome, despite not having a BMX bike.

The group then rode on to complete the circuit back at the Fox.  I bailed out and rolled down the hill to home, having enjoyed a great afternoon of nostalgia and banter.  These BMX bike rides are a great idea – here’s to all the Rad Dads and other forty somethings keeping the dream alive.

My Christmas list this year will feature a BMX bike, for the first time since about 1984.

ScreamAcres Zombie Apocalypse

ScreamAcres at GreenAcres Animal Park

Last week I spent a wild evening desperately trying to escape from a horde of zombies.  For fun!

ScreamAcres is a live action event where people can run around being chased by the undead.  By day GreenAcres is a farm park with animals and playgrounds for the family to enjoy.  By night, however, we were launched directly into the midst of a zombie apocalypse – with soldiers losing their grip on a ramshackle shelter and all hell breaking loose.

I found myself first hauled around who knows where in the dark, in the back of an army truck.  Then we were scanned for signs of the contagious virus inside the base by the soldiers.  After this the hazy grip on civilisation was lost, and we were over run with zombies. scream

There followed an adrenaline fuelled race through the dark, trying to avoid the undead.  Lost amongst disorientating smoke and lights, crawling around a maze and navigating various horrific rooms – all the while avoiding the swarming creatures.

I couldn’t help but get sucked into the whole scenario and whole heartedly become an active participant.  It was very easy to be absorbed into the ScreamAcres world, with dozens of actors creating the roles.

Though nerve-racking, I found myself working out how to avoid the zombies like I was right in the middle of an episode of The Walking Dead.  How do I get past this zombie?  Do I make a noise to distract them?  Crazy thoughts such as these became normal in my attempt to escape.

ScreamAcres was a total thrill; a real life role playing game with genuine frights.  It really made me think too, as I tried to work out the best way to survive the adventure.  The experience is extremely well put together, with a large cast all contributing to the scares and action.

Highly recommended – if you dare…!

The ScreamAcres website is here.

GreenAcres Animal Park, Mancot, Deeside, Flintshire

01244 531147

Email: info@screamacres.co.uk

Public Image Ltd – Gig Review

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Public Image Ltd + The Hexmen

Saturday 26th September 2015

The Tivoli, Buckley

Well it’s been an amazing couple of weeks for gigs.  And what’s that?  Public Image Ltd playing up the road at the Buckley Tivoli?  Featuring the living legend that is John Lydon?  There’s absolutely no way this extravaganza can be missed!

It was England vs Wales in the Rugby World Cup that night, and the Tiv had decided to show the game on a large projector screen above the stage.  A bizarre idea but it worked out OK – happily Wales won.  Had they lost that could’ve put a right downer on the evening.

Support band The Hexmen are a non-stop R’n’B party.  And by R’nB I mean as in Rhythm and Blues, not as in Kanye West.  They’re a solid band with an unmissable skill in abstract between song banter.  Solid rhythm section, stellar guitar and soaring harmonica.  Pretty damn good.  They appear to play in these parts quite often, so check ’em out.

The Tiv was packed out for Public Image Ltd.  I think most of the punters were in a daze, unbelieving that the band would actually appear.  But lo and behold PiL did appear – the real PiL, not a tribute act featuring some Johnny Rotten wannabe.  The reception was warm, but the crowd really revved up when the third song in the set turned out to be the masterpiece that is “This Is Not a Love Song”.

There was a fair mix of tracks old and new, with “Death Disco” and “Warrior” standing out from the well known singles.  I’ve not got the new album yet (hangs head in shame), but the tracks of that and This is PiL (got that one) were all extremely impressive.  The massive bass groove of Scott Firth and precision drums of Bruce Smith created a throbbing tribal rhythm that brought these songs to life.

Lydon himself seemed to be having a good time, for the most part.  I couldn’t always tell.  He definitely got stuck in and delivered some quite stunning vocals.  His style is almost operatic; combined with his commanding presence at the front of the stage we are given a captivating performance.

I should also mention guitar maestro and all round talented bloke Lu Edmonds – he played a blazing gig.  I have no idea how he made all those sounds.  It was very hard to believe that there were only four people on stage.

