Restaurant Review #14 – Five Guys, Solihull

Five Guys - Solihull

Five Muggers – Solihull


: Mill Lane Arcade, Touchwood, Solihull B91 3GS


:0121 704 1055




: There’s something about burgers. Something naughty and exciting and yet they’re so simple. Think about it. What is a burger? Simply, a burger is a patty of minced beef shoved into a bun and topped with stuff. Some people season the meat, others don’t. Therefore it makes sense that it is “the toppings that maketh the burger”.

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Restaurant Review #13 – Pen Bryn Bach, Uwchmynndd, North Wales [CLOSED]

When I first visited Pen Bryn Bach in 1986 it was a small cafe serving cream teas in the day time and a very popular seafood restaurant in the evening. Following several happy years of summer holidays dining there it was the summer of 1999that I was able to return. By this time it had morphed into solely an evening restaurant promising locally caught fish and seafood run by a gentleman called Roger (who swore blind he didn’t run it back in the 80s but I beg to differ). One night a week a special evening was provided in the way of a seafood extravaganza with accompanying harpist. An evening, regretably I was unable to experience myself.

So it comes as no surprise that a restaurant that holds many happy memories of holidays and meals past should reach a high status in my esteem. By this time my pallete had matured and my tastes became more refined. Indeed, so highly regarded this place became in my estimation that I even tried to mimic some of the dishes at home with limited success. As the Internet developed I was unable to find any reviews or website for the restaurant itself so I designed, hosted and published my own webshrine in honour of the place until 2010.

Another period of North Wales abstinence began and it wasn’t until 2010 that I was able to return to the area. It was during this time that I noticed the Pen Bryn Bach had “Under new Management” signs outside and with a measure of sunken heart I realised that the days of Roger and his excellent seafood mornay were probably no more.

So this is probably the trickiest review I have written since graduating with a Journalism qualification. In it I have endeavoured to be as detached and as objective as I can. I promise that I have not let my prior experiences dictate what I write here and that all within this review stems from my visit to the restaurant at the end of July 2011.




Booking in advance has always been important in the Pen Bryn Bach. Its remote location means that there is little in the way of passing trade but it is also able to command a position where it is able to dominate the area with culinary prowess and reputation.

Follow the crab shaped sign posts from any of the inroads into Aberdaron and near the very edge of Wales you will find the Pen Bryn Bach hidden on a fudge box Welsh country lane. The restaurant boasts locally caught fish and seafood with a small variety of other locally sourced meats and ingredients.

On arrival you are usually taken into the rear of the restaurant to relax with a drink while you decide what meals you are to choose from the menu. On the menu on this visit was a list of dishes similar to Roger’s traditional menu. Seafood mornay, whitebait, Mixed fish bites…all the usual fayre.

I opted for the Whitebait and the Seafood Mornay while my dining companion on this trip, Nick, went for the Whitebait and the Seabass. Within a short while we were called to take our seats at our table which boasted views of Mynned Analog.

The Whitebait was delightful. Absolutely perfect in every respect. The right amount of mayonnaise, the correct amount of salad garnish and the fish itself cooked without bread crumbs remained crispy and perfect. I felt some bread may have enhanced the dish as a perfect accompaniment but its absence was not a detriment.

Soon thereafter, the main course arrived.

The Mornay was rich, tasty but not a patch on Roger’s old recipe. The cheesy “brulee” crust was not present and the portion size was meagre. Nick struggled with the sea bass saying that it was slightly under cooked. The accompanying vegetables were also a bit sorrowful.

Desert was brief, unmemorable and fleeting, as were the end of meal teas and coffees. I left feeling lighter of pocket and unsated. Which saddened me greatly having praised the restaurant to friends and family for so long.

Stop Press In 2012, I returned to the area on a camping trip to find that the restaurant had closed and was up for sale. In 2014, the complex is still closed and for sale. It looks sad and lonely now it no longer serves the public the best seafood and fish in North Wales. If I had the £750k to buy the complex and reopen as a restaurant, I would. I feel though, for that price, the next owner might not consider reopening the restaurant opting for a quieter way of life to enjoy their millions…..

