Your essential guide to eating out in Milton Keynes

From chip shops to corden bleu, Milton Keynes has something for foodies everywhere, whatever their taste. The Menu is Milton Keynes Citizen's attempt to keep our readers up to date with the best places to eat in the city.

Our news team will be regularly reviewing the city's takeaways, pubs and restaurants for our Citizen First publication. Those reviews will appear on these pages, complete with useful information about each outlet such as a contact phone number and opening times.

If you a business owner and would like our team to review your restaurant please call us on 01908 372279 or email editorial@mkcitizen.co.uk

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The Swan in Salford

Milton Keynes

The Swan in Salford

Opening times

It’s bustling and busy at The Swan in Salford when we visit on a Thursday lunchtime, writes Sammy Jones.

When the menus are presented, we see why: A vast selection of fancy, but proper dishes all silently screaming ‘pick me’...and it’s just taken us ages to decide on a wine from the very decent selection.

Forget that ‘quick bite’ to eat, this is going to be a long lunch.

It is fair to say The Swan’s new spring menu is tipped in favour of meaty fans, but veggies needn’t fret – there is plenty of choice and not one dreary delivery in sight.

My dining partner Olga and I nibble on olives and breads before tackling a Thai pea risotto.

Perhaps now is time to mention that I don’t much like the small and innocent petit pois.

Nor am I a huge fan of Thai food. No, I don’t know why I ordered it either, but am so glad I gave the risotto a chance.

It was delicious – perfect in texture, fresh, light and with a lively, spiced delight after every bite.

A pause for wine – white for Olga, red for moi, before the splendid looking main courses arrive.

“Now this is art that I am interested in,” Olga declares, feasting on pan-fried hake with saute potatoes.

“It’s beautiful, melts in the mouth and is cooked to perfection,” she says between mouthfuls, while across the table, the perfectly parcelled saffron gnocchi, forest mushrooms and broad bean fricassee is equally delightful.

In our little corner of this smart dining establishment there are no complaints, and the same scene is repeated on table after table of customers, all given exemplary service by knowledgeable staff keen to make your experience under their roof a memorable one.

Dessert is decadent – apple crumble cheesecake with honeycomb ice cream, and iced yogurt and pistachio parfait, lime marshmallow and lemon curd.

It sounds good written down, so you can imagine just how well the flavours danced across the tongue.

A visit to The Swan isn’t to be rushed, and once there you’ll have no problem relaxing into the surrounds, while making a promise to yourself that this should become a regular visit for a spot of lunch.

As a well known foodie would say ‘mange-tout, mange-tout’.

If you have dined at Swan in Salford please rate your experience by awarding it between between 1 and 5 stars, at the top of the page.

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The Living Room

Milton Keynes

The Living Room

Opening times

MILTON Keynes bar of the year, The Living Room, invited us to sample their new menu.

A few days earlier we had already competed in a blind testing event to see who could guess the ingredients on a dozen small sized dishes while blind folded.

Being blind folded makes it quite a difficult challenge. The food was so tasty we decided to review the full menu the following Thursday evening.

That night we were welcomed by the sound of music as a musician was playing on a white piano located by the entrance entertaining people at the bar. The Living Room restaurant is upstairs.

Our waitress for the evening was Agge, who welcomed us to our table.

The lights in this funky restaurant are dimmed with tables, all candle lit creating a romantic feel. We ordered our drinks and waited for the two other guests to arrive.

We had a good old browse of the new menu and then selected our starters of teriyaki chicken skewers, with satay sauce which was well seasoned, tender and crunchy from the sesame seeds, and Gooey Pan fried garlic mushrooms on toast.

The mushrooms were a lovely dish full of flavour which my guest said she could eat all over again.

My other guest had the beer battered tiger prawns with wasabi mayonnaise, which on this occasion had been slightly over cooked as the batter was quite dark.

This was a shame, but thai fish cakes – which packed a power of flavour – more than made up for it. They were simply beautiful and the spice was just right.

For mains one of our guests chose the pork and chorizo burger with chips that oozed in flavour and made a change from a standard beef burger. We also sampled the chicken burger topped with cheese and crispy pancetta, which was tender and succulent, while the trio of pork was certainly succulent with pancetta wrapped pork fillet, crispy pork belly and black pudding with garlic mash and apple. This was a brilliant dish offering many textures, flavours and a feeling of comfort, one for those frosty nights.

