The Barge has become one of my favourite pubs to eat at over the last fews years; it is a beautiful pub located in a pictureque little spot in Milton Keynes in Woolstone; which feels like you are in a Cotswolds village with cobbled stones and thatched roof cottages. Woolstone boasts two lovely pubs, the Barge and the Cross Keys.
The Barge has plenty of seating both inside and out, and a conservatory. They have good parking, their own, plus the parks trust parking right next door.
Currently they have a reduced menu due to Covid. When I visited with family we all had the best meal. I ordered the beef brisket burger; I absolutely love beef brisket and will invariably order it from any menu, though I do not often order a burger, so I was a little nervous – I didn’t have to be, it was amazing. It was so beautifully chargrilled, I felt like I could taste all the flavours of the beautiful meat. My husband had a pie, which he enjoyed, though after he tasted my burger, he sorely regretted not ordering the same.
I was most impressed, however, by the kids meals. My 4 year old daughter is fussy and usually only eats plain pasta, but I ordered her the pasta dish anyway – it was tomato pasta with garlic bread – boy did she love it. She literally scooped up every last morsal of sauce with the garlic bread and then licked the bowl clean. I could not have been more suprised. Although I did taste the sauce (when she wasn’t looking, otherwise I may have lost an arm!) and it was obviously hand-made, it tasted fresh and natural and of course delicious.
My son almost always opts for a burger whenever we eat out; this time I encouraged him to try something new. Although it was not terribly different, he had never tried one before – a chicken burger. It was real chicken, not breaded. He loved it and proclaimed he would have them again and again.
The service was very good; I loved that the waitresses interacted with my children, asked them questions and made them feel a bit special. It was a busy weekend but we didn’t have to wait for hours; which is good because kids have zero patience.
We have been back many times over the last couple of years, I can highly recommend the roast dinner and the pies.
There are two lovely parks in walking distance; so we often take the kids to the park either before or after our meal. The park nearest has a huge field, which people often picnic on and or play outdoor games. There are also a lot of conker trees; we went conker collecting in the Autumn.
Living in Newport Pagnell, popping over to Olney is not far and since Olney is kind of a foodie paradise, we do pop there quite often. One of our favourite places to go for breakfast or brunch is the Olney Pancake Parlour. It’s a cafe in the main square of Olney’s town centre. Inside it is like a rabbit warren, it is deceptively big. They have booths, and tables and sofa’s and you can also sit outside.
Olney is famous for its pancakes and the annual pancake race; and the parlour is probably the best place in Olney to buy pancakes. They do sweet and savoury as well as thick American-style pancakes and thin crepe-like pancakes. They also do amazing milkshakes, sometimes I come here just for a shake, and delicious cakes. Their brownie is my personal favourite.
This week I brought the family to have brunch. A kids portion of american pancakes is just one pancake each; therefore I ordered an adult size; as it would give them 3 pancakes. It was however too much, one pancake actually would have been enough. They had nutella, banana’s and cream.
I ordered the american breakfast; which is pancakes, eggs, bacon and sausage. I also had toast because they have lovely thick bread. I know that americans like bacon with their pancakes, but I still can’t get my head around it. So I ate the eggs, bacon and sausage first; and then ate the pancakes, like a dessert. It was all lovely; the american-style pancakes in particular were authentic and delicious – super thick and fluffy. Hubby had a savoury pancake which he enjoyed too.
The next best thing to the pancakes are the milkshakes! They do beautiful milkshakes in a variety of flavours in both kids sizes and adult sizes. The kids both chose oreo milkshakes and I stuck with my traditional and favourite strawberry flavour. It was super thick and creamy with a generous portion of whipped cream on top.
Olney is a picturesque old coach town. They have a few boutique shops, in fact a few shops down from the pancake parlour is a unique mini shop, ‘The Book Snug,‘ that sells only children’s books, it is so cute. Opposite the co-op is a fantastic charity book shop and there are many charity shops dotted along the high street. The Olney library is one of the loveliest libraries in the county. It’s better than any of the libraries we have in Milton Keynes. Though not a big library in general, the children’s library is big and has toys for the kids to play with. Last time I visited they had a play tent and lego among other things. Therefore, Olney has a lot to offer and there is enough to spend half a day here. On your way home you could stop by Emberton Country Park for another few hours of fun.