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Restaurant Review #12 – The Galley, Llanbedrog

© Copyright Alan Fryer and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

© Copyright Alan Fryer and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Address: Lon Nant-IagoLlanbedrog, Abersoch LL53 7TTWales

Telephone: 01758 740730


The Galley is one of those secret restaurants that are tucked away down a side street yet everyone knows about. Situated on the shore of Llanbedrog beach, The Galley is a typical café. Open for breakfast right through to early evening dinners, they offer a whole range of food such as paella, sandwiches and slices of cake with a nice cup of tea.

I went there on an evening and opted for the Dover Sole while Zoe opted for paella. The dover sole was lightly grilled and served with chips. Simple, delicious but nothing special. The paella looked tempting, tasted good but portions were a bit small.

Highlight of the evening was the poncy couple with ridiculously pompous named children asking the staff if the tuna was caught locally.

Total score: 85%

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Restaurant Review #11 – Trem Y Gaer, Criccieth

Trem y Gaer

Copyright Alan Fryer and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

  Address: High Street, Criccieth

  Phone01766 523504



Long ago, back in the mists of time, my father and I would visit this chip shop on our way to my uncle’s cottage in North Wales. Before August 2014, the last time I had been there must have been around 1999. Before that, circa 1989.

Let me tell you something. The quality has only improved.

When I first went  to Trem y Gaer back in the mid eighties, my father and I would tell anyone who would listen about how delicious the chips were and how lovely the onion gravy was. Nothing has changed other than the staff.
I’m pleased to say that the standard of food sold by Trem y Gaer has remained top quality and if Trem Y Gaer was the only chip shop left in the UK, I would have no problem driving the 200 miles to stuff my face with their lovely food.

Everything there is cooked to order, seating is available and the menu extends to chicken, burgers and scampi for those not keen on fish suppers.

Total score: 86%


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Restaurant Review #10–Red Hot World Buffet and Bar, Northampton


Address: Sixfields Leisure Park Weedon Road, Northampton

Phone: 01604 756208



Sometimes when visiting restaurants you have an epiphany. It could be the food, the decor or the service that generates the epiphany. The epiphany might be one of overwhelming glee or utter disappointment. Or it might be one where you realise for the first time how something is not right.

My epiphany came on a Bank Holiday Monday when, out exploring Northamptonshire, a need to eat arose and the options presented to us were limited.

Often when you go to out of town retail and leisure parks you are presented with the usual selection of fast food chains (KFC, Burger King and the like) or multinational chains such as Frankie and Benny’s or TGI Friday’s and very little in the way of independent chains. This, I realise, is due to the exorbitant rents and costs for small businesses to actually obtain one of these units.

So when I saw Red Hot World Buffet and Bar I was excited in that I hadn’t actually seen one of these places before. Of course, I have been to buffet restaurants before such as Cosmo in Coventry, Wing Wah and Jimmy Spices, but I’d not heard of Red Hot World Buffet and Bar. So it seemed like a good choice.

The posters outside promised “Over 140 dishes” “Live food demos” and “All you can eat” which seemed like a fair deal. What it neglected  to mention was the price. I guess that should have been my first warning.

We were seated swiftly and the place seemed popular with a large group of about 12 plus arriving mid meal and a variety of different aged diners already present.

What I can only assume is that these diners were just starting out on their own culinary adventures and were only there as a taster. Because as the time there went on, things just didn’t seem right.

First off, as with most “All you can eats” the food available was minimal. 140 dishes? I think they meant their stock of crockery as there certainly wasn’t 140 dishes available that day. More like about 30. Now, sure, it was lunch time but even so, the selection available was bleak and uninspiring.

