Ah yes, it seems I overlooked that when I deactivated all the plugins and only reactivated the persona theme.
Seems to be working to a fashion, just need to get some plugins I rely on updated.
I have downloaded 1.8.1 to test and i realised loading the ACP page takes about 15 seconds. In the logs i'm seeing multi error message in the below. I'm sitting behind a corporate proxy server and firewall and i suspect the request going out to github is blocked.
I did a hack on the request code in \NodeBB-1.8.1\src\admin\versions.js to include a proxy and the error dissapears and ACP loads immediately. This wasn't an issue in 1.7.5v and i believe there were changes made to some files.
I'm seeing this problem too in ACP plugin whereby i can't search for plugin because of the same issue. Is there a way to set PROXY in NodeBB?
2018-03-26T20:05:16.187Z  - [31merror[39m: [acp] Failed to fetch latest version Error: getaddrinfo ENOTFOUND api.github.com api.github.com:443
at errnoException (dns.js:28:10)
at GetAddrInfoReqWrap.onlookup [as oncomplete] (dns.js:76:26)