What a lovely cafe in an incongruous location. The centre of Bletchley is not the prettiest of locations, compared to most of Milton Keynes (and I used to live there, so I feel I have the right to say this). However, it is charity shop heaven and still has a good local butchers.
That being said Bletchley does have a couple of gems and the Codebreakers cafe is one of them. The owners opened during lockdown 3.0 (in February 2021); and they are already starting to make a name for themselves in foodie circles. I was curious, so this week I checked them out for breakfast (which they serve all day), though they have an extensive menu.
They have some outdoor seating, but well the view….I won’t say any more. Inside it is beautifully and minimally decorated based on the Enigma/Bletchley Park theme, with old-fashioned lamp-shades and the best seating I think I have ever come across in a cafe. They have beautiful brown leather seats, which not only look the part but they are so comfortable. I have issues with my back and tailbone so I often feel pain after sitting for a long time, but I would have been happy to sit here for hours. The lack of windows on three-sides means on a dull day it could be quite dark; but they do have lights strewn about all over; which really helps.
I chose the full english breakfast and was pleasantly surprised that they allowed me to switch a few items (have I said before that I am fussy?!). I ordered a pot of tea which arrived in a large cup with the saucer and tea bag on top, allowing you to place your own tea bag – that’s a nice touch.
The breakfast was cooked perfectly and the eggs were runny (big tick). The best part was the toast, it was thick and delicious. I love good quality bread.
The ambience was very nice and it was suprisingly not empty as you would expect on a random thursday morning. There were 5 other tables of people, which I guess means that word is getting around.
There were two ladies serving us and they were very friendly and helpful.
They have food and drinks for take-away and they also deliver in the area. They serve lunch and dinner and I’ve heard the coffee is very good (though I don’t personally drink coffee).
I look forward to coming back again, with my kids.
My highlight from Codebreakers is the seating. The seating is sublime.
Parking: Mini carpark opposite the cafe, additional parking behind the cafe.
I have been to French Affaire many times; for dinner (which was nice) and for lunch (delicious) but what was truly memorable from both those visits were the desserts; their desserts/pattiseries are truly scrumptious. Therefore the idea of experiencing a French Affaire afternoon tea was an exciting prospect.
I went along with a close friend; we sat outside because the weather was pleasant and they have a newly expanded seating area which is covered and has heaters (because you know – England!). Speaking of this; when I visited in the winter they provided blankets and seat covers and heaters and it was lovely and cosy.
To begin, I have to make a rather random comment about the cutlery. Even the cutlery is classy – a sort of bronze colour, and the milk pail, so cute. So yes it began well with pretty cutlery, a pot of tea and then we were served a large plate of savouries to share. There were 2 of each item. The spinach and mascarpone tartlet was memorable, I do love me some cheese. However, I wasn’t too focussed on the savouries, because for me it is all about the cakes and scones with an afternoon tea.
And wow what a spectacle the cakes made – in their sort of half a bird cage. They looked so aethetically pleasing. I could not wait to try the plant pot cake. And I was not disappointed, it was a chocolate plant pot with strawberry cheesecake inside – oh my it was delectable. The chocolate and praline cake was my next favourite, then followed by a flavourful pistachio cake. These cakes are surprisingly filling, so I was only able to eat one of the delicious scones and no more cake; I was full to the brim.
They obviously have an artisan who makes these cakes; especially as they have recently opened a little cafe opposite the restaurant serving only their pattiseries and cake delights (plus an awesome looking waffle on a stick with a million toppings), so I will certainly be going back for their cakes and sweet treats again at their cafe L’Atelier.
During lockdown their afternoon teas were available for home delivery; which I think they still offer. However they do have a lovely alfresco area which would be perfect this time of year.
My only niggle with French Affaire is that their service is not as warm as I would like, perhaps it was a language barrier, as the server was French. They were not rude though and it would certainly not put me off from trying their absolutely delicious cakes and pattiseries.
The afternoon tea cost £25 per person. I think this was on the pricey side but the food really was special so it is worth it.
So the family and I have a new favourite pub to eat at. I’d been hearing only good things (“All good things, all good things” Olaf) from my like-minded foodies on Facebook and it is ranked 4th in Milton Keynes on TripAdvisor; and we could see why.
