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Supper Club: Paradise Coast with Nerdvana

For this week’s Supper Club it’s a side of pizza and fries with a main course of serious competition for Tim Christian, who heads to Paradise Coast to join Nerdvana’s tabletop gaming night.

On a cool evening I ventured forth into the ill-omened coastal settlement of Blackpole to keep an appointment made at a local tavern. I found the disreputable looking alleyway where I knew the tavern could be found. Pausing for a moment to turn my collar to the night air, I made my way hence to the brightly-lit and welcoming establishment, bustling and popular despite its seemingly questionable locale and opened the door into a sheltered porch.

Knowing my appointment was waiting for me in the more secluded upstairs rooms, I bypassed the tempting jollity of the bar downstairs and ascended to keep my appointment, the hour being already later than intended and I did not wish to delay further. It was there I saw them, the motley band of adventurers who had arranged to meet to test their mettle against each other’s combat skills and magickal prowess until a victor could be declared.

And also eat pizza.

In short, I had arrived for the Thursday night Nerdvana tabletop card gaming night at Paradise Coast.

If I was to tell a newcomer to Blackpool to make their way to make their way to Corporation Street, look for a pub called Scruffy Murphy’s, head down the alley next to it and look for a red neon sign that reads “Dirty Blondes” they’d probably be wondering why I’d directed them to a house of ill repute, but – as any Blackpool local could tell you – they’d be wrong (you want Cookson Street for that). But if they persevered they’d find themselves in a small but popular and bustling bar that offers drinks, food and a variety of entertainment from live bands to DJ sets and comedy nights. Go through the doors and head upstairs from there and you’ll find yourself entering its tiki-themed sister establishment (and my destination for the evening) Paradise Coast.

Not that I needed an excuse to visit somewhere to try out some decent food, but what had drawn me to Paradise Coast on this occasion was attending a tabletop card-gaming night from grassroots organisation Nerdvana, who aim to provide gaming sessions in various local venues and community spaces. They offer a regular D&D nights as well as board game and card gaming events. Their aim is to provide safe spaces for people to come together and learn a new skill, connect with their community and build relationships and confidence all while playing a variety of table top games. Sounds pretty good, right?

This was my first visit to Paradise Coast (although I’d been to Dirty Blondes a few times before) and tonight was a bit of an oddity really, the upstairs was booked out for the event so, it was only occupied by one large table of gamers. Subtlety is not a consideration that concerns this place – a visual assault of tiki-kitsch, drenched in coloured light and overlapping-postered walls. I loved the chaos of it.

Paradise Coast doesn’t just share an address with Dirty Blondes, they offer the same menu – a variety of chicken-y things, ribs, loaded fries and the star of the show, the pizza! Promising the largest pizzas in town, which at 18″ full size they may well be, the selection on offer ranges from regular Plain Jane cheese and tomato to topping frenzied Bacon Got Back and the Katsu curry chicken.

I decided to go for the vegan version of the Hugs 4 Nugs pizza slice, which consisted of vegan cheese, tomato sauce, vegan chicken nugget pieces, waffles fries and a drizzle of “dirty sauce” (which I assume is something BBQ-y and not, y’know… actual dirt), along with the (also vegan) salt and pepper fries, generously loaded with five spice, salt, garlic, chillies, onions and peppers. The perfect feast for an evening of card gaming.

Presentation-wise, it’s bar food – simple plastic plates and paper napkins – you’re not coming here for silver service. The pizza managed to pull off vegan cheese pretty effectively (always the biggest challenge to a vegan pizza in my mind), for comparison it reminded me very much of Papa John’s sheese in taste and texture, and the nuggets were pretty much indistinguishable from real chicken, especially when had in combination with the rest of the toppings. Overall I was pretty impressed with how tasty it was.

The salt and pepper fries were delicious, and there was easily enough for two people to share in one portion and I struggled to put them away, especially as I’d had a very late lunch. My only minor criticism (and I appreciate this is food normally intended to be eaten a couple of pints in when your tastebuds need an extra bit of stretch to reach, and I wasn’t drinking) was that they were a bit on the salty side. Massively on the plus side for this meal was the price, which was only £7 for both (plus a couple of quid for a lemonade), a bargain considering the portion size and what you might expect to pay elsewhere.

The main business of the evening for this visit though was the card gaming, and I spoke a bit with Becky, the organiser and founder of Nerdvana, who explained that their goal was to try and make card gaming accessible to people who might not otherwise have knowledge or experience of it or might struggle to get over the sometimes quite high costs involved in building decks and collecting different games.

They are currently running regular sessions at Upside Down, The Old Electric, Paradise Coast, and the New Life Community Centre on Queen Victoria Road in Revoe, but hope to extend these to further sessions as well as working with schools, youth clubs, community centres, to try and make gaming more accessible generally and really offer a chance for people, especially kids, to enjoy a hobby they might not otherwise have the opportunity to experience. I was really impressed with this as a goal and hope that this is an idea that has legs and goes a long way, especially in a town like Blackpool with high levels of deprivation. Even something as simple as having access to a communal activity such as this can really make a difference in a kid’s life. It’s also a lot of fun, so I highly recommend getting your arse down to one of their sessions and having a go for yourself.

Regarding the testing of my mettle, I handled myself adequately in a few rounds of Dungeon Mayhem – a fairly simple Dungeons & Dragons-based battle game, which I actually own myself. And I was one of the two last survivors in a game of Battle Wizards – a spell-building game, where each player simultaneously unveils a spell they have built from their hand to try and wipe out their opponents – a slightly more in-depth game than Dungeon Mayhem, with a number of varying factors affecting the outcome of each spell.

The final duel was down to the wire, and everything hung on a single turn of a card. Alas, the bards will not be singing of my epic victory that night, as I, much like the food on offer, was pretty resoundingly seen off.

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    A hungry guy in search of tasty treats across the Fylde Coast. Additional spicy opinions are also available.

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