My husband happened upon a great coffee shop whilst he was out in the Bedford area. It seemed to have everything a family could need in a coffee shop and so therefore taking the opportunity one Saturday morning to take the kids there, off we scooted over to Bedford (Denham). It took about 25 minutes to get there from Milton Keynes; which is not bad for a good coffee shop – it would have to be worth it though…
The inside was spacious, tastefully decorated with comfy seating (yes always a pre-requisite for me). They had a great menu (including pizza), not just a standard coffee shop menu, but which also included cocktails and other late night beverages; as they do indeed open late – another rarity and much welcome in my household. Most importantly for us though were the capacious grounds on which the cafe sits. Opposite and able to be seen from the window is a large park, on another side is a mugger (an enclosed football pitch), and on the other side a large field.
The photos above were indeed taken from the window where I was happily sipping my tea and perusing a novel, whilst being able to watch my children play. They ran in and out about every 10 minutes or so, took a sip of their hot chocolate and then ran out to play again – it was a very civilised morning, one that many a parent dream of.
We were there at brunch time, so I had tea and toast, but I could not resist the halloween cupcakes on display – and they did not disappoint any of us – they were delicious. My husband has also been in the evening, and though they closed early that night, because he was the only customer, he said it was a quiet and congenial place to meet a friend and/or read a book (though probably not at the same time).
I do primarily blog about food (on this blog anyway), but I just had to write about my experience at Ragdale Hall because it was honestly the best spa of my life, the best hotel I have been to in the UK and just one of the best experiences so I just had to share it, plus there was a lot of good food involved.
I am a woman so yes I love a spa day, in fact, going to the spa is literally one of my favourite things to do in life. I mean, what is there to not like about spas? They are relaxation central; and when you have a busy life; this is the ultimate treat.
I got to stay for 2 nights as a birthday treat, when I turned a round number. It was blissful.
The journey up on Friday night took a bit longer (Friday night traffic right?) However, on the way home it only took 1 hour 15 minutes, so actually it is not very far away from Milton Keynes.
When we arrived we were given welcome drinks, a tour and our suitcases were whisked away to our room. The room was lovely and provided everything we needed; including robes, towels and flip flops for the weekend. We stayed in the lodge, which was a 1 minute walk from the main hotel; not far at all, and it was probably quieter.
Ragdale Hall is definitely the most expensive spa I have ever stayed at; and as soon as you walk in you can see why. It was like relaxation had crept over and swirled around me. It had everything; so many rooms; so many pools, it looked decadent and all of our food was included for the full weekend.
The night we arrived we enjoyed our first taste of Ragdale and boy we were not disappointed. We went into the cocktail lounge first for a pre-dinner cocktail; and I have to say it was the best mojito of my life; I’m not sure they could do any better in Cuba! Then we had a three course dinner. The soup and home-made fresh warm bread to start was to die for; it was a simple cream of vegetable soup, but it tasted like no other veg soup I have ever had in my life – I wanted to bathe in it! This was followed by a three cheese pasta; which tasted delicious however the pasta was too al dente for my liking, finally I had a brownie for dessert which was nice but a little flour-y. My mum had beef brisket for her main and she said it was one of the best things she has ever eaten!
The hotel room was lovely; and they even provided my mum with a mattress topper – I couldn’t believe they keep those in stock! They also had a range of DVDs for us to watch, and a few games. We watched Eat, Pray Love – great movie (and book).
They served breakfast in our room, and you are able to choose a lot of different items, it barely fit on the tray. I loved it all and was definitely wowed when I saw it, but I have to be honest and say that I did miss a full english cooked breakfast.
The next day we were buoyant to spend all day in the spa. First, we went to see if there were any treatments available and we were lucky to snag the last hot-stone massage. I purchased it for myself, but later on when my mum told me she didn’t like massages because they hurt, I gave her my massage, so that she could experience how blissful a hot-stone massage feels. I had a treatment included in my package, though I didn’t know what it was because it said some generic term like Body Radiance, so I had no idea what was in store; lucky for me it included a massage, it was warm, relaxing and sublime. We were both massage-drunk afterwards, you know that feeling right? And we promptly both fell asleep in the lounge areas, like actual snoring asleep!