A quick summary: It is beautifully decorated, it is deceptively large inside and has a wide range of seating, both inside and out, the food was amazing and most importantly the service was the best I have ever experienced.
We went to the Cross Keys for an early Father’s Day celebration for my dad and husband, so there were six of us. We arrived at 4:30pm (because we have young kids) it was quiet but not too quiet. They sat us on a sort of high booth with high-backed bar stools; we were not sure at first, bar stools are hard to get onto , but the kids sat on the bar stools and loved them so we decided to stay put.
They had a full and extensive menu, some items were on the pricier side: £55 for a Chateaubriand (to share); but most of the main meal items were between £10-£16 each so we felt it was reasonable for a special occasion.
For starters we ordered: Burrata (and mushrooms) and a camembert sharing platter. The only minor niggle was that they did not provide starter options on the children’s menu. However, I asked if the kids could share a portion of garlic bread, and though not on the menu, they provided it for us, and the kids were happy.
My husband had the burrata and he said it was special, he said he would go back just for that. My mum and I had the camembert sharing platter which tasted as camembert should – a strong cheesy, saucy flavour. It was cooked perfectly so that all the cheese was molten. We had a generous portion of warm bread-sticks to dip in and a tasty caramelised onion chutney.
For the main course I had the carbonara – it was risky to order a classic italian dish from an English pub menu. But the risk paid off; it was beautiful. It looked fantastic and tasted even better. Even though chicken is not traditional for a carbonara; it cut through the saltiness of the bacon; so it was a nice addition. There was plenty of creamy sauce and an abundance of bacon and chicken. They were not stingy at all! My only tiny tiny amendment I would make to this item is so ask the chef render the fat on the bacon to make it crispy, there was a lot of fat and it is an acquired taste. However, I digress it was delicious; and my husband (who tasted mine) said it was probably the best carbonara he has had in about 10 years (he loves carbonara).
My husband had the risotto with prawns which he was enjoying just perfectly, until he tried my carbonara.
The ribeye steak came with skinny chips, a cooked tomato and two very large onion rings. My mum did not order a jus or any sauce but wow the steak tasted amazing without any additional flavouring (I tasted it too). Mum said that it was so flavourful and the steak just melted in her mouth.
My dad said the haddock was beautiful – man of few words. It came with thick-cut chips, peas (usually pea-puree but they adapted it for him) and tartare sauce.
My son – Nate had the beefburger, which was huge, it almost looked like an adult meal. One second he picked up the burger, and the next second it was gone; he inhaled it! My daughter – Savannah had the tomato pasta dish (spaghetti). She gave it four thumbs up (that means her thumbs and her two big toes were in the air!).
For dessert I had the chocolate cake, which was pleasing and had a uniquely flavoured icing. It came with a large scoop of pistachio icecream.
The husband had a trio of icecream, which he enjoyed.
Mum and dad had the cheese plate; which was very large; and since I tasted all three cheeses I can say it tasted good. It was served with a bucket-load of crackers, chutney and celery.
They were completely full as it was a Saturday night; and yet the service was very good. I have to give a special shout-out to Aaron who served us and Michelle who interacted with our daughter (even though she was serving other tables). Aaron was a brilliant server, quick, efficient, remembered everything and he was attentive. So much so that when hubby ordered a floater coffee, and it arrived with a lotus biscuit; I didn’t know I had spoken out loud about being jealous, but I must have because a few minutes later 3 lotus biscuits arrived next to me! It was very kind and showed how they went above and beyond.
Michelle interacted with Savannad (my 4 year old) several times through the meal, she noticed that she couldn’t really see her food and brought over a cushion; she noticed she was struggling with the cutlery so brought her a small fork and spoon, and chatted and made her laugh. I was surprised because Sav is usually shy with strangers; but she warmed to Michelle straight away. It was so lovely and so beyond anything I have ever experienced anywhere ever; that it made us all want to go back. We felt truly special. And they were at full capacity (it was a Saturday night); which makes the special attention even more surprising and pleasing.
Recently, The Cross Keys invested in a new outdoor seating area. They have an abundance of tables and booths, all under cover and an outdoor bar. It was raining on the day we visited but there were quite a few people sat out there. We plan to try the outdoor area next time.