The encore provides the songs “Public Image” and “Rise”, two fantastic songs that the audience were thrilled with.  I still remember seeing “Rise” performed on Top of the Pops when I were a lad.  That was my first experience of PiL.  The other kids thought Lydon was weird; I thought he looked cool.  It’s a perfect end to the chapter.

Oh, and I WILL go and buy the new album – promise.

The Public Image Ltd website is here.

The Hexmen website is here.

The Tivoli website is here.

Food Quest – Greek Night at The Gallery Coffee Shop

The Gallery Coffee Shop, Hawarden

There is a small piece of the Mediterranean, like a little Greek island, to be found in North Wales.  I’ll take you there in this edition of Food Quest.

In the village of Hawarden in Flintshire, right there on the Highway, you will find the Gallery Coffee Shop.  It’s open daily offering refreshments exactly as you would expect – tea and coffee, breakfasts and lunches in a cosy environment.  Once a month, however, the Gallery transforms into a Greek taverna, with all the food and vibrant atmosphere that entails.

I have been to the Greek night at the Gallery on a few occasions.  Each time has provided excellent Greek cuisine with the right summer holiday vibe, helped by the music and dancing!Greek flag

The premises are not licensed, so you will need to take along your alcohol if you wish.  That wasn’t a problem for me, as I could easily pick up a few bottles of Mythos from Tesco.  Hunt around and you’ll find retsina – Tesco no longer stock it so Lidl is your best bet.

Greek music welcomed us in to the Gallery, and we were soon seated.  There wasn’t long to wait before the hors d’oeuvres were served.  This began in traditional style with some pitta bread, olives and various dips such as tzatziki and garlic.  These were shared enthusiastically amongst our group.

Next up were several meze dishes.  On my last visit, this included dolmades (stuffed vine leaves); feta sagnaki, Greek salad and calamari.  I’m no fan of squid – on other visits a different option had been offered.  However the food was both well prepared and delicious.

The main course has also varied on different visits, with usually a couple of options to choose from.  On this last visit I chose chicken with ouzo and cream; this was served with potatoes and vegetables.  Again the meal was excellent; combined with the atmosphere I could have been in a Greek taverna enjoying a pleasant holiday evening.

After the food, the fun really gets under way – with table balancing from owner Spiros and plenty of music to dance to!  The Gallery really manage to capture the fun of a night in Greece and everyone was happy to let their hair down.

The Gallery Coffee Shop manages to create an enjoyable and authentic Greek night that will liven up anyone’s weekend.

Please be aware though that they are very busy and often booked up months in advance – book your Greek night soon!

Yiammas!

Food Quest Test

  • Food: No menu as such, but no need to worry as food is both delicious and authentic
  • Drink: Not licensed, so take your own
  • Service: Excellent
  • Environment: You will be magically transported to your own Greek island
  • Cost: Very reasonable – no bar bill, plus a full evening’s entertainment

The Gallery Coffee Shop, 10 The Highway, Hawarden CH5 3DH

01244 533446

I can’t find a website for The Gallery, there is a listing on Facebook if you search.

Food Quest: Quay Fine Dining

Quay Fine Dining, Connah’s Quay

A family gathering provided a recent opportunity for my second trip to Quay Fine Dining.  The restaurant is located at the top of Connah’s Quay near Morrison’s supermarket, on the site of what was once known as the Top Kwiks.

Also, incidentally, very near where a young Platinum Al (only aluminium in those days) spent some of his childhood years.

The casual bigot may be confused at the idea of “fine dining” in Connah’s Quay.  However I will proudly declare that this town deserves some respect, and indeed a quality restaurant.  The first thing that strikes the eager food lover when entering Quay Fine Dining is just how smart the interior is: up to date, modern, clean and luxurious.  It’s really quite spell binding.

The menu is largely Indian, with Thai and Greek options available also.  On this particular visit, I opted to stick to an Indian theme.  This began with the classic, if obvious, couple of popadoms (together with the usual chutney accompaniments).