Secondly, the dishes that were available mostly comprised of sauce. Now I expect sauce heavy dishes when I go to low brow Indian restaurants, I also expect more sauce than content when I have takeaway. But Red Hot World Buffet and Bar (RHWBB) seemed to be too top heavy in Sauce.

One of the dishes had a meat:veg ratio of about 1 in 50 with the rest of it being just sauce. The “WORLD” bit was not evident. There was Chinese (not very nice), Indian (very mild and saucy) Mexican (grim looking chilli) and Italian (by way of limp looking pizza), and not much else. That’s fair enough but the world is so much more diverse than China, India, Mexico and Italy.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I’m not expecting something like the Carriage Works or a 5 star restaurant standard of food. I am just expecting something edible and not swimming in sauce. Is that too much to ask?

I went up three times. Once for starters (3 varieties of chicken wings and some stale prawn crackers). Second for mains (A spoonful of bland Chicken Tikka, a dollop of Sweet and sour chicken and some rice to soak up the sauce). The final time was for dessert (a solitary scoop of rationed mango ice cream).

At Cosmo in Coventry, it is typical that we would return to the selection numerous times. Indeed, their self-service ice cream and dessert selection is much wider than RHWBB. Moreover, Cosmo’s selection of starters makes you wish you could eat more because by the time you’ve worked your way through ribs, wings and other nibbles you’re already starting to feel like you can’t face another prawn cracker. Not so in RHWBB.

Bleak. Dull. Uninteresting.

When assessing the quality of the meal with my fellow diner we realised that the staff actually outnumbered the diners. Now that might make you think that they were attentive and would bend over backwards to make the meal enjoyable. Well, you try attracting the attention of gossiping waiting staff.

Then we realised, we hadn’t actually seen the price for the “All we could Eat (much more than was available) ” meal. Nothing on the tables, nothing on the menus, nothing on the posters. I said that if it came to more than £12 a head we’d been had. It came to about £9 per head. Which wasn’t so bad.


On reflection I probably wouldn’t have written this review. I had every intention of making The Mucky Badger a site that praised excellent restaurants. I usually leave my dissatisfaction at the table but as a user of Foursquare (stegzy) , I was asked to provide a  comment on my experience. So I commented that prospective diners should opt for Cosmo in Coventry rather than Red Hot World Buffet and Bar instead. That would have been the end of it.

But I then get an amusing tweet from RHWBB:



I’m not sure what that is supposed to mean. Are they swearing at me? Calling me something they wouldn’t call their own mother? Or maybe it’s a typo of a smiley face.  I’m not sure. So I thought I’d write this review to show how disappointed I was with my experience.

But don’t take my word for it. Try it out yourself. It may have been that I had a particularly bad day there. Or it may have been that my expectations were too high. I know that next time I am hungry in Sixfields, I’ll be going to Buddies instead.

To be fair, other people around me seemed to be enjoying the mediocre selection of food and I’m sure that had they too been to Cosmo they might have also been saying something similar to me.

Total Score: 40%

STOP PRESS In 2013 the Red Hot World Buffet and Bar in Northampton caught fire and burned to the ground. This was by no means a statement of the terrible quality of their food. Nor was the fire caused by anything related to this site. Fortunately, nobody was hurt.

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Warwickshire Breakfast special–A challenge!

As well as the quest for the ultimate mixed grill, the Mucky Badger is constantly looking for the ideal Full English Breakfast. The Full English. The staple of truckers and labourers up and down the UK.

Cafés up and down the UK offer many different varieties of the Full English. But  Mucky Badgers require a little bit more magic with Full English Breakfasts. The Full English (FE) should have, but are not restricted by law to:-

Black Pudding
Fried or Scrambled Egg
Fried Bread (or Toast)
Hash browns (Optional)
and a pot or mug of Tea. 

In the past, places visited by Mucky Badgers seem to either omit the black pudding or offer it as an optional extra. Same really with the fried bread. I suppose the health fascists are keen to reduce the intake of saturated fats so that is possibly why some items on the FE are omitted, but this might just be speculation and the real reason might be something to do with popularity and marketing.