Parking: On site, but when full you can park in front of the pub, or 2 minutes walk to parks trust parking (next to the play park).
It’s my husband’s birthday so as a treat we decided to try brunch at Nonnas; in their new outdoor area which includes a garden bar. It looked beautiful and so inviting; like an English country garden in full bloom. The outdoor alfresco dining area has now tripled in size (however, they no longer have any on-site parking) and they have a mix of booth-type seating, and tables in the sun and under a canopy; so an array of choices.
We were seated and then asked to order at the garden bar. They have quite a large breakfast menu but to the disappointment of my husband and children, they only serve sourdough bread/toast across all their dishes. I love sourdough, but it is an acquired taste. I think they should include regular bread on their menu, at least for children.
That being said, what arrived for us all looked magnificent, a real work of art. I ordered the poached eggs, bacon and brie on sourdough toast. I’ve never though of that combination, but it tasted delicious. The only downside was that the poached eggs were not runny (even though I asked for it). Hubby ordered green eggs and ham, the kids had yoghurt and cheese on toast.
I really enjoyed my breakfast; and the atmosphere was so relaxing, I felt like I was on holiday. The kids found a way to entertain themselves, playing with their ice-cubes. My 4 year old said look mummy I have made a ka-bob (out of her ice cubes).
On display at the garden bar were the most sumptuous-looking doughnuts. Now, I am not a big fan of doughnuts, but they had four different flavours on display and none of us were able to resist. Between the four of us we tried all four flavours: jam, chocolate, passion-fruit and cream and lotus biscoff. They were utterly devine; so good we took some home for later. In fact I think we spent half of the bill on doughnuts!
Nonnas has always been a favourite for dinner, but now with their new outdoor area and quicker serving times, it has now become one of my favourite breakfast/brunch places. The kids loved it too, and they can be moany about going out for meals. So win-win. I cannot wait to go back.
You can book a table using their online booking system. Post code: MK17 8SY. They have no on-site parking, so I have always found a space on Hardwick Road, there are no double yellow lines so it is okay to park there, if you can find a spot. There is also the square by the town council and the library on the high street as alternatives.
My lovely husband and mum bought me a night away at the lovely Whittlebury Hall, for my birthday (November 2020). Of course we were in lockdown 2.0 so I was not able to partake in my present; so it was moved to Christmas – nope we were in Level 4 so it was moved again to Mothers Day – na ah – lockdown 3.0. So I finally got to enjoy my night away in June – only 7 months after I should have had it!
On my way over to Whittlebury, I drove past the Super Sausage Cafe and decided to indulge in one of their all day breakfasts, it was delicious.
On arrival at Whittlebury Hall, I was directed to the spa reception. In terms of Covid measures to keep us safe, they had temperature monitoring machines, hand sanitisers, and we all had to wear facemasks when not in a treatment or in the heat and ice area. I have been here for a spa day pre-Covid, so it was a little strange to have a timetable and not be able to glide through your spa day, however, a spa day is better than no spa day. In my mind there is nothing better; it is my ultimate day and will always be my choice of present. I was handed an itinerary which began with my treatment, the one that was included in my spa package. I was told I could choose 2x 15 minute treatments from a list of 4. I chose the head massage and the foot massage.
It was bliss, pure bliss. First the masseur rubbed my whole body with aromatherapy oils and then the head and foot massage. She was a bit over-zealous with the foot massage; it actually hurt, so I had to ask her to calm down, but she took it in stride and it was delightful. With spas being closed due to Covid for 17 months; this really was a treat.
After my massage I was taken back out into the waiting area, to await the use of the heat and ice experience. This was the part I was disappointed with because: a) waiting around and b) I was not taken to a calm, quiet area to come down after my massage.
The heat and ice area was good; although a little limited compared to the Aqua Sana at CentreParcs (my spa of choice). However it has improved since the last time; it had heated seats, a couple of foot spas, several saunas, several steam rooms and a big hot-tub like pool in the centre. It was very slippery; so I had to go back for my sandals. I particularly miss steam rooms; I find them so relaxing and also beneficial in the winter time when you have the common cold.
