Good Lord, what a year it’s been! A year later, a year older and we have learned a huge amount about blogging, eating and having amazing friends. We’ve written about so many different things that looking back on the 90 odd posts we’ve shared with you it’s too hard to mention them all so we thought we would give you another chance to check out a couple of our favourites that you might have missed the first time.
Milton Keynes is blessed (and I use the word only politely) with almost every chain restaurant the UK has to offer and I’ve probably eaten in pretty much all of them. We are the seeming growing go-to destination of choice for companies looking to stretch out of London with Smashburger and a Revolution De Cuba scattered amongst the bazillion Nando’s but then who can also forget the amusing if unfortunate Chimichanga incident of 2016? So some might suggest that it’s not 100% bad news. In fact, despite the over indulgence of Bella Italia and GBK’s I’m going to say it; some chains are ok – cue gasps of horror from all my hardcore foodie friends (I’m looking at you Mike…). In fact, I’m going to go further, some chains are positively nice (oh no, I may have gone too far. Mike is already on the speed dial arranging an intervention). I stand by that though, it’s true, it’s because food is entirely subject to the context of when and how you eat, or drink it. And of course, who you eat and/or drink it with. So it was with no pre-conceived opinions and only a hunger for a good plate of grub, I entered Browns* to see which side of the pitch they were kicking from.
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, subscription services have boomed in recent years; whether it’s snacking options like Graze, craft-beer delivery service Beer52, meal plans from the likes of HelloFresh, fragrance from Secret Scent or even socks from Quiet Rebellion, it would seem the sky is the limit with stuff you can now get posted to your door.
Clearly, the options vary wildly and whilst perhaps not for everybody, they serve a purpose – by their nature subscription services like the above are highly giftable, they’re quirky and they’re fun. Think novelty factor.
What get’s more novelty then than a subscription to a cheese toastie service, billed as “the uber of grilled cheese sandwiches”? Yeah. You read that right… cheese toasties, straight to your door. Mind blown. Hold onto your hats people.
December is a time for traditions and one of the best traditions in the Robsribs household is the Annual Christmas Weekend away. Two days filled with London, musical theatre and a whole lot of food. This year, whilst Mrs P, The Child and I were enjoying our most festive of yearly treats, Mrs P turned to me and said ‘So where have you booked for dinner?’ I replied nonchalantly and with total confidence; ‘Booked? I don’t need to book, there will be loads of places open on a Saturday night. Besides, restaurants in Soho don’t accept bookings anyway. Everyone knows that.’
Fast forward 6 hours and there we stood in the dark, rainy, miserable London streets, 16 failed restaurants later having walked half a mile and yet still only ending up 20 yards from where we had first started hurling silent curses at each other. The more discerning of our readers will know from their own personal relationship experiences that this type of ‘adventure’ (let’s call it that for The Child’s sake if nothing else) very rarely ends with anything other than an inappropriately priced, overcooked steak or burger from a money swallowing, faceless chain of corporate construction. And it was with this inevitable conclusion looming large in our minds that we found Le Bab.
Am I taking this whole pub thing a bit too far? I look back at some of the posts that I’ve put up this summer and I can see that pubs have featured perhaps a little too heavily. I’ve reviewed one or two local boozers, a few further afield and even had a Michelin star or two so perhaps I should try to broaden my horizons a little bit? Then again, I do love me a good pub and we’re getting some absolute crackers around these parts so to put it quite bluntly: bugger that, I’ll review as many as I bloody well can thank you very much! Next on the list then is The Anchor over in Aspley Guise (just outside Woburn Sands), owned by EPIC, who seem to pride themselves on injecting as much personality and individuality as possible into an industry which can certainly suffer from a distinct lack of both. Now in the interest of full disclosure, I should say that the last time I went EPIC over at 185 Watling street as part of a former life, it didn’t exactly ring my bell so it was with some trepidation when I got the invitation and walked through the door at The Anchor.
