The Park Pub & Kitchen Bedford

A singer from The Voice in the garden, impressive decor and a sophisticated ambience but how does The Park Pub & Kitchen Bedford perform in the, er, kitchen?

Review: The Anchor Aspley Guise

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.

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How could I resist heading over to Aspley Guise to see exactly what’s been happening in this laid back village…?!

Review: Old Mcdonald’s Farm Parties

Today one of my besties threw a farm party at her home in Wolverton and my two year old, George and I couldn’t wait to see what was in store!

A recently set up local company called Old Mcdonald’s Farm Parties offer to bring the farm to you for a reasonable cost. Animals and all.

Arriving at my friend’s house, I was so surprised to come face to face with a donkey, two lambs, chickens and a rabbit in her back garden.

The donkey and lambs were in proper farm pens that they had brought with them and set up. The chickens and rabbits were in cages.

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All the kids that attended were enjoying interacting with the animals at their leisure before the party ‘officially’ started. When it did, all the children were asked to sit down and there was some fun farm trivia questions and animal facts being learnt before the first demonstrations.

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Then children were given the opportunity to feed the donkey. One at a time they were shown how to lay a piece of carrot on a flat palm for the donkey to gobble up.

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Next up was grooming. Being shown how to brush down the donkey and help keep him clean.

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Then it was time for the lambs to shine (and be fed). The children was allowed to feed a bottle of milk to both the two lambs. It really was a cute sight.

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The huge fluffy rabbit was then taken out of his cage and had fun sitting on the laps of the children for a much enjoyed stroke. All this was happening under the watchful eye of the two farm party supervisors who made sure the children were kept safe, explained the best way of approaching animals and also stopped them from escaping!

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The chickens next. Children were able to fill a hand with corn for the chickens to peck and enjoy.

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Then a good old fashioned game of Pin The Tail On The Donkey was started (not on the real donkey!) The children loved it.

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Then last but not least, the donkey was saddled up and children put on a safety riding hat and were able to go for a donkey ride! This was definitely the best part for me, seeing George take his first ride on a donkey. He looked a bit unsure but didn’t cry or ask to get off, so I’ll take that as a success.

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After all the fun with the animals my friend put on an amazing lunch for the kids (and big kids) including the biggest chocolate cake I’ve ever seen. I’ve never seen so many kids hovering for cake.

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George had a great time at the farm party. He is only two years old but the children that attended ranged from slightly younger all the way up to us big kids. It felt like the sort of experience you could wish for when you attend local open farms but in such a small group the hands on time was extremely special and well worth the money.

If you fancy hosting your own farm party for a children’s birthday or a special occasion or even a local event then you can find Old Mcdonalds Farm Parties on Facebook here.

It’s definitely something different that the children LOVED.

WOBURN BRASSERIE: AFTERNOON TEA

What better way to spend a relaxed Sunday afternoon than surrounded by tea and cake.

To kick off #AfternoonTeaWeek I travelled into Bedfordshire.

Woburn Brasserie situated in the heart of the pretty Georgian town of Woburn which is only a short hop away from the bustle of Milton Keynes.

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THE BLACK HORSE WOBURN: ONE REFURB AND A FIVE COURSE EXTRAVAGANZA

On Monday I was invited to a press evening to commemorate the reopening of The Black Horse in Woburn after a complete refurb.

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I must admit that Woburn is quite unexplored by myself despite its huge collection of very highly rated pubs and restaurants. Growing up in the north of Milton Keynes meant I had always favoured ‘that end’ of MK and was quite oblivious to what a beautiful, characterful place Woburn is.

I can’t say much about the changes that have happened from the refurb at The Black Horse. Monday night was my first visit but I’m sure it won’t be the last. It’s a very pretty pub set in a very old building in the heart of Woburn High Street.

Inside is exactly what you picture a well-looked after country pub should look like. Beams, traditional features, lots of locals supping away like it’s their second home. The décor is stylish, chic and it makes you feel comfortable and cosy without feeling like you’re squished in like sardines.

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Bubbly was being offered to all the guests when we arrived but as I am currently pregnant, I had to sadly decline in favour of sparkling water. Boo hiss.

All the guests had a nice mingle whilst we became acquainted with our surroundings. It was great to see fellow bloggers Jo from Girl Eats World and Rob from RobsRibs along with some other old faces.

We were then led to the rear of the pub where it was more formally set out as the restaurant for dining guests. Lovely luxurious velvet and tweed chairs, leather booths with cushions for extra comfort. These were all in shades of red and orange which struck a lovely vibrant note against the dark walls which were adorned with copper cooking accessories. I love me a copper saucepan and I really liked them being used as wall décor in the restaurant. These I’m told were sourced locally from The Antiques Association in Woburn.

