The Anchor is a pub and restaurant in the village of Aspley Guise on the outskirts of the borough of Milton Keynes. Under new management it has recently undergone a very expensive face lift to the tune of £600k that has completely overhauled this village pub into an exciting and sophisticated social spot.
How could I resist heading over to Aspley Guise to see exactly what’s been happening in this laid back village…?!
Run by Epic Pubs, a local business who now operate four pubs around the UK (a fifth is opening tomorrow in Houghton Conquest). You may recognise one of their local establishments as they very popular 185 Watling St. Pub & Kitchen in Towcester.
But back to Aspley Guise and join me in admiring the outside of this pretty white painted public house. On the front lawn is benches for you to sit and enjoy a drink or bite to eat and watch the village life roll past. To the side is plenty of parking.
When you enter The Anchor by the front door you are given two choices. Take the door to the right into the bar or to the left where you’ll find the restaurant.
Whilst our table was being prepared Mr LouBou and I went into the bar side to order drinks. It’s small but packed with rustic charm.
I was so pleased to see that they not only offer cocktails but mocktails too. I happily ordered the Strawberry Flower which the server deftly made with no effort whatsoever.
On the eatery side of The Anchor is where the biggest change to this property can be seen. There is a stunning restaurant area with high ceilings and tons of natural light, courtesy of a glass rear wall, lots of windows and even the use of glass in the room dividers.
We were seated at the very back of the restaurant next to those big glass windows that overlook a second outside seating area. The table was laid in a pretty but simple manner, nothing fussy which is good (more space for food!) and the decor in this place alone is enough to keep your eyes busy. There are tons of interesting cushions, artwork and feature lighting which is living proof of where some of that mammoth refurb budget has gone.
I like to stick to certain rules when dining in new establishments. Wear comfortable clothes, eat three courses and stick to the main menu.
Our server tried tempting us with some very delicious sounding specials but I always think that if you want to see how well a restaurant cooks you need to stick to what made the cut in the printed menu first before experimenting with their specials of the day.
We ordered the Artisan Bread starter whilst there was many umm’s and ahh’s over The Anchor’s Sunday Lunch Menu.
This came as three different types of freshly made (on the premises, we are told) artisan breads with a herb butter and bowl of mixed olives.
Yes, bread and olives is plenty enough as a starter but I just couldn’t resist trying my all-time favourite starter too. You can try and call me old-fashioned but I believe if you want to run a British village pub and want me to eat there, you’ve got to offer a Prawn Cocktail.
The Anchor Prawn Cocktail with the Bloody Mary mayo was as delicious as it looks. The slices of cucumber that were served in the accompanying salad were lightly pickled and I loved the vinegar zing that contrasted the creamy mayonnaise.
As it was Sunday and sticking with tradition we decided to put The Anchor Roasts to the test. Mr LouBou ordered the Devon Prime Rump of Beef and I ordered the Pork Loin, Crackling & Bramley Apple Sauce.
Mr LouBou’s roast beef was cut wafer thin and was deliciously moist and pink (I know as I just had to steal some – for research purposes, of course!).
Whilst still enjoyable, my pork loin was overcooked which gave a heaviness to the thick slices that was a bit disappointing. The crackling was a triumph. Thin, crispy and very, very tasty.
Both roasts were served with roast potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, roast parsnips, broccoli, swede, cabbage and gravy.
The roast potatoes and parsnips both could’ve benefited from being crispier, but it’s the same old story that echos in most foodies circles. Cooking roast dinners for the masses always falls short from the high standards that are installed in all of us British roast lovers, usually from our Mum’s or another relatives delicious home-cooking that we use as a benchmark for all that follow.
We also ordered sides of Cauliflower Cheese and Sage and Onion Stuffing. Both were tasty and were the perfect roast trimmings adding a touch of lavishness to the proceedings.
Dinner was done and already warming my belly when thoughts turned to dessert.
When it comes to puddings I always struggle to choose but the server was on hand to recommend the Lemon & Raspberry Meringue Pie and Mr LouBou was determined to try the Warm Parsnip Cake with Caramel Custard which featured on the specials board.
I can see why I was told I wouldn’t be disappointed with the Lemon & Raspberry Meringue Pie. It was delicious! If I had to really try and find fault then the very thin pastry base could’ve been a touch crispier but I’m being a harsh critic with that. As a dessert it was everything you wanted. Zingy, tart lemon on a thin pastry crust with fresh, sweet, soft whipped meringues WITH separate crispy meringues for a satisfying crunch. The raspberry aspect came in the form of both fresh raspberries and splodges of tasty sauce.
In my opinion the Warm Parsnip Cake with Caramel Custard is worthy of a full-time place on The Anchor’s winter pudding menu. The parsnip is a pleasant and surprisingly different ingredient from the traditional carrots that you might find in autumnal baking.
The Caramel Custard was never going to win any food beauty contests but it was well balanced, not over-sweet but still had that distinctive caramel flavour. I want more of it right now! It didn’t explode all over the plate in a watery mess either, which is one of my custard pet peeves.
No meal for me is complete without a cup of English Tea so a pot was ordered for me and for Mr “coffee loving” LouBou, a Baileys Latte.
The English tea was “proper” tea (loose leaf) and the teapot had an inbuilt strainer. Cute mini milk bottle and sugar lumps came alongside it, as did a small bowl of popcorn, which if you’re not having desserts is a welcome nibble at the end of a meal.
I was finished. Full belly, warm cheeks and ready for a lazy Sunday afternoon at home. I was wishing I could order more puddings to take home for later but just not having the courage to embarrass myself by looking that greedy.
Service at The Anchor was extremely polite and helpful. Fresh napkins and cutlery were provided at each course with no prompting, drinks offered and personal recommendations given in a relaxed fashion. Wait between courses was comfortable and service never faltered even when the The Anchor went from being quiet (when we arrived at the start of lunch service) to every table filled with diners.
Will I come back? In a heartbeat.What a wonderful village pub and eatery that makes village living so luxuriously appealing.
What would I eat? I’m interested to try dishes from their other menus, there is different menus for both Lunch and Dinner in addition to the Sunday Lunch menu and they even offer a full Breakfast menu too.
If I find myself eating at The Anchor on a Sunday again however, I wouldn’t hesitate to order the roast beef or try the Cornish Lamb Shoulder or something from the specials board. The Sunday I visited they were offering a special of Roast Pheasant for Two to Share which sounded interesting!
Date of visit: 09.10.2016
01908 991 770