My partner had the 7oz fillet steak and chips, which was cooked – thankfully – just right.

By this stage we were pretty full up, but somehow, with a break between mains and another glass of wine, we notched up a pudding order from Agge.

Desserts included a cheese board to share, sticky toffee pudding with vanilla ice cream and chocolate truffle cake with honeycombe.

The cheese board had a little too much Stilton for my taste buds but was easily exchangeable, while the toffee pudding and truffle cake was marvellous.

Overall the standards of service at the Living Room are very good, and Agge was polite and professional.

The new food on the new menu is enjoyable and we will be back for more.

Make sure you book a table first as this place gets busy.

If you have dined at Jamie's Italian please rate your experience by awarding it between between 1 and 5 stars, at the top of the page.

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Loch Fyne

Milton Keynes

Loch Fyne

Opening times

IT all started with oysters – so we did too.

Loch Fyne started as a small shack selling oysters on Scotland’s West Highland route. Now it has 42 restaurants across the country, including in Milton Keynes’ Hub.

The MK outlet has recently launched its new Autumn/Winter menu – but shellfish remain a firm favourite.

As starters, diners can have a dozen, six or even a single Loch Fyne Oyster. They are also served in a variety of ways: traditionally, on ice; in tempura batter with chilli jam; grilled, or as a mixed platter.

Either way, my friend was impressed with the size and taste of the molluscs.

I, meanwhile, tried the pan-fried chilli and garlic king prawns. These were as fresh and delicious as you would expect from a restaurant which prides itself on the quality of its seafood.

Loch Fyne is different from most other restaurants you’ll find that specialise in steaks, pasta or pizza. High quality, fresh fish and seafood is available throughout its menu, although meat lovers aren’t completely left out with sirlion steak among the options for your main course

Why anyone would go to a fish restaurant and have steak is beyond me though. Hence, my guest and I tucked into Poached Smoked Haddock with mash and a soft poached egg, and a magnificent looking Canadian lobster.

I topped my haddock off with a medley of scallops, king prawn and mussels.

For dessert, I tried the copious four Cheese Slate, which consisted of savoury biscuits and plum chutney, Somerset brie, Wensleydale, Shropshire Blue and goat’s cheese. I couldn’t have asked for a better finish to the meal.

My guest had the Cranachan & Shortbread – a traditional Scottish dessert of whipped cream, whisky, honey, raspberries and toasted oats.

Sadly, despite his own Scotch ancestry, this dessert didn’t quite hit the mark.

But it was the only low point of an excellent dining experience. Relaxed service and a well stocked wine menu helped the meal go down perfectly, while the venue is a million miles away from a shack.

Overall? Fish at its Fyne-est.

If you have dined at Loch Fyne please rate your experience by awarding it between between 1 and 5 stars, at the top of the page.

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The Silk Road

Milton Keynes

The Silk Road

Opening times

‘SHALL we eat out tonight?’ ‘Yes, sounds like a good idea, Chinese or Indian?’

‘Oh definitely Chinese’. ‘Really, I fancied an Indian tonight’.

If this sounds like a similar conundrum to you then fear no more. CMK based Silk Road aims to bridge the gap by offering a Pan Asian solution to your dining dilemma.

New chef Saj Khan offers a menu which combines the best dishes from across India, China and Thailand.

Diners can pick and choose their way through the menu, sampling food from each country in whichever way they desire.

But perhaps the best way to try these various delights in one go is via the restaurant’s Mixed Banquet Menu.

Costing £16.95 per person – for a minimum of two – this option features a variety of Asian fare.

Silk Road also offers a similar Indian Banquet Menu for those who want something a bit more traditional.

The mixed menu consists of four starters; Indian favourites Onion Bhajees and Zafrani Murgh Tikka (chicken pieces marinated in yoghurt) are combined with their Chinese counterparts prawn toast and spring rolls.

The main courses are equally eclectic. Chicken Tikka Masala, Lamb Rogan Josh, Beef Green Pepper and Black Bean Sauce and Sweet and Sour Chicken.

Aloo Mator – sauted potatoes and peas with caramelised onion – rice noodle and pulao rice, along with the compulsary Naan bread, make sure no taste of Asia is omitted.

The food is plentiful and tastes as good as you would expect from the man who won this year’s Milton Keynes Food Award chef of the year gong. But the real joy of Silk Road is finding a variety of food in an establishment where you don’t have to serve yourself.

The decor at the Grafton Gate East eatery is simple and spacious, while the service is polite without being pushy.

