The Crooked Billet has been popping up on my radar a lot recently. Not only did they win best pub in Milton Keynes for the second year running at the MK Food Awards earlier this year, but they also held a beer festival back in May that the Family P made an appearance at and which, despite the brief rain interlude, still seemed to be very popular. But we have never eaten there and so when they mentioned a pudding club, Mrs P spotted an opportunity to combine Date Night, with Mrs P Eats a Lot of Pudding Night. A win/win situation if ever she saw one.
The Crooked Billet is as much a Village Pub as you might ever want to visit. Just a couple of minutes South West of Milton Keynes in Newton Longville, it sits at the centre of the Village like a thatched Buddha; short, wide and with a very friendly smile. And a smile was exactly what we got when we came through to the bar too, Alan (the co-owner) was there behind the bar, which is his usual station by all accounts. When you go in, say hello from me – you can’t miss the man, just head towards the beard.
Pudding Club First!
Having been seated and reminded that it was indeed Pudding Club (Thursday Night is Pudding Club Night), I couldn’t contain Mrs P any longer and she ordered the mini pudding platter immediately. At five puddings for £15, it’s not cheap but perfect to share. However, ordering puddings before the meal, may have flustered our waitress as she then turned and asked me what I wanted. I’ll admit, I panicked. ‘I’ll have the same please’ I found myself saying. And so what arrived was a duo of shared plates of pudding, intended for four people, to be shared by the two of us. We smashed it, obvs.
Unfortunately the dreaded Shadow Monster struck again so, apologies for the dodge photos. From top left we have; Pistachio and white chocolate Parfait, Sticky Honey Cake, frangipane tart, roasted peach in a brandysnap basket and Basil Grande Eton mess in the centre. Winners and losers here, but for the first night, I think far more win than loss. Portion size was spot on with enough for two to share (so long as you aren’t dealing with a gluttonously incompetent fool), the Parfait was Mrs P’s favourite as being light, fruity and smooth as silk. I considered it far more a mousse as it had defrosted a little too much. Still, I can’t deny it was certainly tasty. The honey cake was soft and sticky, a crowd pleaser no doubt. The Frangipane was the poor cousin I’m afraid with a base the wrong side of thick, the fruity topping had a nice bit of glaze but neither of us gushed over it. The roasted peach however, was far and away the best for me and also for other diners we heard talking about it on the same night). This was really good with the brandy snap basket and the cooling icecream (also a bit melty – which may well have been the explanation for my parfait). Sweet with a bit of ginger fire, this one’s a winner. Finally we had the mess, which as the name suggested arrived with some lovely strong basil inflections plus a sprinkle of pepper. An unusual combination but well worth a spoonful, don’t be put off and please dive straight in. Personally I think it needed something sharp like a bit of citrus to really bring it to life, but then I’m not a chef so what do I know?!
What to eat after pudding?
With puddings well and truly done, we could concentrate on dinner. Wanting to row back from the embarrassing faux pa of Pudding Gate, we decided to share a starter and a towering obelisk of Beef Croquette was shortly placed before us. The plate looked great – real attention to detail and the design was very appealing. The few splodges of sauce on the plate weren’t quite enough to lubricate all of the massive croquette so more sauce please and we both felt the croquette itself lacked seasoning but the stripe of peppered celery salt was absolutely delicious when brushed over the crispy coated meat. A well considered thumbs up there then.
For mains, having already had our massive puddings, we again tried to share but couldn’t decide between the lamb and duck. At this point Dave (the other co-owner who is usually relegated to the dark and lonely office upstairs), decided to throw caution to the wind and bring us both anyway. A commendable effort therefore ensued to battle our way through, because with true Olympic spirit we couldn’t let the team down.
Mrs P’s lamb was tasty and soft and despite her protests, she seemed to manage to polish off the plate without issue. The red wine sauce was nicely balanced and was dribbled liberally over her plate with abandon. It was good to see a decent amount of veg too – we all need our five-a-day.
My duck didn’t quite hit the same high I’m afraid, but I think that was me rather than the Chef. I’m not sure if I’ll ever fully appreciate the waterbath technique because although the duck was tender and soft and allowed the chef to bring the subtle tea flavour in, I just don’t think it brought the same party to the plate as a fully pan-fried pink fillet would. On the other hand, the buttered kale and mushrooms were a revelation – as was the pineapple jam which was a small jar of exotic fruitiness that was just a chili curl away from greatness. If I’m being super critical, the polenta chips could have been more crispy, (I’m embarrassed to admit that the best polenta chips I’ve had were from Jamies Italian), but otherwise seasoned well and went excellently with the fried egg which I also enormously enjoyed with it’s runny yoke’d centre.
Conclusion – a meal at the Crooked Billet that means something
We finished there and as we sat chatting to Alan and Dave about food, Milton Keynes and everything inbetween, I was reminded just what place the Crooked Billet commands in this area. They refuse to be the cheapest plate of food you can buy (far from it in fact, although at between £15 to £25 for a main, Mrs P did mention that it could benefit from coming down a couple of quid) but they also aren’t hell bent on getting that Michelin star either.Without doubt, the menu is great; I can’t remember the last time I looked down and wanted to order everything. They bring on a young kitchen team who aren’t afraid of something new, they get involved in local issues, they support the community around them and basically just want to bring back what a good pub should be. For me, the Crooked Billet demonstrates perfectly just how we all should look at our local boozer. Well done boys.
Mrs P and I were invited to try the Crooked Billet Pudding Club (it’s on every Thursday but don’t worry, you can still order a pudding at any other time too) but you all, and they, know that I don’t hold back in what I think when it comes to dinner (or lunch, or even breakfast for that matter)! Don’t miss the Cooked Billet as part of our top Milton Keynes pub gardens post.