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Then it was time to take our seats and strap ourselves in to see what the chefs were going to present to us. We were told that this evening was giving the chefs a chance to showcase dishes from the new summer menu on offer at The Black Horse. As my eye gazed excitedly down the menu that was left on our place sitting, I counted FIVE courses with tasters of numerous dishes on each of them. I knew then that I was not going to be leaving the night with a hungry tummy.

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I’d like to note a couple of things before we begin with the food. First that the two chefs in the kitchen seemed to be serving a usual dinner service as well as the separate press event. Second, how often is it that you will be serving up four different dishes on the same plate? Please remember this was a press event and taster courses show casing a variety of dishes and that’s why you might think the plates look a little weird in combination.

First up we were presented with a deli board to share. On the board was slices of Rare Roast Beef, Spiced Tomato Houmous, Puttanesca Olives, Cheddar & Sunflower Seed Palmiers, Whitebait with Lemon Mayonnaise and a Warm Mini Loaf.

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Deli boards are a personal favourite of mine, having choice and different things to nibble on is how I enjoy my food. The homemade houmous and rare roast beef were particularly pleasing.

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Then it was onto the starters tasting plate. Ibérico Chorizo & Cheddar Croquettes and Tomato Chutney, Salt & Pepper Cornish Squid with Saffron Aioli, Marinated Mushroom, Bean & Radish Salad with a Golden Beetroot Dressing and Brixham Crab Mayonnaise & Heritage Tomatoes with Toasted Sourdough.

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The croquette was tasty, nice and cheesy but sadly there wasn’t any tomato chutney served on our plates, I think the croquette with the chutney would have been dreamy. The aioli wasn’t to my taste and not the predictable accompaniment to squid but the star of the plate was that modest mushroom, bean and radish salad with a golden beetroot dressing. It was very tasty and I could have easily polished off a full size portion.

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For the mains. Thankfully to avoid an obscene mixture of sauces mixing on one plate, we were first served the Roasted Cod Fillet, King Prawn & Cauliflower Thai Curry with Coriander. This was extremely tasty. The fish and prawn were both cooked to perfection and the Thai curry was fragrant and full of flavour. I must note that on the new main menu, the dish is advertised as a Roasted Hake Fillet just in case you come in asking for the Cod Thai curry!

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Second part of the mains was presented on one plate and was tasters of the Tomato Tart Tatin, Spinach & Sunflower Salad and the Slow & Low Welsh Lamb Shoulder, Heritage Tomato & Sugar Snap Salad with Salsa Verde Dressing.

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Lamb was brilliant with the Salsa Verde and the sugar snaps and tomatoes. It felt fresh and summery and not at all heavy. The Tomato Tart Tatin was sweet! It tasted caramel sweet but with the goat’s cheese cream it felt much more savoury. 

Then came my most favourite course of all. The pudding tasting plate. Or should that be the “tasty pudding plate” either is true and works for me.

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On this plate was tasters of the Iced Cherry Parfait with Amaretto Cherries & Almond Brittle, Strawberry Cheesecake & Poached Strawberries, Valrhona Chocolate & Raspberry Mousse with Pecan Cookies and Warm Treacle Tart & Stem Ginger Chantilly.

I was in heaven. Everyone knows I love desserts but the Iced Cherry Parfait was mouth-wateringly amazing. The Cheesecake great, light and whipped with the most beautiful flavour of strawberry and the treacle tart with that ginger Chantilly was hypnotising. I was worried before the desserts came out that I was going to struggle to fit any more food in my tummy but I’m embarrassed to say I cleared my plate. The Valrhona chocolate mousse was probably my least favourite but I don’t tend to ever lean towards loving chocolate puddings, it had a lovely raspberry flavour in it and the pecan cookie gave it crunch but next to the others it faded away into the background.

You’d think after all that our eating extravaganza was over but no, it wasn’t. Next up was a Cheese Board to share. On the board was cheeses called Tor, Camembert Gillot AOC, Sheep Rustler, Double Barrel Poacher and Blue Monday.

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Amazing to note that the Blue Monday cheese is made by Alex James, the bassist from Blur who stole much of my heart in the 90’s! The Tor goat cheese is also award winning having won Best Goat Cheese at the British Cheese Awards 2015. So you’re in good company.

As I am pregnant, I have to tread carefully where cheese is concerned. Particularly if they are soft or unpasteurised as they could contain dangerous bacteria. So sadly a mix of not being able to fit another thing in my tummy and not wanting to take the risks with the cheeses meant I can’t say much about them, other than everyone else was tucking in and making lots of mmm sounds.

Then after hearing a few words from the Head Chef Harry and his Sous Chef Neal (who had recently won second place in the Chef of the Year competition!) it was time for home clutching our goody bags which were filled with crunch pecan cookies! 