‘Shall we eat out tonight, I fancied trying the Pan Asian menu at Silk Road?’.

‘Yes, please’.

If you have dined at The Silk Road please rate your experience by awarding it between between 1 and 5 stars, at the top of the page.

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Ganges Lounge

Bletchley

Ganges Lounge

Opening times

Smart, modern and authentic: Ganges Lounge is not your average Indian restaurant.

The Fenny Stratford based eatery has recently undergone a modern refurbishment to match the 21st Century outlook of its staff and owners.

While its ethos may be based around traditional Indian cooking, Ganges Lounge is no run of the mill curry house. Customers are encouraged to ask for dishes to be cooked to their individual palates, whether that be hotter or more mild.

The restaurant is compact, but comfortable and good customer service is part of its mantra. Diners are encouraged to comment on the food and surroundings with feedback used to improve service next time round and ‘create life long relationships’ with customers.

Ganges Lounge serves up excellent food, with decent portions that will fill you without swamping your plate in the excess of grub that some Indian and Chinese restaurants become obsessed with.

My partner and I enjoyed Onion Bhaji’s (£2.25) and King Prawn Puree (£4.50) four our starters. Freshly cooked and spiced both dishes left us eager to sample the main fare.

My guest went for her personal favourite, the Chicken Rogan Josh (£4.95), which she tucked away with aplomb – dubbing it one of the best she has tasted.

I put the restaurant to the test by asking them to surprise me with a speciality. A couple of questions later – mild or spicy, meat or fish? – and they had me sussed.

Such was my excitement at this new found choice that I didn’t even get the name of the dish. Suffice to say, it matched my expectations perfectly.

Add the usual Naan breads, rice and side orders and Ganges Lounge is more than capable of tantalising your taste buds.

Owned by a co-operative of partners, the restaurant is keen to build up a loyal customer base and staff were keen to impress how grateful they were to those customers who had made their stay in Fenny Stratford a success so far.

With this desire to impress at the forefront I can only imagine that the Ganges Lounge will go from strength to strength.

If you have dined at Ganges Lounge please rate your experience by awarding it between between 1 and 5 stars, at the top of the page.

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The Plough at Simpson

Milton Keynes

The Plough at Simpson

Opening times

Fancy going for an Italian Meal in the heart of Milton Keynes but not in a chain restaurant?

How about going to a pub run by an Italian family and serving great English and Italian food all under one roof. We headed to the Plough in Simpson to find out more.

The first sign of a good establishment is the coffee it serves. The Plough serves Illy coffee, which always tastes great and most top venues use it.

We arrived at the pub at 1pm on a Sunday for pre-drinks and ended up talking to a couple of older gents who have been drinking in the pub for over 30 years. They have seen many changes not only to the pub but the whole of Milton Keynes. They recommended the food at The Plough, saying it is marvellous.

We were shown to our table at the back of the building, a room which is being developed every week with interesting decorations. The light shines through the window and you”ll find Italian canvases dotted around the walls and tables showing off fresh flowers with lots of colour.

The chocolate leather covered chairs are comfortable and the restaurant was pretty busy with guests of all ages – always a good sign.

We selected our starters. One guest selected the ham hock, side salad and chunky toasted bread. The ham hock made earlier that morning was lovely and kept my guest engaged until it vanished, gone in just two minutes to be precise.

Scallops with bacon and salad was the choice for another guest. Powerful with flavour and well cooked, this starter was a perfect light choice and seasoned from the salty bacon bits.

My other guest and I shared a mixed Italian platter which included black and green olives, mozzarella balls, roasted vegetables, Parma ham, prescott and warm bread. This huge sharer came on a lazy sue and was very filling. The meats were particularly good along with the warm, fresh breads. This was an impressive starter.

A well deserved gap and we were on to the mains. My guests selected the king prawn rostini, which featured four impressive prawns, some shelled and some naked with the sweetest cherry tomatoes we’ve ever tried. This dish needs to be a starter dish in my opinion, not because of the size but because it sits better as a sandwich type dish.

Marcos famous parma ham chicken stuffed with sundried tomatos on a bed of risotto al dente was another main dish. The chicken was tender, juicy and crispy – very good. My other guest selected the carbonara which was creamy, well flavoured, hot and was a large portain.

Eventually I chose pizza but originally it was stuck between seafood pasta, so I asked for a seafood pizza which was delicious, crispy and extremely filling. The toppings included prawns, scallops and muscles; an awesome pizza.