Earlier in the day, before our massages we went to experience the spa area. There were throngs of rooms: steam rooms, a relaxation room, a sauna, a quiet room and I think 6 different pools: the candlelight pool (it was in a dark cave, so cool), a river rapid type pool, a standard pool (with a hot tub), an exercise pool (with actual gym equipment in the pool!), an outdoor pool and my favourite which was the infinity pool, which is also an outdoor pool but is heated, has massage jets but also has the most majestic views, we loved it. Unfortunately I was not able to get a picture of the infinity pool.
In between our treatments and swims in the different pools there were several different relaxation areas to chill-out in (and in my case, read a book). I loved all these rooms; but near the end of our stay, I found the best room; it looks like it is made for sleeping in. There were several lounge type rooms with sofas and an open fire, but our favourite was the garden-like relaxation room because the loungers were perfectly contoured for relaxing in and they came with reading lights. I didn’t count but I would say they probably had 6 or 7 different relaxation areas dotted around the spa – pure bliss.
In addition, they had two cafes, a large restaurant, a gift shop, a beauty shop, a clothes shop and when the weather is nicer the grounds looked beautiful with an outdoor pool, a large pond and a lot of greenery.
A little bit further afield this week, decided to see what is on offer outside of MK. Towcester is a good option because it is only 10-15 minutes away from Milton Keynes and it is a nice straight and easy route down the A5.
Along the high street in Towcester are a wealth of Cafe’s (as well as charity shops, pubs and a sprinkling of shops. Ten Hands had good ratings so I decided to give it a try. It is a good sized cafe, sort of divided into three sections, the front, back and outside eating area. The seating was comfortable, it is well lit and nicely decorated. I visited on a Monday morning and it was surprisingly busy. They do advise you to book a table in advance, which I did.
I had an absolutely delicious brunch consisting of 3 perfectly poached eggs on sourdough toast with bacon and a potatoe rosti. I also purchased a pot of tea and a fresh orange juice.
The poached eggs were the best eggs I have eaten in a very long time, however, the whole dish was simply delicious and cooked to perfection.
I was surprised by the high quality of the drinks; for example the pot of tea contained tea leaves – always the mark of a superior establishment in my mind; I do love real tea! And the OJ was freshly squeezed orange juice; which I have to say I rarely encounter wherever I go – how delicious is freshly squeezed OJ? I should have requested a smaller size though because I could not finish it, sublime or not.
Brunch is served every day until 11:30am, they have a good variety of dishes and they have a small but perfectly formed kids menu. Remember when I visited “The Bean” in Stony, I said my only peeve was that their kids menu wasn’t kid friendly enough for fussy kids? Well as it says on the Ten Hands website; they have kids and they know kids. It’s a great little menu so i feel I need to come back with the kiddos to see what they think.
The price point is a little higher here, but the food quality appears to be inline with that.
Booking: Phone bookings only on 01327 351010
Parking: Next to waitrose there is a free car park which is a 2 minute walk away.
Address: 175 Watling Street West, Towcester, NN12 6BX.
I live quite close to the Red House, so I have been a few times for a drink, which I can highly recommend, it is one of my favourite places for a hot chocolate, though I must warn you it more of a dessert. However, this time we decided to try a roast dinner; as we haven’t had a roast in a long time. Firstly, have to say how nicely decorated and how warm and inviting the Red House is; and I love all their nooks and crannies, every corner you turn there is somewhere else to sit, it’s like a rabbits warren.
We Brits do love our roast dinners right? When we arrived I was surprised to learn that the roast dinner was a carvery, help yourself kind of deal, which I must admit made me a bit nervous, as I was worried it might turn out to be toby carvery style.
The good news was that though it was a help yourself carvery it still tasted absolutely delicious; the food is not left out too long, so doesn’t end up being dry and tasteless. They have a small carvery area so they only let up two tables at a time – so no long queues.
The beef was cut thinly and was flavourful and moist. The roast potatoes were just how I like them – well cooked, browned but still fluffy on the inside; they had mash which I love as part of my roast, the yorkshire puddings were huge and fluffy and the vegetables were tasty, not boiled of all flavour. There were a lot of vegetable to choose from, though I personally would have liked some peas and brocolli. That being said they had: cauliflower cheese, red cabbage, leeks, roasted parsnips two types of carrots (boiled/steamed and roasted).