Moreover, the greasy spoon café seems to have dwindled. Now replaced by more stylish, ultra clean and healthy affairs offering sautéed brown fowl free range eggs on toasted gluten free bread platters or lightly grilled domesticated boar koftesque with orgasmic sundried tomato puree drenched haricot pulses. The dirty, the unhealthy, packed away and hidden. More so in leafy Warwickshire. Wherein the lack of proper and decent FEBs are evident. The Georgian streets of Leamington Spa, sorry, ROYAL Leamington Spa, are seemingly clear of stalwarts of British breakfast specials. But, scratch the surface, wander around on foot for a few years, and one by one, slowly, like snails on pathways, you start to notice little places where one might be able to gorge oneself on fried breakfast. Hardening the arteries and feeling truly stuffed.

Over the next few years, it is hoped that those at Mucky Badger will visit institutions throughout the county in an attempt to locate the ideal FEB in the Warwickshire area. To be honest, this has probably already been undertaken, but reviews on this site have been lacking of late. So it is hoped that the Mucky Badger will be able to attract some new recruits to write verbose reviews on Full English Breakfast vendors throughout the Warwickshire county.

If you, or someone you know, are an aspiring food writer in Warwickshire and would like to take part in the Mucky Badger Warwickshire Breakfast Special Challenge; drop me a message and we can have a chat. The best review will receive a very special prize. 

Furthermore, it is hoped that using the power of social media, a winner for the Mucky Badger’s Best breakfast in Warwickshire accolade could be found. Yes, that’s right, a prize for the café in Warwickshire that does the best Full English Breakfast!  Contact me for the terms and conditions of entry.

Reviews to follow:

  • Ye Olde Pounde Café
  • Fat Birds Café
  • Docker’s Diner
  • Murphy’s

Stay tuned; it may get nasty!

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Local Food

The following post appeared hidden on LJ in 2009 as it was part of my journalism degree portfolio.

Belper Farmers Market

This weekend I undertook my second visit to Belper’s farmers market. It has been nearly a year since my last visit and it was good to see some familiar faces. Surprisingly the market has grown a little bit since my last visit with the inclusion of three new stalls. Furthermore, it seems that the popularity has grown lately rather than reduced as would have been expected in the current economic climate.

Indeed, Belper’s other local food gem, the award winning Fresh Basil delicatessen was just as busy as I remembered. A sign that all things are still ticking over nicely while other consumer areas are having to tighten their belts.

It would seem that though rising grain and feed prices are forcing independent producers to raise their food prices to record levels and the supermarkets with their “Pile it high sell it cheap” are distracting consumers with their consistently low prices the popularity of local food retailers is still burgeoning.

Tebay Services

But what concerns me is the insistence of some purveyors of local food to stock items that are clearly not locally produced. I’m talking about the Tyrell’s and the Bay Tree Preserves of the world here. To me it seems that some of these local food retailers are stocking brands that are becoming the behemoths of the independent retail world. During my on going tour of farm shops nationally I’ve noticed the same four or five brands recurring. Surely if I travel to the delightful farmer run Tebay services on the M6 I’d expect to see the delights of Cumbrian fare. Jams, chutneys and sauces produced by Cumbrian food producers. Indeed I would, but there, on the shelves are these “foodie” brands.

Perhaps it is instilled in our culture to stay loyal to particular brands. Perhaps these are farm shop brands we should now become familiar with much in the same way we do of Heinz or Pedigree Chum. Or perhaps it’s because we’re too corrupted by supermarket doctrine to shy away from familiar brands. I couldn’t say.

However this fascination with brands concerns me. Where do newcomers get a look in? It may be that finding a distributor is tricky for smaller scale producers. Moreover, it may be that the smaller scale producers find it difficult to produce their wares in the quantities that retailers demand. But isn’t that the ethos behind local food? Food produced locally by small scale independent food smiths. While I’m not expecting the local WI to be producing jams on a Hartley’s scale, I do expect to be able to sample artisan jams depending on the area I am in.

