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.
Food fashions, like most types of fashion in this country, usually come to life in London and are incomprehensible to me. I despise the ‘clean eating’ epidemic for it’s miss-information message wrapped up in a so-called healthy lifestyle (that is usually anything but) and for similar reasons that I will not wear low riding jeans or anything that has been pre-ripped before I buy it. But there are some fashions that do catch my attention and the paired back focus of less ingredients, more flavour approach of Turkish cooking is one. The Zouk Lounge is one of the four Turkish restaurants that have opened in Milton Keynes over the past year or so and with family living in Istanbul I feel qualified in providing you with a mildly insulting, colonially British judgment of their food.
EDIT – the Zouk Lounge has got in touch and has asked me to clarify that they are a Lebanese restaurant and not Turkish. I stand corrected and will immediately research the difference between the two.
‘Milton Keynes is full of chains’ they say. ‘There is nowhere good to eat!’ they say. Well, I say that it sucks to be them because while it’s true that there is an unfortunate glut of horrible, horrific and unnecessary chain restaurants here you just have to look a bit harder and you’ll find so many amazing people who are pulling out all the stops to get you the dinner you deserve. This is my list of the best independent options you’ve got in and around the area, these are places that I go to regularly and have rarely been disappointed at. If you don’t want to give your money to Chimichangas or any other cut and paste restaurant (and I wouldn’t blame you) then take a good look at some of these and join me in sticking it to the Man.
It all started with a tweet from a good friend of mine called Mike. Having just eaten the phenomenal bacon chilli cheese burger from Sizzlers burger shack (if you haven’t had it yet, track them down and demand one immediately), he mentioned that the chilli was one of best he had ever tasted and he had tasted a lot of chilli. Other people chipped in and it soon became clear that everyone had their own version and the best kind of chilli was one that was shared. Before long it was confirmed; Saturday the 27th of January was the date of the first Wolverton Chili Cook off. Bring your best chilli and complete to claim your place as the best in town. With the added incentive of a separate hot wings contest, I just had to attend. I dug out my favourite recipe, made up a batch and went to see what was going on…
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.