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.
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.
Ahhh street food. Thank the Lord for street food, and thank you more for whomever had the genius idea to start the food truck craze in Milton Keynes – I would like to shake the hands of this person. Instead, I metaphorically shake the hands with the team over at “The Good Times Cafe” who run the monthly Eat Street MK events.
I have been attending these street food fairs for many years. For those of you who have not been, this is what you can expect: Eat Street MK is a collection of food trucks based at York House in Stony, but they are not just a collection of food trucks. There is an ambiance of a special event; there is food (great food), usually alcohol, music, places to sit both inside and out, and the knowledge that you are supporting small businesses and supporting local. If you love food, this is where you should be. Each vendor specialises so you receive the best of what they have to offer. A whole stall devoted to cheese toasties (for example). There are more options than your stomach will have space for; but if you think of it as tapas, you should be able to enjoy 2 or 3 dishes at least, and if you take some home, even more.
The events usually run on a Friday evening (monthly, but not in Winter) from 5pm, however, sometimes they have random events. It is best to check their Facebook page, as all events are listed there with the list of vendors. Some of my favorite food truckers include: Taco Shack, Good Times Cafe, Eat is Greek, The Rub, Kings Comfort Food, and Chocolate Mill MK.
I was so happy to see a Saturday event in October (it usually runs on a Friday), it meant I could take my kids, I love to share good food with them.
This month between the four of us we tried: a hamburger from Sizzlers, nachos and tacos from Baja Cantina, Biscoff brownies from Jo’s Cake Co, Beef Rendang, Chickpea curry from Banana Leaf and finally the Raclette from Good Times Cafe.
I was very pleased to try the raclette, I mean its cheese and potatoes, you can’t go wrong. It was delicious, my only piece of advice, particularly if you have kids; eat it straight away, eat it hot. I haven’t eaten anything hot since 2011 (my son was born in 2011). However it was still delicious, and their cheese toasties, just in case you haven’t tried them; are a small piece of heaven.
My husband had two dishes from the Banana Leaf (over the weekend) and declared them to be exceptional.
My kids shared some nachos and a beef burger between them. This is my only tiny peeve; many of the vendors do not have child-sized portions; even though this was a daytime event and a lot of children were present. It was difficult to find something for them, so they had to share an adult-sized burger. They did have, however, a sweet vendor – Sweet Sinsations and a brownie stall, so my kids were delighted to try both. The sweet vendor lady was particularly kind to my children; and chatted away with them amiably. My 5-year daughter will talk endlessly if I allow it, so I had to drag her away.
I also had a taco from Baja Cantina – delicious, and the Biscoff Brownie I had from Jo’s Cake Co almost blew my socks off it was so good. In fact, I enjoyed it so much, I wished I had bought another one. Savvy enjoyed her Halloween swiss roll from them too.
We were lucky to arrive early and grabbed one of the seats in the middle, which is well needed with young kids. The inside wasn’t open on this occasion, but it usually is, and I prefer it because it’s warmer in the winter, they have a bar and they have toilet facilities.
I like that you can have amazing food but spend far less than in a restaurant; in the summer it is a dream to be able to sit outside in the sunshine and enjoy the pleasant atmosphere. In the past they have not run these in the winter; but it appears that there will be a Christmas Market this year, which is exciting.
Teapots is an institution. Even though I live in Milton Keynes I have been hearing about Teapots my whole adult life. Any time any grown up had a birthday or special occasion, Teapots would often feature, okay not everyone, obviously, but everyone I know loves Teapots. So I guess this is a review for those who have not heard of Teapots – though I don’t know who you are or where you have been living – maybe you are new to the area…welcome!
Anyway, it is impossible to sum up 15 years or so of what I have experienced, so I will simply base this review on my latest visit. However, I do have to say that I have never had a bad meal here, and their cream teas/afternoon teas are epic and never disappointing. Plus their home-made cakes that they bake fresh every day, are so good that we almost always go home with a bag full and a much lighter bank balance. Cakes freeze well.
Today we stopped by for lunch. The kids had pancakes, husband had a savoury pancake and I had a toasted cheese and ham sandwich. I do not normally like sandwiches, as anyone who knows me well will tell you, but I absolutely love their toasted sandwiches, they are thick and lushious and full to overflowing with filling. The ham is super thick and the cheese is strong. It also comes with a side salad.
My husband had a mushroom pancake; and he is super fussy (when we eat out). He said, “ahhhh that is why I love mushrooms”. He also described the sauce as carbonara-like, very creamy.
My son ate his chocolate pancakes very quickly, and he would have finished of his sisters pancakes if I had let him. My daughter has a smaller tummy so she only ate half, though we took it home and she ate the rest later; they both loved them.
After lunch we had a cream tea. I had a plain scone, which is a treat, because usually I have to take the raisins out. It arrived still warm and moist. They provide a generous portion of cream and jam. Husband ordered a cherry scone and a blueberry and lemon scone. He was offered lemon curd, which worked well with the blueberry scone. The tea was nice but I should have requested loose-leaf tea. I thought it would come as standard, but alas it did not, so a note to self for next time.
Service was very good, the owner interacted with my children, which I appreciated, and played a little joke “So these chocolate pancakes are for mum and dad?”.
Before we paid the bill we took some cake home with us. If you see the cabinet full of home-made cakes, you just cannot say no, so even though we were full, we took some home. I have had their chocolate cake before, so I went for that again, and it was absolutely delicious. My husband chose a whole bunch of cakes.
We absolutely love Teapots and it will continue to be one of our regular haunts for random treats as well as special occasions. If you have never been to Teapots, I advise you to give it a try, you will not be disappointed.
Bookings: By phone 01234 712392
Parking: There is parking behind Teapots next to the co-op and in the main town square.