For desserts we went for a cheese board which was displayed on another lazy sue, while a delightful brownie and taramisu were polished off at the end of the meal.

The Plough is a really good place to eat, have a date or gather with the family.

If you have dined at The Plough at Simpson please rate your experience by awarding it between between 1 and 5 stars, at the top of the page.

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Gourmet Burger Kitchen

Milton Keynes

Gourmet Burger Kitchen

Opening times

WHERE do a lot of people go these days when going for a bite to eat in MK? Many would say The Hub and here is another reason why they should.

GBK Burger has had a refurbishment from its old look of simple orange walls, high ceilings and a lack of outdoor seating to a truly new vibrant look. Yes, you still have to go up and order your food with a table number in hand just like Nandos (well they are owned by them after all) but now the venue is cosy, has lots of atmosphere and is fun to be in.

We sat at our table and browsed the menu while eating free monkey nuts. Not sure why these are free or who fancies the messy things, but why not?

Perhaps you should ask the big friendly manager named Chris who is very charming and helpful.

Here are some of the delights on offer at GBK:

Taxidriver - Brioche bun, American cheese, crispy onion ring, cajun relish, dill pickle, salad and smoked chilli mayo

Tokyo Jim - Brioche bun, Asian slaw, Tokyo BBQ sauce and salad

Jolly Cow - Brioche bun, grilled mushroom, Gorgonzola, crispy onion ring, garlic mayo, salad and relish

Buffalo - Deep in flavour, low in fat, served with salad, mayo and relish

We selected a classic chicken burger with lettuce and mayo. Wow, the chicken was tender and the bun marvellous and crunchy. We went for the skinny chips, which are probably the skinniest in MK, and my guest even asked if they would make you skinny. Sadly I doubt any thing deep fried chip will make you skinny.

All the same who goes for a burger to get skinny... yum, yum mayonnaise.

I selected the Mint Relish with extra mint. Again a super choice and super burger. This time it came with fat chips and, yes, if we ate enough we would get fat. But the portion size seemed safe.

GBK is a semi-quick place to eat with minimal starters and desserts but a funky, cool eatery to hang out and catch up with your mates. The burgers are mostly under a tenner but like an where these days gourmet, delicious burgers will cost you this.

Look out for the wine glasses that have no stem? Very strange...

If you have dined at Gourmet Burger Kitchen please rate your experience by awarding it between between 1 and 5 stars, at the top of the page.

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Hungry Horse

Milton Keynes

Hungry Horse

Opening times

ENTICED by its freshly gathered title of Best Family Restaurant in Milton Keynes, I set off for the Hungry Horse in Broughton ready to tuck into some hearty fare.

But it was the community spirit that really struck me in this popular pub.

Kids are treated like Kings, with free colouring pens all round, while the large TV screen showing Sky Sports and offering the promise of European Championship action certainly caught my eye.

And where conversation sprouted up in the dining area and bar, local issues such as the proposed closure of the Broughton Gate Skate Park dominate proceedings.

It’s easy to see why this welcoming eatery was honoured at the recent Milton Keynes Food & Leisure Awards.

But could the food match the award winning atmosphere?

You know what you’re going to get with a Hungry Horse: huge portions of pub grub and plenty for your pound.

We started with the light and crunchy Breaded Torpedo Prawns with a marvellous sweet chilli dip and Garlic Breaded Mushrooms with a mayonnaise dip. Watch these little bad boys as they squirt out juice, but they’re very more-ish and pipeing hot.

For our main courses we decided to pile on the meat, opting for a 9oz steak and rib combo with coleslaw, and a Chicken New Yorker.

I asked for the steak, which also came with coleslaw, onion rings, corn on the cob, grilled tomato and chips, to be prepared medium rare and it came just that way, cooked to perfection.

There was little fat to be found on this generous steak, and the meat fell off the ribs with a tender and sweet taste – great with the side of BBQ sauce.

The New Yorker consisted of two succulent chicken breasts, topped with bacon, a taste of BBQ sauce and melted cheese. It was served with chips, peas, grilled tomato and onion rings.

These were huge portion and a delight to eat. After a starter they were hard to finish.

The food came out quickly and was also great value for money.

The menu itself offers choices for the whole family, with huge gooey desserts available to finish off your meals.

Don’t expect cordon bleu, but you can be sure The Hungry Horse won’t leave you feeling blue.