After the heat and ice experience it was lunch time. Normally you get a huge buffet to choose from; but buffets are not Covid-safe so they took a pre-order from me a few days ago; and though I did not like any of the salads on the menu; they were super accommodating and allowed me a soup instead. The soup was nice; but the warm bread rolls they provided were even better (the butter was rock solid – pet peeve). The tables were spread far apart and they had several sittings to allow sanitising in between and less crowding.
After my blissful spa morning, I wandered into the hotel (attached to the spa) to enquire if my room was ready. It was not. They do not allow access to rooms until 4pm – 4pm!!! Personally, I think that is too late, particularly if you are only staying for 1 night. My husband basically paid for a 19 hour room rental, rather than a 1 night (24 hour stay). Oh well, we cannot have everything in this world.
I waited in the lounge for my room to become available. The lounge is particularly lovely. I have stayed at Whittlebury Hall many times over the years; and the lounge remains my favourite place. They have huge sofas – tonnes of them, and an open fire, they serve afternoon tea and they used to have board games in there – though I didn’t see any during this visit – please bring back the board games! I love to sit lay on the sofas and read; and today was no different. I ordered a pot of tea and kicked back whilst reading an enthralling book about a doctor working during the pandemic: “Duty of Care – one NHS doctor’s story of the Covid-19 crisis” by Dominic Pimenta. I haven’t finished it yet, but so far I have not been able to put it down.
The hotel room was pleasing and comfortable. It had a double bed, a TV with freeview, tea and coffee facilities and some nice biscuits (they were all wrapped in cellophone so that it was Covid safe, an ironing board, cupboard, a desk, safe and a large bathroom with 2 sinks, and a shower over bath. It also had a fridge, which I was pleased about as I drink a lot of water. One of my pet peeves is not having access to cold water when I travel. They also provide fans in the rooms that don’t have air conditioning, it was so warm, I really appreciated that.
For my evening meal in the main restaurant I had a lovely steak and roasted carrots, and though there was no jus or flavouring on the steak, it was delicious just the same. The cheese plate for dessert was a treat; it had a lovely mix of fruit (even fresh figs) and delicious cheeses with a generous portion of chutney.
The breakfast in the morning was a let down. It was buffet style still but the staff choose your food for you. It was not good quality, and I couldn’t find a single runny egg. I had to wait a long time for the waitress to bring my tea and toast, and I gave up waiting for the juice I ordered.
Overall I had a very lovely stay; and though the hotel could do with some refurbishment; it was still relaxing and just what I needed after the last year or so.
I recently took my mum away for a little getaway to the New Forest; as she had never been there. I was hoping she would see the famous ponies – but it seems that even the ponies are on lockdown! We didn’t see a single pony this time. However, we did see some roaming cows which was pretty cool.
The best bit of our trip was our little foray over to Brockenhurst. I have to say that Lyndhurst appears to have deterioated some since I visited in 2014, I don’t know if Covid has led to most of the lovely shops in Lyndhurst closing down; but the last time I visited it was so pretty and they had lovely boutique shops that they no longer have. Plus the old hotel at the end of the high street really detracts from its beauty.
Brockenhurst, on the other hand, is just as beautiful as I remember it. The only downside is the lack of ponies. We didn’t stay long as it is very small; but we did stay for lunch and boy am I glad we did. We tried “The Buttery” even though there was a fairly long wait to get in (about 20 minutes). There was nothing particularly memorable about the decor, the service was slow (which they did warn us about) but they had the most most-watering, most unforgettable carrot cake I have ever had in my life. And I was completely unprepared.
I ordered chilli and chips, a pot of tea and a carrot cake. Whilst waiting for my my chips to cool down, I thought, I’ll just taste the carrot cake (mum had popped off to use the facilities). When mum got back she found me in a trance.
“What’s wrong” she said
“What?” I said in somewhat of a daze
“What’s wrong?” she repeated. I brought myself slowly back to Earth and said:
“Try………..this………….carrot cake…………..now (just a small bit though.)”
My mum tried a small bit of the carrot cake and swooned.
I then took another bite and was making noises akin to “When Harry Met Sally”. I had to stop.
I reluctantly decided I should eat my chips before I indulged in my dessert; but I kept a close eye on it the whole time and then when I had eaten enough chips to not cause offence to the kitchen I inhaled the carrot cake and promptly bought another slice for later. Mum also bought a slice, and she is diabetic, so she has to closely monitor her sugar levels. Though she said she would gladly endure a diabetic coma to eat the entire carrot cake.