Before taking this gastronomical journey any further, I should point out that Quay Fine Dining is not a licensed restaurant.  But you can take along your own booze (which the staff will very kindly keep cool for you if desired).  This means that the night out can work out reasonably cheaply, but you must plan this well!  More on this later…

For our starters, Mrs Platinum Al chose chicken chaat puri, which was “lovely”.  I tried some and can confirm that is was very good indeed!  My own choice was chicken pakora, not something I have had very often.  I made a good choice, it was excellent.

There was quite a wait between courses, unfortunately.  As we were the only group in there at the time, I’m not sure why this was.  This also meant that I ran out of drink before my main course arrived.  Yes, I had somewhat underestimated the amount of booze required; though regardless the time between courses was a bit much.

Eventually the main courses arrived, and Mrs Platinum Al was very happy with her choice of chicken tikka shahi.  This is one of my favourite Indian dishes, though I had picked something different.

My choice was chicken shashlik, a dish I have enjoyed elsewhere in the past, but not ordered for a very long time.  I just felt that this would be a good choice.  I wasn’t disappointed.  It’s an impressive meal, brought sizzling to the table.  The side salad/garnish was a bit limp and superfluous, but the dish was very tasty and highly recommended.  My only mistake was ordering keema rice to go with the meal, there was plenty enough to eat without it (the dish is also served with a very nice curry sauce).

In conclusion, Quay Fine Dining not only offered a wide variety on the menu, it was also able to deliver a superb standard of food.  Plan your drink right and you’ll be rewarded with a very fine dining experience indeed.

Food Quest Test

  • Food: a massive choice, and from experience – great quality food without being over faced.
  • Drink: not licensed, so take your own.  No problems if you plan ahead.
  • Service: slow between courses, but the staff are exceptionally helpful and friendly.
  • Environment: visually impressive, modern and – dare I say it – extremely elegant.  Classy.
  • Cost: regardless of whether you save a few quid with the drink situation, the meals are very good value.

Quay Fine Dining, Ffordd Llanarth, Deeside Shopping Centre, Connah’s Quay CH5 4UP

01244 836565

The Quay Fine Dining website is here.

Photo Mission: The Fun Ship

When I was a kid, a day trip to Rhyl was a major event.  It was exciting.  The drive along the bottom road through Flint and along the coast was a drag, though.  It seemed to take forever.  One game we all used to play was “who can spot the Fun Ship first?”.  Sooner or later, the huge white abandoned carcass of the Fun Ship would appear – and the first person to shout was the winner.

Simple times, eh?

The Duke of Lancaster has been moored near Mostyn for as long as I can remember.  Once it was a popular tourist attraction, now it’s a relic.  Adorned with graffiti like the tattoos of an old sailor, now land locked.  Will it be sold for scrap?  Or will it be saved?

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Food Quest: The Palomino

The Palomino, Connah’s Quay

Welcome to the frontier, the Wild West of Connah’s Quay.  No, the Quay isn’t that wild – but there’s a taste of the Big Country at The Palomino.

Once it was the Wepre Inn, now it’s reborn as The Palomino.  A Western themed bar and restaurant that’s decked out in all manner of cowboy paraphernalia.  There are life size statues of cowboys and Indians (including a full size John Wayne on a horse); dreamcatchers and pictures on the wall; plus numerous models of Native Americans and what not all over the place.

I think it’s very cool.  The very first time I went there, they even had Clint Eastwood classic Hang ‘Em High showing on several television screens around the room.

There’s an extensive menu that covers a wide range of steaks, burgers and hearty meals to fill up any gunslinger.  There are of course salads and vegetarian options for the weirdos.  Plenty of drink choices too, though sadly no Sam Adams or Brooklyn lager – they would’ve been more suitable.  I tried Kozel, a Czech beer, which was very nice (though sadly not cold enough!).

On our most recent visit, Mrs Platinum Al opted for the Chicken Espetada.  Never heard of this before; it’s pretty impressive.  Two large chicken and veg kebabs hang vertically down from a metal support over the plate.  Served with chips and salad, It looked great and the smell was enticing.  Luckily I got to try some.  I loved it, one to try next time.

