I know that things have been a little quiet around here on the food front recently. Mrs P and I haven’t been managing to keep up with the usual standard of restaurant related shenanigans that you have come to expect from us, primarily because we’ve been gallivanting around Europe for the best part of the last eighteen months. But with only a few more countries left to tick off, we’re back home now and the invitation to take a look at the new and improved Black Horse at Great Linford arrived in the inbox at just the right time.
The Black Horse at Great Linford (not to be confused with the Black Horse at Woburn) has always been one of our perennial favourite settings to enjoy a wander along the canal and a swift pint on a balmy summers day. Their decking is so perfectly placed that you simply can’t walk past without popping in, well I can’t anyway. I have shouted it’s virtues as one of the best summer afternoon after work drinkipoo venues in the city for many years. But let’s be fair to the old girl; she was tired, she was dated and like that uncle who refuses to throw away his favourite brown nylon and crimplene trousers because ‘they’ll come back into fashion eventually’, it was time for an affirmative intervention.
The press soft launch took place a few days before the doors officially opened (get me; press! Sometimes even I don’t understand how that’s happened!) and as it was dark I got some half-decent shots of the inside. For the outside, you’ll have to rely on the official press which is for the best because unlike the other brilliant MK bloggers such as Jo from Girl Eats World and Sophie Etc., who both take wonderful photos with no-doubt very good cameras, I am not that kind of blogger – as I’m sure you’ll have gathered if you’ve spent more than a few minutes here :-).
So what is the Black Horse like now? Well, after spending what I assume has to be over a million quid on the place, as you can imagine, she has got herself a new wardrobe. You might be surprised to hear that interior design is not high on my list of specialist skills but even I appreciated the muted black and gold motifs with connections running through the dining room furniture as well as the fixtures. The Black Horse namesake was prominent in the bar and I actually really liked the feather designs on the walls mirrored on the fittings throughout. It’s always the little things that you aren’t supposed to notice that make the difference isn’t it?
And speaking of the bar, what was a dark, dingy hangover from the pub’s (19th Century?) roots, has been brightened considerably with a clever colour scheme and modern techniques to lift the feel of the space. It’s clear that thankfully even after going under the knife for a very professional nip, tuck, facelift and Botox, the DNA of The Black Horse is still exactly where it needs to be. All credit to the team who has done an amazing job.
If it wasn’t enough to be invited in to take a look around, drink gin (thanks for that Tanqueray by the way), Mrs P and I also got to sit down for a bit of scran off the new menu. Looking at that menu I was pleased if not blown away. This is a carefully considered list full of tried and tested favourites that any pub has to offer if it wants to stay alive these days. Thankfully there were also a few other dishes that excited me a bit more than the ever present fish, chips or burger.
We started with a few cracker breads from the kitchen which, while a nice touch, I’m afraid just missed the mark a little. Nice and crispy, they had a dusting of seasoning but were just a bit bland and needed a bit more salty poke to brighten them up. Mrs P’s sweet chilli prawn roll was really rather nice and a quick glance around the room showed that it seemed a very popular choice amongst the other diners. My karaage chicken was the star of the show; crunchy coated chicken with a lovely fresh salad and warm katsu sauce served on the side which as we all know is the correct place for sauce to be served.
My lobster and crab cakes sitting on a asparagus, pea and truffle oil valoute were nice but the whole thing just a little too sweet which was down to the valoute more than anything else. The truffle oil was a lovely taste running through and the fish cakes were a good size with the crispy coating giving some much needed crunch. Perhaps there was a little too much of the valoute for me and I would have preferred the asparagus spears with more bite to break up the textures, but maybe that’s just me.
Mrs P’s lamb chops were cooked to the perfect shade of pink and were meaty lollipops of savoury yum. Again, the jus and the peppers were a bit sweet but the dauphinoise potato was soft, creamy and delicious. Between the two of us, Mrs P claimed victory over the mains menu choice and I found it hard to disagree.
Puds were delivered in the forms of sticky toffee pudding and a pineapple tarte tatin with sweet and sticky ends to the meal, they hit all the right spots. If you are looking for a ‘wow!’ moment then you might end the meal disappointed but really, that’s not what the Black Horse is all about. The refurb has done exactly the right thing, refreshing the interior to make sure you can enjoy the experience just as much as you want to.
A quick shout out to Martin, our waiter who performed admirably over the night. A new menu, new table plan, new staffing instructions and a healthy dose of awkward questions from idiots like me must have created a lot of pressure. But it didn’t show and he sailed through with professionalism – top man!
So what did I think of the new and improved Black Horse and will I go back? You better believe it. I was able to gloss over the imperfections before because of the amazing setting but now I don’t have to. Go and fall in love with it yourself. If I see you there, I might even buy you a pint.
I was invited to the press launch and plied with free gin and dinner. I would have been happy to pay myself but shhhh, we’ll keep that between us, ok?