You know me, I love food. So, naturally events like MK Feast are right up my street. A celebration of local food, drink and independent traders from MK. Today at Bradwell Abbey I pulled up a straw bale, soaked up the atmosphere with the live music – oh, and demolished a whole load of tasty grub along with hundreds of other visitors.
On the 25th November I was lucky enough to be invited along to Wonderworld Milton Keynes for the GM Events AW16 Fashion Show.
#SelfieFashion is a real thing!
If you were anywhere near MK1 Shopping park last week you might’ve wondered what was going on with the flash mobs that kept popping up on the main concourse.
It was the MK1 Selfie Fashion Event showcasing some of the hottest outfits available at MK1 Shopping Park for autumn/winter 2016/2017. I can’t wait to show you some of my favourite outfits from the #SelfieFashion event but first, let me take a (mirror) selfie.
Yes, I know I’m slow but what I lack in speed, I hope I make up for in other ways…
Banana Tree has been part of Milton Keynes’ growing restaurant portfolio for two years now, opening about the same time I had my first child. The whirlwind of two years that followed has resulted in me feeling quite shocked and a touch embarrassed that I had yet to venture into the place where the hammock-type seats hang outside in a fun, come-sit-in-me teasingly fashion but finally that was to be rectified.
Situated in The Hub CMK, Banana Tree can be found opposite Loch Fyne. If in doubt just look for those orange hammock swings.
The night I visited is just an average Tuesday evening but as I enter I can make a confident guess that this place must rarely do empty. To my surprise it was a full restaurant on the ground floor.
As we had to wait a few minutes for a table Mr LouBou and I took a seat in the bar area. I really approve of Banana Tree’s bar area, it’s self-contained and doesn’t make you feel like you’re crashing someone else’s dinner date by just ordering and enjoying a drink.
I am of course off the strong stuff as I am pregnant but Mr LouBou took full joy in ordering from the Happy Hour Cocktail Menu with a promise to enjoy them for the both of us (thanks, really). Cocktails from this menu are BOGOF (of the same variety) all day Sun-Thurs and 12-7pm then 9.30pm till close on Fri-Sat. Which is exactly the sort of cocktail promos I like to swallow.
Mr LouBou ordered the cocktail One Night In Bangkok. Mekhong (Thai Rum), peach schnapps, passion fruit and vanilla. He found it super fruity and refreshing and happily glugged them down. ****!
We were then shown to our table and had a quick menu peruse and ordered the Prawn Cracker Basket. After studying the menu extensively for days before going I didn’t need long and was excited to just dive straight in.
For starters we ordered the Crispy Seafood Money Bags and Steamed Chicken Dumplings.
Both these dishes impressed and were well cooked. You could really taste the prawn and white fish inside the money bags and the steamed dumplings were extremely soft and pleasing. Only thing to note, if like me you are used to grilled dumplings then they might seem a little squidgy and thick in contrast to the crispy, crunchy finish you might be accustomed to. Still a different way of having them and by no means a bad one, the vinegar sauce that they are served in is damn tasty.
For mains we ordered the Gaeng Keo Wan Green Curry with Chicken and the Crispy Chicken With Mango & Sweet Lime Sauce.
The Gaeng Koe Wan Green Curry (Thai green curry to me and you) was bursting with chicken and an array of colourful vegetables. It was creamy and full of a gentle yet powerful heat that didn’t linger on your palette.
The Crispy Chicken was the perfect sweet, sour and sticky mess that I was hoping for. On top was the most delicious Vietnamese pickle. If I had my way, there would have been a lot more of that on the plate. Nom.
The server did advise us that the main dishes were served up without any accompaniments and recommended we ‘combo up’ with the Banana Tree House Combo supplement which can be added to any dish from the Regional Specialities or Stir Fries part of the menu. For the extra £3.95 you get the Indo House Salad with Crushed Nuts, Sweet Corn Cakes, Indo Cracker & Aromatic Spiced Rice. Woah, it was a big plate of food after adding the combo but boy was it worth it.
Tasty little sweet corn cakes, an aromatic spiced rice and a moreish crunchy nut topped salad. I found it excellent value munch for money.
Fit to burst I refused to leave my evening at Banana Tree without at least attempting a few mouthfuls of a dessert. Feeling modest and full we ordered one portion of Banana ‘Frotiteroles’ to share.
With my wicked sweet tooth I started to wish I had left more room so I could have cleared the plate but it wasn’t to be. Delicious crispy nuggets of hot banana fritters covered in chocolate caramel sauce and served with vanilla ice cream. They were so good! I want a plate of them right now. Sniff.
But that’s where the evening ends. Home time. Back to reality and my less aromatic and definitely not as exciting cuisine at home.
Banana Tree is definitely the kind of place you’d be happy to go hang out with friends for a few drinks sat on those swings, have a business lunch, go for cocktails with the girls and then decide to eat, a date night or a big party meal. I do love these ‘social’ eateries where they can be tailored to a dozen situations and still do it well.
I am guessing you are either reading this saying “Yes, yes! I know Banana Tree is that good” or if you’re yet to visit, I hope I’ve tickled your curiosity and now let me insist, you must try.
Banana Tree Milton Keynes
Date of visit: 05.07.16
On Monday I was invited to a press evening to commemorate the reopening of The Black Horse in Woburn after a complete refurb.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.