If you have dined at the Hungry Horse please rate your experience by awarding it between between 1 and 5 stars, at the top of the page.

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The Mercure Hotel

Milton Keynes

Mercure Hotel

THINKING about going for a meal in a Milton Keynes? Why not try the hotel restaurant at the Mercure Hotel in Woughton on the Green for a pleasant dining experience.

Upon entering this brilliant white building you will notice a modern, quirky decor unlike any other in MK. Here you will find colourful cow paintings, funky fabrics, quirky ornaments, comfy chairs and wallpaper designed like a library full of books.

We ordered a drink at the bar which came with three cute expresso cups full of miniature pretzels and crisps. Our order was then taken before entering the restaurant where we were then seated moments before the first course arrived.

My guest and I were served very well throughout the evening by the professional waitress, Anais Wicht. She was attentive and non-intrusive all evening. The restaurant is simply decorated with local art. I started off with the octopus and soft shell crab salad with lime salsa.

The crunchy crab was deep fried with lots of flavour and the ugly – to some – octopus was chewy in places, but tasty. Over all this salad was light, unique and a refreshing starter.

My guest who is a wise inner snob (his words not mine) selected the twice baked goats cheese soufflé with roasted walnut apple salad and Beetroot Coulis.

This was very tasty, the soft soufflé had a crispy top and bottom and was accompanied along with the crunchy walnuts making it a balanced dish. The textures made this starter special.

For the main course I selected the duo of lamb, fondant potato and shallot puree with a side of garlic broccoli. The broccoli was a bit bland and boring, but the cuts of lamb came tender, juicy and amazing.

The other piece of lamb came in a croquette style parcel where the shredded lamb was bursting with mint flavour. yummy indeed. And while the potato fondant lacked seasoning for me and was probably a little hard for my liking, the dish was still polished off with the shallot purée.

The ‘wise one’ had the coco roasted Woburn venison loin, braised baby gem lettuce and dauphinoise potato, with a side of bacon, green beans. The side was unlike mine because it showed off lots of flavour along with the tender venison. The layered dauphinoise potato was creamy and delicious too. This was a winning dish.

For dessert we shared the lemon cheese cake with chocolate ice-cream topped with popping candy. The pastry chef has been at the venue for over 25 years and, yes, it tasted amazing. The creaminess and crunchiness were just pure marvellous.

We also shared the cheese board which came with celery, ripe, crunchy cherry tomatoes and a wonderful chutney. Very pleasant and a good sized portion.

Over all our meal was very pleasant, and the restaurant moderately busy. We will certainly be back to try their Sunday roasts at £9.99 and the ever popular afternoon tea. A super venue for business and families.

If you have dined at The Mercure Hotel please rate your experience by awarding it between between 1 and 5 stars, at the top of the page.

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Jamie's Italian

Milton Keynes

Jamie's Italian

Opening times

NAKED Chef, mockney mucker, health food campaigner and Sainsbury’s saviour – Jamie Oliver has had many faces during his varied career.

But the busy family man - Jamie has somehow managed to squeeze a wife and four kids into his schedule - never strays far from the world of food.

And his love for cooking is clear from the attention to deal found at Jamie’s Kitchen.

The chain was first launched in Oxford in 2008 and found its way to thecentre:mk at the back end of last year.

From the outside the restaurant looks a little dark, but that’s mainly due to the shelves of Jamie’s books and merchandise that crowd the entrance.

Inside it is smartly laid out over two floors with diners given a full view of their chefs in the kitchen – perfect for food voyeurs.

There are 11 of them at work when we visit, all beavering away to make sure the ingredients are freshly made.

The ethos of Jamie’s Italian is to serve up rustic Italian food using simple ingredients, and creating a relaxing, sharing foodie environment.

To do that the waiters and waitresses are experts on every item on the menu, explaining each dishes nuances with a breathless enthusiasm that even Jamie would be proud of – and the food isn’t half bad either.

I started with the Meat Antipasti Plank (£6.85), a fantastic mix of cured meats, Fennel salami, pistachio mortadella, prosciutto and schiacciata piccante. Add to that Buffalo mozzarella, pecorino with chilli jam, pickles, green chillies, green olives, Gaeta olives and caper berries, with a crunchy salad to cleanse the palate, and it’s no surprise I was constantly bugging my partner with ‘try this’ pleas.

All the ingredients have an Italian background I was told, expect for the green chilli which comes from Spain but Jamie just loved too much to leave out.