Artisian Jam yesterday

This phenomenon is not only restricted to the produce. Take farmers markets for example. This month I’ve been to five farmers markets in the region. One artisan meat producer had a stall at all five of these markets, at one market it was at least 90 miles from it’s home base.

Now I’m not saying that this is a bad thing. What I am saying is I am concerned. I worry that if this trend continues unabated we will be in a similar situation as we are with independent beers. The smaller breweries being bought by the brewing giants only to be closed in an apparent effort to reduce the competition. Ask any passing Tom, Dick or Harry to give a real ale name and they’ll probably tell you something by Shepherds Neame or Adnams. Where once these were struggling breweries, now they produce ales on such a vast scale that differences in quality and flavour are apparent. Are we in the same situation with real food? Is real food in danger of being clouded by the success of the few at the detriment to the many? Only time will tell.

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One day lad...all this will be houses

You can’t get simpler than oats.

Oats are so versatile and healthy. Grab yourself a bag of oats, roll them with a roller or what ever, add hot milk or water, season to taste.



The food of the Gods.

There was a time when oats weren’t so trendy. You could stand in shops looking for the oats and would often have difficulty locating something oaty. Nowadays, oats are trendy. They are healthy. Their benefits extolled far and wide.

When I was a kid we had Ready Brek. All that was, was oats. A box of oats.

These are Scott's? Does he know?

My nan had Scots Porridge oats. The difference? Negligible. Perhaps only just the packaging.

Nip down your shop now and you’ll see the shelves burgeoning under the weight of oaty breakfast cereals. Instant oats, bags of rolled oats, crunchy honey coated oat clusters, oaty hoops and more oats than you can shake a stick at. But rewind a little.


How more instant can you get than a hand full of oats heated in milk or water in a pan or microwave? Not really more instant than that. And yet, the consumer is offered a variety of other oat brands. Quaker, Kelloggs, Ready Brek. All sell individual sachets of oats. Each box of sachets contain about 5 servings. Each box costs the consumer upwards of £2.

But wait! How confoundedly stupid of the consumer. Surely the big bag of rolled oats for 50p on the bottom shelf there….surely that’s just add milk and heat…surely? Well obviously not. Because tonight, dear reader, my horror at the stupidity of the consumer, the easily led, the simply hoodwinked, for lo! Behold! COW AND GATE do a porridge ESPECIALLY FOR BABIES! Why? What’s wrong with a good handful of oats? Nothing!

There are people out there who buy this stuff in good faith. Thinking that by spending the extra money they are some how making themselves better, socially, maybe even healthwise.

Utter shit blobs.

OATS IS OATS. You don’t need to add anything. You need not even use milk to make your porridge. Oats. Plain simple common garden oats. Get yours here.

Instant pancake mix

Just add milk and egg

Honestly I was so angry at the advert that it rivalled the stupidity of the INSTANT PANCAKE MIX (just add milk and egg) I observed in a shop once*. Some people shouldn’t be allowed out with money…….

Anyway, doing a bit of research on the various porridge products on the market I thought I’d check the ingredients of a variety of oat based breakfast cereals. Now, you’d think porridge was just oats. If I asked for porridge, that’s what I’d hope to get. And yet……

Ready BrekContains Wholegrain Rolled Oats (60%), Wholegrain Oat Flour, Calcium, Niacin, Iron, Pantothenic Acid (B5), Vitamin B6, Riboflavin (B2), Thiamin (B1), Folic Acid, Vitamin B12.

Quaker PorridgeContains 100% Oats.

Quaker Oat So SimpleContains Quaker Rolled Oats, Stabiliser: Lecithin (soya)

Scots Porage Oats were apparently bought out by Quaker. I am unable to find any links to that. So yes…With the exception of Quaker Porridge Oats which claim to be 100% rolled oats, the others reveal some interesting points of note. Ready Brek is only 60% rolled oats with the rest bulked out by flour and additives. I imagine the flour is for the consistency and to make the cereal more palatable to children.