I wish I could describe the taste; it was moist and it was creamy but it really was beyond description.
The weird thing is that neither of us really like carrot cakes, usually. But this was another level. So if you are ever in the area, in the New Forest; run right now and enjoy this marvel.
I am a big foodie; I love food, though I am fussy too, so fussy in fact that I am well known for my fussiness amongst my friends and family. I have eaten out at Michelin star restaurants and the local cafe and I do like all types. I particularly love going out for breakfast; it feels like such a treat. However; I am somewhat disconcerted by the new trendy “boutique” cafes – you know the type that do things like avocado and chia seeds on sourdough toast and sencha tea. I actually love sourdough toast, but I could definitely leave all the rest.
So it is refreshing to eat at a cafe that keeps it simple. I love a simple traditional english breakfast; and that is what they do best at the Super Sausage, in every variation and every size with chips or hash browns, simple tea (no leaves or pots) and it was cooked perfectly and delicious. Plus they serve breakfast all day – bonus!
Inside it is decorated as one would expect from an english cafe, but it has the addition of a couple of booths and outside seating (picnic tables). Though the view of the A5 has much to be desired. One does not come here for the view.
It is not the best place to go if you are keen on social distancing as the tables (inside) are tightly compacted together; you have to brush past people to get in/out to use the facilities.
Even with these minor drawbacks, it is well worth the drive (just outside of Milton Keynes) is the perfect low-cost greasy spoon cafe; perfect after a hangover; or for me, the perfect stopover on the way to Whittlebury Hall (where I was having a spa day).
The Super Sausage cafe is on the A5 in Potterspury towards Towcester, postcode: NN12 7QD. They have on site parking and toilets.
Now that the country has gotten through three lockdowns – yes 3 lockdowns in one year, it seems that companies are having to become more creative to keep afloat. I had been hearing about pods popping up in local pubs and restaurants. Frosts (our local and favourite garden centre) has a fantastic restaurant and cafe; they do some of the best cakes and afternoon tea around (their brownie is special but I digress).
Not only do Frosts do these outdoor pods, but theirs are called (and look like) Igloos and they are transparent; which on the cold but sunny day was lovely. When we visited Frosts in April, the current Government rules were that we were allowed to eat and drink outside but not inside (great idea in the coldest April we ever had, it was snowing the week before). So going out for breakfast with my family in the snow and -2 Degree weather was not at all appealing – even though I had not eaten out since October 2020, but I was desperate to leave the house (those 4 walls I have been staring at during lockdown 3.0 for the last 4 months) and see my family (again who I had not seen in person for 4 months), so we booked an Igloo at Frosts during their opening weekend and had a lovely breakfast both outdoors and indoors.
The Igloo was outdoors but since it was fully enclosed, it felt like we were indoors. They had a heater, a fridge and a blutooth speaker. It sat six people, I would like to say comfortably but it was a bit tight.
The breakfast was glorious!
First they brought us a tray of fresh fruit and danish pastries. And pots of tea (loose leaf).
Then they brought out piles of toast.
Then they brought out our cooked breakfasts (that we had to pre-order).
It was delightful; and every time we asked for more toast they brought it out.
The temperature was cold but we felt so warm and taken care of; and when the sun came out, we decided to go out into the patio area with the other customers where they had lovely and comfortable rattan seating, then we sat in the sunshine and enjoyed some more tea, the kids loved their milkshakes.
It was so good, I absolutely pray that they will be keeping these pods as UK weather is so unpredictable; it felt so special.
The only minor annoyance was booking the igloo was not easy; it can only be done over the phone, and when you ring they take your details and someone rings back, but if you miss their call and you call back, they won’t take your booking so I spent all week playing phone tag; and even though I rang them on the Monday; it took until Friday before I had to beg them to just let me book already! And by then most of the dates I wanted were fully booked. Online booking would be great.
There is a minimum spend of £75, but with the six of us it was not an issue. I think it would be difficult for 2 people to reach the minimum spend (unless you have some bubbly too). They serve breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea.
*No one paid me to write this article, I just love Frosts.