For my own choice, I went for the full rack of ribs.  A massive plate was served to me, with chips, salad, coleslaw and corn on the cob.  The ribs were extremely tender and fell apart nicely, delicious sauce too.  Despite the vast amount of food, I made a valiant attempt and finished nearly everything – leaving just the corn half eaten…

Speaking for myself, I really enjoy going to the Palomino.  The food has always been good, with large portions and a good choice on offer.

Of course, what makes The Palomino unique is the decor.  You can see from the photos here what the place is like.  Unfortunately, I hear that the place is having a make over soon – so there’ll be no more Western memorabilia.  This makes me very sad.  Like a cowboy who’s had to shoot his lame horse.

I’m sure the food will continue to be great.  It’s just a shame that such a fun, different venue won’t be the same.  If you want to experience The Palomino as it is, better saddle up soon.

Food Quest Test

  • Food: a wide range of American style food, plus trad favourites, and large portions.  How about a Man vs Food style burger challenge?!
  • Drink: good range of beers, American beer like Samuel Adams and Brooklyn Lager would be great though.
  • Service: good, not perfect, but cheerful.
  • Cost: good value for large portions.

The Palomino Bar & Restaurant, Wepre Lane, Connah’s Quay CH5 4JR

01244 811122

The Palomino website is here.

The Palomino Facebook page is here.

Food Quest: The Shared Olive

The Shared Olive, Hawarden

It was a special occasion: time for a special venue.  Mrs Platinum Al’s birthday demanded an experience that was to be savoured, and the Shared Olive would be perfect.

This restaurant is set close to the heart of Hawarden village, and offers a safe haven for food lovers in the area.  The Shared Olive offers a homely, but contemporary atmosphere – it is a welcoming refuge that somehow also manages to feel both relaxing and vibrant at the same time.  Offering tapas and Mediterranean food, the meals at the Shared Olive are both exciting and varied.  so1

We began our gastronomical journey with some olives and a glass of wine; with a beer (Estrella – good stuff) also for me.  The restaurant was particularly busy on this evening, yet the staff managed to cope well with the pressures and were very attentive.

Our starters were extremely impressive.  We decided to go “tapas style” for the first course, though making a choice from the dishes on offer isn’t easy.  Chorizo and manchego croquettes, with goats cheese pesto, for her.  Seabass and chorizo paella for me.  I was looking forward to my starter, and the dish honestly exceeded my expectations!  The croquettes were also popular, I managed to get a taste before they disappeared…

A glass of wine and onto the main course.  We had decided to choose different courses on this evening, rather than go for a few tapas selections to share.  I’m glad we did. SO2

Mrs Platinum Al’s choice was a very nice chicken and wild garlic risotto with dolcelatte.  I went for pulled pork tortiglioni, with plum tomatoes and caramelised fennel.  I’m quite a fan of pulled pork these days; it’s often served USA style on burgers, so I was keen to see how this meal would work.  Work it did: the chefs performing an Enzo Ferrari style example of finely tuned skills and passion for their craft, in admirable Italian style.  shared olive

Having said that, I also tried some of the risotto.  Now I’m not the biggest risotto fan in the world, but found that this was very much to my taste!  Possibly even better than the tortiglioni..?  Dare I say it?

We are extremely fortunate to have a restaurant like the Shared Olive in the local area.  Quality food, well prepared with skill and obvious enthusiasm – yet without being too exclusive price-wise.  Great atmosphere; though you’re definitely eating in a restaurant, it can feel like you’re in your own front room.

Food Quest Test

  • Food: excellent, authentic Mediterranean food with a wide choice
  • Drink: varied and affordable
  • Service: a little slow at first on this visit, though it was extremely busy – the staff soon turned it around
  • Environment: friendly and down to earth with a splash of glamour
  • Cost: great quality food makes it a good deal

The Shared Olive, 68 The Highway, Hawarden CH5 3DH

01244 530053

The Shared Olive webpage is here.

The Shared Olive Facebook page is here.

Follow the Shared Olive on Twitter: @SharedOlive