It was a perfectly lovely roast dinner for £15, I think being a carvery it should probably cost a little less, as this is how much made to order roast dinners cost in some places. However, food costs are so high right now it is hard to know what is a good deal anymore.
My husband had the vegetarian option with sausages on the side (just to confuse the chef), he loved his roast too and he is fussier than me when we eat out.
The desserts were especially pleasing, probably the best was my dads cookie dough, which arrived in a mini frying pan; the cookie was soft and delicious. I had a biscoff cheesecake which was delightfully creamy, my daughter enjoyed her first banana split and my son had a brownie sundae. My husband was saddened by the icecream flavours on offer; they only had the three standard flavours (chocolate, vanilla and strawberry) which is surprisingly retro and disappointing. He therefore opted for a latte instead. The waitress did say they would have more exciting icecream flavours in the summer, so all is not lost.
Since the weather is starting to warm up, I would definitely recommend the new outdoor seating area, which is covered and lit with twinkly lights, there are heaters and more importantly, they have the standard wooden picnic table seating BUT it is covered with padded leather seating – it is so comfortable! They also have a BBQ area and an outdoor bar, so definitely a lovely option for spring and summer.
While it is a little nippy I would highly recommend their hot chocolate, as I said before, it is more like a dessert; it is served in a pint glass, had a big chunk of brownie in it; plus it tastes super delicious.
I like to occasionally mix-up the monotony and occasional loneliness of working from home (which I have been doing for 2 years now thanks to Covid-19), by sometimes treating myself to a more lively working location. The New Day Cafe is perfect for this for many reasons:
It is centrally located (CMK)
It has great (free) wifi
It has plugs and booths to work at
It has snazzy looking furnture
They make an amazing hot-chocolate
Although one could work at any cafe in MK (in theory) this one has a work-vibe, perhaps because it is at the bottom of an office block. I often see other people on their laptops too, so I don’t feel self-conscious. It is definitely not a place to take the kids as it is not really aimed at them and would be distracting to those who are working, but I don’t mind, my kids have loads of cafes they can eat in.
Another perk for those who love light – this place has floor-to-ceiling windows, so it gets a tremendous amount of light.
The food menu here is limited in choice but they offer just enough breakfast and lunch options for its clientele. I love their breakfast baps (bacon and hash browns) and cookies. They do have a great drink selection and one of the best hot chocolates in town because it is Biscoff flavour, it is absolutely delicious. It can get pretty busy in the mornings so I recommend giving it a try later in the day.
So if you are looking for places to work or study, this is a great option.
At the weekend I took my kids and my mum to Stony for a bit of light shopping and a nice breakfast. Stony has a lot of great eateries, and this is another that I have never tried before. For anyone who is confused, it used to be called “The Coffee Bean”.
How to describe the breakfast? The food tasted like diner-style, tasty, basic but delicious with a low price but, they have the benefit of being in a great location on Stony Stratford high street, and it does not look like a diner; in fact it looks and feels pretty special inside as it used to be a chemist and it looks like it dates back at least 100 years. It has beautiful original apothecary drawers that hold herbs and medicines; retaining most of its features/shelving makes it very warm and appealing. And for an extra bonus, we found a load of hand-written messages on napkins inside the drawers (yes my little one was being nosey). She found pictures and wishes and notes, it was so lovely.
It was busy (being Saturday morning) but we managed to find a seat inside; although they also have a large outdoor area, which is heated as an added benefit and they have blankets; so no need to worry if it’s too busy inside.
The price point was very good value, surprisingly so for Stony. Mum and I had the early bird breakfast special (which is served between 8am-11am) which is a 6 piece breakfast, although technically it was really a 7 piece if you count each hashbrown, but really 8 piece if you include the toast; and unlimited tea or coffee. So a “6” piece breakfast with tea and toast for £6.50, now you really cannot go wrong for that price; and my eggs were runny, as I requested. They also offer 4, 8 and 10 piece breakfasts – I love being able to choose, because I am fussy! They had a lot of options that you don’t get everywhere like black pudding, fried toast and the option of fresh or cooked tomatoes.
