A cold and wet late October’s afternoon in Central Milton Keynes Shopping Centre doesn’t perhaps present one with the wealth of independent eateries that I’ve become accustomed to in my midweek London escapades, but there I was, hunting for some warm sustenance to continue braving the crowds. Strolling along I saw the lunchtime set menu offer at Carluccio’s, two-courses for £11.95 and headed on in, never having set foot inside a Carluccio’s before but having high hopes of an Italian lunchtime tasty treat.
I’ll admit that talking about coffee is not the most normal way to start a post about tea. However, I’ve never been called normal in my life and I’ve got no intention of starting now, so grab a seat and let’s have a chat over a cuppa. You know when you go into a coffee shop and order ‘a latte please, with half-whole milk, split quad shots, a shot of decaf, no foam and a squeeze of caramel’? Then they look at you and say: ‘Sure, no problem.’
I think you know that secretly, deep down, underneath that Middle Class, almond juice infused, lentil pasta covered exterior you know that’s a bit weird. Yeah, I thought so. There isn’t a single other drink that people contaminate on such a regular basis in such odd and complicated ways. I mean you wouldn’t do that to a cup of tea would you? I would never pollute a lovely cup of tea with something so abnormal or strange as soya milk, for example. Why is it even called milk for goodness sake? It’s never seen a cow in it’s unnaturally long shelf life. No, that’s not for me, not a chance. No way.
…Or so I thought.
From waffles and crépes, to chocolate fudge cake, crème brûlée, icecreams and milkshakes, there’s something really comforting about a good dessert.
The thing is, with the exception of a few places we’ve reviewed on TwoMenAboutTown, a large chunk of the restaurant trade of both chain and independent variety source sweets ready-made from suppliers, charging a silly amount for the fuss of sticking a refrigerated pre-made brownie on a plate with a scoop of icecream. Desserts are an art form that kitchens struggle to cope with or find time for, instead opting to focus on their appetisers and main menus, often far too big for their own good.
My blogger-in-crime RobsRibs has said many times that Milton Keynes is in dire need of a good pudding restaurant – even proclaiming to one day open one himself – something to take on the pre-made and homogenised dessert menu world, or at least that seen in Milton Keynes. With this in mind then, would Kaspa’s hold a torch to the big man’s vision and fill a sweet-void, or would it fall by the wayside? Independently, both Rob and I headed down within the last week under the radar to check out what Kaspa’s Desserts is all about.
A while ago GO Outdoors in Milton Keynes had a small flammable problem and had to shut up shop for a while. They maintained a temporary residence over the road but it was only to buy them enough time to give the original site a top-to-toe DIY Big Build style make over. The manager Oliver and the team invited a few of us unelected guardians of the public zeitgeist (or bloggers if you want to get specific about it) over on opening week to have a nosy around, see what we thought and put a few tweets their way. But while I was getting round to answering the PR request to say yes, the kicker came in – would I also like 100 quid to buy anything I wanted from the store while I was there?! Umm, yes. Yes I would.
Well what do you know? Despite the irony of not actually being a business, we only went and got ourselves invited to the Milton Keynes Business Achievement awards 2017! That’s right, first there was the MK Digital Awards and now, another awards dinner and celebration for all that is great and good in Milton Keynes has come our way! Did we deserve it? Probably not. But the price for suffering through a lovely evening filled with lovely people, not to mention all the wine and dinner at the Doubletree Hilton, was a bit of tweeting and this post. So because we rather like doing our bit to support local businesses making good on their successes (and it’s fair to say that we also like lovely evenings, lovely people and plenty of wine and dinner) we thought; lets do this.
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.
If you follow this blog regularly then you’ll have a suspicion that between the two of us, my compadre SuburbanGent is the popular one who always looks good in his perfectly manicured suit, beautifully styled hair and shiny expensive shoes. Me? I just eat a lot and understand the truth in the fact that I’ve got a face (and body) for radio. So when Fusion got in touch and asked if we would like give away a years free membership, I thought ‘that’s one for him then, he loves a bit of gym action’. So I said; ‘Sounds good, can we come in and do a class to check it out? Maybe the super hardcore, ultramax cardio madness that is INTENCITY? How many different sessions are there? Four? That would be perfect, yes we’ll have a go at all of them.’ I chuckled to myself with the gleeful malice of a really good friend as I rang to break the news to him.
