Milton Keynes is definitely not all chain restaurants and city centre bars and those visitors who think it is, listen up. Take for example The Cross Keys, a cutesy chocolate-box cottage pub and restaurant minutes from Central Milton Keynes in the village estate of Woolstone.
The first time my husband and I had stumbled across it was when I was pregnant with our son. We had just attended our first hospital appointment and I was in a happy daze but hungry and had a craving for the best pub lunch MK could muster. The Cross Keys was where we ended up and we enjoyed a lovely intimate lunch daydreaming about the baby we couldn’t wait to meet.
Fast forward two years and with an energetic toddler turning our lives upside down I was in need of a different sort of meal. Food, adult conversation and a stiff drink for a night off from motherhood duties.
The Cross Keys has itself been through some changes. In February this year (2016) it was taken over by Hannah and her team and with the positive trip advisor reviews piling in I wanted to see for myself what was happening over in Woolstone.
Date night was planned for Tuesday night. When I booked the table I was told there was a pub quiz taking place around the time we was planning to eat. I was excited, a chance to be competitive with snippets of random trivia?! Sign me up. I love tv quiz shows, crosswords and of course, pub quizzes but it’s been many years since I’ve done participated in one and the thought of scoffing dinner with my hubby at the same time seemed a great night off from the norm.
When we arrived it still had the cute wow factor that a thatched cottage always delivers. They’re just damn sweet to look at. Once inside we received a warm welcome from Hannah and were seated on the brasserie (restaurant) side of the pub.
The menu isn’t too stressful to navigate. I have a pet peeve of small pubs or restaurants that are determined to offer burgers in fifteen varying ways or more pizza choices than an Italian delivery company but this was reassuringly concise yet varied.
For starters I ordered the Terrine made with locally produced ‘Brixham’ chicken livers and brandy. This was served with three slices of toasted sourdough bread and accompanied with a caramelised red onion chutney. It’s great to see a terrine or pate forming part of the starters menu. It’s a classic starter that is often overlooked by pub restaurants these days for fear of being dated. Big mistake! It’s a classic for a reason. Leave it alone. This one was very tasty and above all a great portion for my terrine loving appetite. The sourdough was freshly toasted and the red onion chutney gave a pleasant sweetness to the rich and dreamy terrine.
Mr LouBou ordered the Fishcake for his starter. A handmade fishcake made with cod and parsley which was served with a sour cream, dill and lime dip garnished with rocket. He was enjoyed it. I did steal a bite and wasn’t disappointed. Pleasant and not over fishy is how I’d describe it (I know it’s a fishcake but you don’t want your palette overloaded with salted fish and not much else).
For mains I choose the Duck Breast. The pan fried ‘Gressingham’ duck breast was served with Dauphinoise potatoes, seasonal vegetables and cherry jus. I enjoyed the duck, the cherry jus and accompanying sauce was a silky hug for the soft duck breast without being too sweet and sickly. The Dauphinoise were delicious. Crispy cheese topped and perfectly cooked potatoes.
Mr LouBou had the Stuffed Chicken Breast. Filled with cheese and wrapped in Parma ham it came with pan fried new potatoes, Madeira and mushroom sauce with a medley of green vegetables. The chicken breast was huge! Potatoes were again, delicious and well flavoured.
Whilst we were eating the pub quiz started. It was hilariously fun throwing ideas at each other for the photo round and testing our Harry Potter knowledge in the specialist subject round. I was in stitches when the question “What was the name of the wand maker in Harry Potter?” and the table next to us thought it was Wonky Wands. That’s what I love about a friendly pub with friendly patrons. You can end up having a complete giggle with new people about the most random of things. A pub is only as good as its customers and we felt even as we were eating that we were in good company. Definitely something you can’t fake.
For desserts my eyes were drawn to the Baked ‘Baileys’ Cheesecake and my husband challenged the chef by ordering the Chocolate Fondant.
The baked cheesecake was served with a butterscotch sauce, a profiterole and a huge pile of whipped cream. Let’s just say ignore all the other great parts to this pub. You have to visit here for the cheesecake alone. It is sheer creamy, sweet heaven. Try it.
The chocolate fondant was dark and rich and served with an award winning vanilla ice-cream that was very tasty. A fondant is one of the hardest desserts to perfect and with that in mind it could’ve been runnier in the middle but the flavours were great. It’d be one to try again for sure as I would love to experience it all gooey and sinful.
The pub quiz was over, scores had been tallied and tummies were full. It was time to roll home and veg on the sofa watching the last episode of The People vs. OJ Simpson: American Crime Story (it’s a must-see). Mr LouBou and I are already in talks about our next visit for food and the quiz.
If you’re looking for a place to eat and drink that’s every bit the traditional village pub with great food close to CMK then I highly recommend you check The Cross Keys out. With daytime and evening set menus, sandwich lunch menu and an inviting main menu, you’ll be spoilt for choice.
Note: Pub quiz happens every Tuesday evening around 8pm.