They have a great kids menu for lunch and mains; lots of good options. I would have liked an alternative for kids who don’t eat cooked breakfasts (like my fussy 5 year old), pancakes are a definite winner for kids – just for future reference (in case the Bean read this). My son had a kids cooked breakfast; and I ordered a toasted tea cake for my daughter; they were both very pleased.
Seating is a bit basic, but that doesn’t tend to bother other people like it does me, and it can be a bit of squish inside, particularly when full, but it felt warm and inviting and it seemed friendly and like they have a lot of regulars.
They also have a great selection of home-made pastries and cakes; the caramelised onion sausage roll was delicious. The cakes were nice, though a little on the sweet side for me.
Parking: Short and long stay car parks at O’dells yard and similar are nearby but a few minutes walk.
Booking: It appears they only take walk-ins.
Website:Facebook only, but appears to be kept up to date.
The Swan at Salford is a high-end country pub, it is tastefully decorated inside and out; with new outdoor furniture and a canopy, and super comfortable seating for dinner and in their pub/lounge. Salford is less than 10 minutes outside of Milton Keynes (depending on where you live), there are two main routes to get to it, either through Wavendon or through Broughton. This is not a place I get to eat at very often, but when I get the chance, it is always a delight.
I have a thing about comfy seats, and some of their seating is about as comfy as you can get. Along the windows on one side, they have what looks like a long blue leather sofa, sit there! It is so comfortable.
We didn’t order any starters, but for our mains, we had chicken parmesan, beef burger and steak and chips. My chicken was delicious but when I saw the steak, I instantly wished I had ordered that instead.
My mum had steak and chips and said it was absolutely delicious and my dad had a burger, he said that it was very tasty but too big – well if that is the only problem then we have no problem. The service was a little slow that night, but it appeared there was only one waitress, so that was understandable.
The desserts were particularly special. I had the molten chocolate cake and it was absolutely stunning. I was perfectly happy as larry eating my delicious lava cake until my mum gave me a piece of her cheese. She totally ruined my dessert; that cheese was put down everything and pay attention to me kinda cheese. That was I can barely form words kind of cheese. Wow. So the cheese board was amazing, but that cheese, in particular, is called “Blanche”. According to the menu, it is a multi-award-winning (you bet) soft goat’s cheese. I didn’t even think I was a big fan of goat’s cheese, but I am a convert. So if for nothing else, please do order the cheeseboard the next time you are anywhere near the village of Salford.
Now is my opportunity to recommend a whole bunch of great eateries that I have been enjoying all year (or for many years), many of which haven’t made it to a dedicated blog post. So if you want to know what and where you should be eating in 2022, look no further…
Best Chinese take-away: Sam’s Chinese in Peartree Bridge, MK6 3BX (01908 695695)
Okay so the location has a lot to be desired, but Sam’s has been my go-to chinese take-away for the last couple of years. They are generous with their meat in their chow meins and I can recommend their curries, ribs and satay.
Absolutely delicious and authentic italian pizza, this is my husband’s favourite, he loves thin bases. I love the tomato and garlic bread in particular, as it is difficult to find that anywhere. I also appreciate that they seem to understand young children and offer plain pasta, my 5 year old is still in her plain pasta phase! The only downside I have found is that even though we live within 3 miles of the take-away, they will not deliver, even though it says they deliver within 3 miles.
You may have noticed if you have read more then one of my posts that I love brisket and Percy’s BBQ do a great brisket burger; in addition their gravy is outstanding and don’t get me started on their malt milkshake (which arrive in a cute bottle), so delicious. If you like malt, like I do, you should also try their malt icecream cookie dessert.
Definitely my first choice for a cream tea (and lunch), and if you have a tighter budget, teapots is definitely more cost-effective and the scones are worth every penny. They also have amazing homemade cakes.
We tried a pub at the weekend that I have never heard of before but that has great reviews on Tripadvisor, plus the menu looked amazing, so we decided to give it a try, and boy are we all glad that we did! It is not a long drive from Newport Pagnell (where we live) or from MK. You basically drive almost into Olney, then turn at the co-op and it’s 5 mins down the road. 15 min drive.