Why “instant” oats (Oats So Simple) need soya based stabiliser and standard oats don’t I have no idea. Could it be that the microwave does things to your oats they’d rather you not know about? I have no idea. Still, it’s very interesting. To me at least. Incidentally, did you know that Pepsico own Quaker? Well now you do.

* – For those less in tune with me here, the instant pancake mix was just plain ordinary flour.


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Sundae Sunday

On Sunday I was overcome with the burning desire for an ice cream sundae. The urge took me much in the same way as I imagine a smack head might desire heroin. So, jumping into the car, I made headway to Sainsbury’s wherein I purchased the necessary ingredients to make a delicious raspberry ice cream sundae.

As you can see I bought all the necessary ingredients including some essential for a dairy free sundae Sunday treat for Zoe, who is allergic to dairy.

Ten minutes of sculpting ice cream, poking flakes and scattering chopped nuts the results emerged.


The one on the right is the dairy free one.

They were both devoured with a speed faster than the two donkeys I got in the Grand National office sweepstakes.

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Restaurant Review #9– Woburn Hill Hotel, Cemaes Bay, Anglesey

Map picture
  Woburn Hill Hotel
High Street
Cemaes Bay
LL67 0HU
Tel No: 01407 711 388
Fax No: 01407 711 190



For me, a weekend in Wales is spiritually akin to a pilgrimage to Rome. I understand that a Pope once said that three pilgrimages to Bardsey Island were of equal merit with one to Rome. I think that’s a bit too exclusive and like to think that one trip to North Wales should cover several lifetimes worth of Papal blessings. Making me a saint. Or at least Venerable.

While the Royal Prince declared his love for Kate Middleton I opted for a trip to Anglesey. Finding somewhere to stay was easier than I thought it would be and I was able to secure a room at the lovely Woburn Hill Hotel in Cemaes Bay.

Of course being one of those people that likes to plan where to eat while away just as much as they like to spontaneously turn up a some fish restaurant in some sleepy countryside village, it comes as no surprise that I researched the Woburn Hill’s menu well before I’d even sent off the booking request.  The thing that sold it for me was the menu included a MIXED GRILL and regular readers will be familiar with my quest for the ultimate mixed grill.

Ah! Goodness! Meaty grilled goodness.

The Woburn’s mixed grill includes:

  • Rump steak (win)
  • Gammon steak (win)
  • Pork steak (unusual but win!)
  • Lamb cutlet (delicious and perfect)
  • Kidney (oh yes)
  • Sausage (naturally)
  • Mushrooms (of course)
  • Onion rings (essential)
  • Tomato (win again!)



all served with chips.

IMAG0164A perfect mix of grilled meats. Had it had some liver, it may have even further exceeded my already exceeded expectations. A fantastic selection that just filled me to bursting point. A meal that left me fully sated and unable to even consider pudding.

Anyway, the restaurant….the restaurant is open to non-residents and serves meals from daily from 6:30pm onwards. There are many other dishes to choose from with special diets catered for and specials every day. The staff are keen, attentive and very friendly and the atmosphere is just perfect.

Try as I might I simply could not fault the hotel or the restaurant.  It just goes to prove that a place does not have to be extortionate, overly fancy or in the business of serving poncey “micro meals” to be fantastic.



For food, I think the mixed grill was the best and most obvious choice for me. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I think it will be hard to beat judging by the mixed grills I’ve seen at other places.

Being objective, the other meals looked delicious too and I would most definitely dine there again. In fact the rooms at the hotel are really spacious and comfortable with a really tasty Full Breakfast served in the mornings. Eating there was pleasant, staying there was pleasant, and the area of North Anglesey is a place I could recommend to anyone looking for a weekend away.

Total score: 90%





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Filed under hotels, mixed grill, Places-to-eat, Restaurant, wales