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What a lovely evening at The Black Horse Woburn, it won’t be my last, that’s a definite and I can’t wait to see some of these dishes in their full scale masterpieces.

http://www.blackhorsewoburn.co.uk/
01525 290210

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What do you get when you cross an Indian with a Mexican?

Today I went to Intu shopping centre in Central Milton Keynes for a spot of retail therapy.

First off, whoever said you can’t find a decent bargain on the high street surely hasn’t done their homework. I managed to pick up a beautiful red dress from TopShop for only £22.00 and a true wardrobe staple, a black high waisted mini skirt from New Look for only £3.99. Both items were full price too! Crazy.

My little monster was not disappointed either. Mr LouBou and I had given him a whole load of Duplo toys for Christmas but had struggled to get a baseplate building board for him as they kept selling out but they had some in today. Happy toddler.

The shopping trip had coincided with the opening of a new food outlet in Intu. Wrapchic. An Indian Mexican fusion eatery that had my brain bamboozled. Indian meets Mexican? Burritos with curry? Nachos with mango chutney? I had to see (and taste) what this place was about.

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They have opened just outside Barclays Bank in Intu. I guess you would call this the food court of ‘the new bit’. Wrapchic is simply just chic to look at. Exposed scaffolding with brilliantly coloured fabric canopy ceiling and exotic-looking cushioned chairs. Some of which look like painted crate boxes and some that look like steel bins with cushions on top. It’s something straight out of a street-food bar in India smack bang in the middle of MK.

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Outside Barclays? Exposed behind those ‘fake’ doors which don’t shelter you whatsoever? As us local MK’ers know the new bit can be nippy and you really can suffer the brunt of our changeable beloved British weather there. But thankfully even though Wrapchic is out in the open, you won’t be cold when you visit. Lots of ceiling heaters insure that your visit isn’t a chilly one. I was surprised when I left how the temperature drastically dropped and I instantly wanted to go back under the canopies.

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Now the important bit, the food. I had a burrito. A Chicken Mughlai burrito to be exact. I watched it being made and was impressed how generous the portions are. These burritos sure won’t leave you feeling unsatisfied. First in the toasted tortilla wrap was the authentic Chicken Mughlai curry, then I had my choice of rice, different types of beans, slaw, tikka sauce and chutney.  I opted for white rice, red kidney beans, slaw, mild tikka sauce and mango chutney but there are other choices if you are a bit more adventurous than me!

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As I sat down to eat I must admit I was a little apprehensive but one bite and I instantly saw why this company was born. It worked. It tasted amazing. I think a lot of that is down to the quality and flavouring of the Chicken Mughlai. Without that I think you’d have had trouble selling this to me. The brilliance is, this is fast food. No frills but no compromises on flavours. The chance to eat all those Indian spices and combinations that I love and at a very reasonable price. Burritos come in around a fiver. You’d easily spend that on a processed meat sandwich lunch.

I also tried a Mango Mousse which I found was a brilliant palette cleanser and refreshing after the spice and heat of the burrito.

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So try it for yourself? Tell me what you think. Indian Mexican fusion grub is now here in MK and I for one, hope it is a success.

New Year, new man in my life?

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Man wanted. Reliable, good runner, about 1200kg?

You know I’m talking about a car, right? I can’t help but always think of my cars as people. I always have… don’t you?

Car shopping is hardly up there with the best things to shop for, at least in my book. A car is a necessity for me, both for work and as a mum. But, however necessary, cars are not something I tend to get excited about. What they make easy in terms of transportation comes with the responsibility of upkeep, servicing, MOT, insurance and that’s without counting the expensive peripherals like tyres. So when I see a cars price tag, all I really see is how fast their value depreciates and it’s just uninspiring to me. I’m the sort of girl who likes to protect my assets and cars just don’t play ball.

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Beloved Bruce

But, my beloved Bruce, a very nippy VW golf GTI is now sixteen years old and he is feeling the pressure of performing in his elder years. Every other month he suffers some new ailment resulting in a breakdown, then he’s back in the garage to remedy, complimented by a large bill and then repeat. And I now think it’s time to let him rest.

 

But now this most indecisive girl has to make a decision. New or used? Bought outright or leased? And that’s before choosing a manufacturer. VW has had their fair share of bad press in the past twelve months, so are they out the race? Ford, common on our roads but are they reliable? Audi, who have wowed me with their impressive features, but are they affordable? And Nissan with their fun, extrovert designs, are they more than just eye candy?

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Checking out the Ford selection (wishing it was Tom Ford…)

Whatever I choose, and choose I must. Thank you to Bruce for being so fun to drive and I can’t wait to show you what car I finally choose (and importantly, his name!).