Monday 23rd January 2017 saw Milton Keynes celebrate it’s 50th birthday!
As a town, Milton Keynes receives a lot of unfair stick; often the target of ridicule by comedians and critics who think it’s just about concrete cows and roundabouts, it’s fair to say the
city town has had an unfair reputation for a number of years.
But why is it the case? Milton Keynes is hailed as an architectural marvel, an economic power-house that has seen the town creating jobs faster than anywhere in the UK for six consecutive years, boasting vast swatches of open public space, great entertainment facilities and recognised as a fantastic place for families. I’ve lived in MK all my life and love it, the first to jump to it’s defence when it unfairly gets a bit of stick.
To celebrate Milton Keynes’ birthday – and, well, just to show some love for MK, as resident Milton Keynes bloggers – here are (just a few) of our thoughts on what makes Milton Keynes a great place to live and work.
Last week was my Birthday and once we put aside the problems of having a birthday so close to Christmas (rubbish presents, nobody wanting to come to your party, your best friend telling you that he’s probably going to be too busy to remember so it’s best if we just never talk about it again. Ever*.), then it’s always something to look forward to, right? These days, birthdays are a perfect excuse to tick off another restaurant from the “must visit” list. This year, we stayed local and went to Olivier’s. I always saw it pitched right up there in terms of swank factor, not only because it’s the in-house restaurant to the frankly gorgeous Woburn hotel but also because it’s located in the centre of Woburn and within a few minutes drive of Paris House, the Black Horse and the Crooked Billet. To survive going head to head with such serious competition is quite an achievement and so I was looking forward to suffocating my Birthday despair with the addictively merciful pillow of post-Christmas gluttony. Continue reading “Olivier’s Restaurant at the Woburn Hotel, Woburn – Review”
SuburbanGent and I recently had the opportunity to live out an opportunity that doesn’t come around very often now that we’re grown ups and all that. A couple of posts earlier, you may remember that we were invited to check out the City Stay Apartments and so while we were there, we thought it would be a pretty good idea to try to make it the best night of it we possibly could. We gathered together everything we could and tested as many as possible to bring you what we would consider to be everything you need for the Ultimate Night In.
Needless to say just like most things in life that we put our minds to, we prepared thoroughly and proceeded to give it full beans.
Mention The Don Indian restaurant to most people in Milton Keynes and you’ll either be greeted by a vacant stare, or a “oh, that’s that place tucked away in the train station isn’t it?”. I’ll be honest, I was of the latter; The Don is situated in a unit in the town’s train station that has been home to a number of Indian restaurants over the years, most famously the site of the Jaipur until it moved across the road.
However, it was perhaps wrong of me to dismiss The Don as just another run-of-the-mill Indian tucked away, after all a recent Best Newcomer award at the Milton Keynes Food and Leisure Awards 2016 and a string of positive word-of-mouth recommendations suggests that something quite good was afoot from the new owners and worth taking a look at. Naturally, I jumped at the chance to take a look for myself when the opportunity presented itself and the chaps invited me down to sample a meal.
Whether you’re a young professional attending a corporate event or client visit in Milton Keynes, a cool and hip (yes, hip) socialite going out to soak up the sights and sounds of our town or perhaps something in between, at some point you are likely to want overnight accommodation. Life on the road with business isn’t much fun and crashing somewhere unfamiliar without home comforts and space isn’t much better either. Let’s be frank… that Travelodge can be a bit grim.
Sure, the hotel market in Milton Keynes covers everything from budget hotels to the dizzying heights of luxury (that’s the Holiday Inn to you and I… *eye roll*) – and yes, such a thing as Airbnb does exist – but you’re likely to end up either be very disappointed, struggle to feel at ease in somebody else’s home, contract some form of mattress-based disease or spend a small fortune on a pretty mediocre overnight stay. And you are better and more demanding than that.
You can imagine then our interest when the people at City Stay Apartments got in touch, offering us the opportunity to come and try out one of their two-bedroom executive managed apartments located in central Milton Keynes. We’d been looking for a location for our #UltimateNightIn (more on that in a future post), so we jumped at the chance to see what an executive apartment could offer us.