I’m a big foodie, but sometimes a pub or restaurant is not so much known for their food but for their location. The Navigation at Stoke Bruerne is that kind of place for me. Stoke Bruerne is a beautiful little village, 10 minutes outside of Milton Keynes and the Navigation is situated right on the canal between a lock and a bridge. It is a picturesque place to have a drink and a little wander.
They have a large and well equiped outdoor area (including an outdoor bar) and they have a lovely little play area for the kids; which my 4 year in old, in particular, enjoyed.
The pub is very large and has lots of nooks and hidden tables in corners, it also has a lot of tables outside, some under cover and tables right next to the canal. It is a nice family pub, ten minutes out from Milton Keynes.
I have to be honest and say that the food was about on par with the cost. It was low cost pub food, and tasted fine but not special (in general). The standout would probably be the desserts, which everyone enjoyed.
The kids and I had nachos to start, then mum and I both had lasagne and chips. Dad had scampi and chips. The kids had sausages and chips and chicken nuggets and chips. I found the menu quite limited, but it has been a reduced menu since Covid.
For dessert we had a sicilian lemon muffin cheesecake, a chocolate icecream sundae and my little girl had a SpongeBob icecream pot. The desserts were well received by all.
Overall I would recommend this as a low cost eating out option, great for kids and lovely on a beautiful day if you can sit outside and have a drink by the canal.
Note: There are two pubs called “Navigation (Inn)” within 10 minutes drive of each other, both next to the canal! The other one is in cosgrove, this one is in Stoke Bruerne.
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.
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).