A lovely looking old pub with charm, kids playground in the garden, open fire, smokehouse menu, great service.
The pub itself is very pleasing to look at; it is a 17th century Grade II listed, like one of those pubs that you drive by and say, oooh we should try that pub.
They have a large outdoor area, it looks like they had a lot going on in the summer, outdoor BBQs, covered eating area, rattan furniture and a large kids play area. The kids loved the garden, it has a climbing frame and slide and two swing sets.
Inside is like a rabbit warren, lots of little areas to eat and drink. We were sat by the open fire, is there anything better in the winter than sitting with a drink (and a book) by the open fire?
The husband had vegetable pie – a pie-roast he called it. He said it was one of the best meals he has had in a long time. In fact, he keeps asking us if we can go back for dinner again; which is rare!
I had the beef brisket in a bun, the brisket is cooked for 9 hours and it was super succulent, however, I think I might try the brisket with the roast dinner next time, I think it might be even more delicious in gravy. The only minor issue I had was that it came out with mayonnaise in the bun; which is not mentioned on the menu. This happens a lot, and though I am not allergic to mayonnaise (egg) some people are, so I wish they would mention it on the menu.
Kids had a beef burger and chicken nuggets which they were both pleased with and scoffed down, but the bit they loved most was the dessert. Nutella-filled doughnut balls – and I had them too and wow were they more-ish. I could have eaten two bowls of them! The kids also had bubblegum ice cream with their doughnuts; which was very kind of the staff because they normally serve that ice cream on its own.
There was so much on the menu I wanted to try, I definitely want to have a roast meal here and try almost everything on the smoke-house menu. The lunch menu looks exciting too, so we shall definitely be returning.
We have been meaning to try this lovely little cafe for the longest time; and it’s only round the corner from us, so no more excuses (I said in my head to no one in particular).
Well, I was right, it is all three of those things, a cafe, lovely and little. Little being the downside because it was terribly busy when we visited on a Saturday morning; in fact, there was only a sofa available to us; so we took it and hoped a table would open up…and it did.
What beautiful decor – for me anyway, it is definitely on the girlier side of the spectrum. Like Madonna meets pinkie pie (from My Little Pony) meets boudoir. Sav and I loved it.
Even better is they made her a unicorn milkshake, which was not technically on the menu. Nate had an oreo milkshake, Colin had Biscoff and I had a Biscoff Hot Chocolate. Well, the milkshakes (and the Hot Choc) were special, they all tasted delicious and they really did look the part too; I shall definitely be coming back for more milkshakes.
For brunch (which they serve all day) I had Biscoff pancakes, Nate had Oreo and Sav had Nutella and strawberries. Once again they looked and tasted great, big fluffy, American-style pancakes and the portions were generous, in fact, I couldn’t finish all of mine.
Colin’s breakfast looked delicious too, however, he said that the flavours were not quite right for him, and it was a little under-seasoned. He had the Salmon, avocado, and poached eggs on sourdough toast. I almost wished I had ordered that, it looked so delicious, and I love me some sourdough.
We took some brownies on our way out of the door; Sav’s unicorn brownie looked good and she loved it. However, my Biscoff brownie was fine but nothing out of the ordinary, taste-wise. However, they had a lot on offer, so I definitely plan to try a few more…they look so good and they change the line-up pretty frequently.
Overall I would say it is a lovely little cafe, that I will try to visit again, but on a less busy day. The staff were very friendly and helpfully found us a seat when we arrived and made a special drink for our daughter. If it is not too cold, they also have some outdoor seating. Another bonus if you have kids, is that there is a park right around the corner, you know to burn off 1/8 of a milkshake. 😉
Another bonus is that they do a lot of special events; some that I noticed on their Facebook page included: Princess tea parties, Christmas afternoon tea, Christmas wreath making, dessert night, mummy meet-ups, The Greatest Showman bottomless brunch, and other movie-themed brunches/teas. So it is a must to keep checking their Facebook page because they seem to have a new dessert/new drink or new event almost every week…which is pretty exciting really. In fact, I just saw a Baileys hot chocolate on offer, which I haven’t had in years, so I might just have to pop over soon.
Address: Unit 3, Knebworth Gate, Giffard Park, MK14 5QD