Curry. Curry curry curry. Curry curry. Curry. I like curry. In fact thinking about it, I don’t know many people who don’t like curry. Do you? I bet you don’t. It’s so popular that it’s even got it’s own week. Which, by any measure is utterly ridiculous. Well ridiculous and at the same time, completely and undeniably delicious. I know it’s difficult to sometimes pull yourselves away from your regular Chicken Tikka Masala on a Friday night at the Spice Shed, but if at no other time, this should have been the week to go all out and try to investigate new tastes, flavours and, dammit, maybe even a new part of the menu!
I don’t cook much on this blog, but the truth is I cook a lot. When I’m not doing reviews here, there or pretty much anywhere, I’m in the kitchen cooking for Mrs P, The Child, The Child’s Sister or in fact anyone who happens to be in the house at the time. So when Tyga asked Suburban Gent and I to try out their DIY subscription curry deal and then threw in a crate of Kingfisher to sweeten the deal, there was no way I was going to say no.
The thought of returning home at the end of a long day in the office post-commute and having to scrape together something for dinner doesn’t really fill me with much excitement; I’m usually knackered and go straight for convenience food, which typically consists of unhealthy or processed oven food, takeaways or countless meals out. Ultimately it’s expensive, lazy and nothing really with any real nutritional value.
I’ve wanted to get a bit more adventurous in the kitchen (ooh-err) following having a new kitchen fitted with all the bells-and-whistles and have been on the lookout for something to improve my cooking skills whilst improving my diet. However, I struggle for inspiration and time to meticulously plan my shopping to ensure I have the necessary ingredients for a proper recipe. All of this changed when a man from HelloFresh turned up on my doorstep with an enticing offer.
It’s good to have friends, and it’s even nicer to have friends who give you free stuff. Recently, we’ve been introduced to some lovely people over at Lavazza by our new friends at foodanddrinkglasgow.co.uk who invited us for a day out at Ascot to take a look at their new coffee machine, the Lavazza Jolie. Naturally, Suburban Gent and I thought it would be rude not to take a closer look at any device named after our favourite pouty-lipped, round-bootified, recently single seductress (I am unashamed to confirm that as a growing boy I had a picture of her as Lara Croft pinned to the inside of my wardrobe). Plus, I know that the ladies love any excuse to put on a new dress and so we were committed. I only hoped I could keep The Child and The Child’s sister from eating all the free cake.
The term fine dining, means different things to different people. To some it conjures up the very epitome of elegance and sophistication. To others, it’s an over-priced waste of time and money. For a man of such wide and indiscriminate culinary desires as I, I fall somewhere between the two; I will gladly pay top dollar for a plate of grub, so long as it represents value, similarly there is nothing wrong with a dirty great fry-up for a couple of quid in the right situation. But when it comes to fine dining, what is value? Is it paying 5 pounds for a burger? What about dropping £100 per person on lunch, or maybe even more? The answer, in my totally non-professional and ultimately irrelevant opinion is that they all are – but in very different ways.
So after Gent and I had had several disappointing attempts to find value in any of the restaurants who had been seemingly tipped* to represent the best that Milton Keynes had to offer, we decided that everyone else was wrong and we had probably known better all along. Perhaps one day we’ll revisit the scenes of some of our biggest regrets in the area, but reviewing a place just because we know it’s over-priced yet depressingly under-whelming doesn’t seem very sporting does it?
Now, avid readers will know that we at TMAT have gone through a lot of pubs this summer and we hope to visit a lot more in the coming years. We’ve already seen some good, some really good and some must try harder but if it’s pubs your interested in, then the Mac Daddy of them all, the El Presidente, the Top Dog is the Hand and Flowers. There are a few pubs who have got themselves a Michelin Star, but only The Hand and Flowers has got 2. So it must having something special, it might take you a year to get a table but a three course lunch will only set you back 20 quid.
No, I’m not joking.
We like a good pub here at Two Men About Town – no, really, we do – we’ve posted no less than nine posts in three months about local pubs in Milton Keynes, even recently sharing our guide to our favourite Milton Keynes beer gardens; so in the interest of variety, we thought it would be prudent to share another review. Of a pub.
The good people of The Swan Inn got in touch and invited us down to visit and sample their food so obviously we jumped at the chance and headed down on a sunny midweek evening.
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.