My partner went for a hefty looking bruschetta from the specials board, before sampling the Mini-Meatball Carbonara (£11.25).

I went for the rather more unique Wild Rabbit Tagliolini (£10.95), fresh to the Jamie’s Italian menu and slow-cooked with garlic and herbs.

All the main courses also come in a smaller – and cheaper – version perfect to have as an alternative starter.

If that isn’t enough for you there is a packed dessert menu.

We sampled the gorgeous Ji Warm Brownie (£4.95) and the opulent Italian Ice-Cream Bombe (£4.95) – the latter seemingly consisting of everything delicious they could find in the dessert section covered in the richest chocolate sauce imaginable.

Jamie’s doesn’t skimp on the drinks selection either – although you may have to dip into the plastic to cope with some of the prices. This, you get the impression, is where the real money is made.

A stacked wine list is complemented by a host of wicked looking cocktails, including Bellini, Milano and Rossini options and the thirst enducing Big Italian – Bombay Sapphire gin, Aperol, raspberry liqueur, fresh lemon juice and zingy raspberry purèe served over ice and finished with prosecco.

Beware though, these beauties can set you back anything from £5.45 to £7.50 each.

Still adhering to the post-Christmas health kick we opted to try the non-alcoholic cocktails. Refreshing names such as Citrus Cooler, Refresher and Tutti Fruiti are as enticing as they are thirst quenching, each with their own zingy kick.

With a new children’s menu available as well, Jamie’s Italian has a great offering for lovers of fresh food.

In one word – belissimo. Or should I say, pukka.

If you have dined at Jamie's Italian please rate your experience by awarding it between between 1 and 5 stars, at the top of the page.

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Viet Restaurant

Milton Keynes

Viet Restauarant

Opening times

HOT from its success in London, The Viet Restaurant will soon have as many people queuing outside as its older brother in the East End does.

Perfectly positioned en-route to Central Milton Keynes, it’s in an ideal location but without the associated parking headaches.

The first of its kind in the city, it really is the place to go for a unique taste of the Orient – perhaps for your first taste of the cuisine everyone is talking about – Vietnamese.

Vietnamese is all about fresh, light and healthy food, made with the highest quality ingredients – and the Viet Restaurant provides the perfect example of this. This really is the place to go for a family meal, a business lunch, a pre-theatre dinner, or even an office Christmas party meal.

Starters of Crispy Spring Rolls – filled with crab, pork and prawn – were the perfect introduction. Accompanied by Ha Noi Fish and Green Papaya Salad with Spicy Beef – I actually thought that the meal was over. But no – there was more to come.

We really were treated to the experience of eating like the Vietnamese do. Crispy Sea Bass with fresh mango and shaking beef with garlic was the ultimate follow-on from the fantastic starters. The beaches of Vietnam could be smelled from the sea bass and the freshness of the beef made this a dish to be absolutely savoured. Our taste buds sizzled and if I close my eyes I can still smell the wonderful aroma of that glorious feast.

The chef was passionate and pulled out all the stops to replicate the authentic experience of eating as they do in Vietnam – and the fried rice lived up to his claim that it was ‘the best this side of Hanoi’.

Would we go back? You bet we would... there is still so much on the menu that still needs exploring.

Vietnamese food - the fastest growing trend – but a trend that will last.

If you have dined at Viet Restaurant, please rate your experience by awarding it between between 1 and 5 stars, at the top of the page.

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The Grange

Grange Farm, MK

The Grange

Opening times

IF you want the best of Indian cuisine in smart yet comfortable surroundings then a visit to The Grange is a must.

And if you’re watching the pennies then there’s even more reason to try out this newly refurbished Grange Farm restaurant, which is now under the new management of Baba Syed.

For sheer value for money The Grange is difficult to beat on its banquet nights, held every Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday.

Hungry customers can tuck into five courses, chosen off the extensive menu, for just £9.95.

They can choose any starter, any main dish, any vegetable side dish, a variety of rice and any naan bread. There are literally dozens of appetising dishes on offer and the only banquet night exceptions are seafood and duck, says Mr Syed.

He and his restaurant manger Abdul Kadar are tickling tastebuds further once every month – and raising money for the Citizen-backed Little Lives Appeal to boot.

They will be holding Little Lives gourmet nights and offering a set menu five-course feast for £14.95 a head. And 25 per cent of the proceeds each night – including money from takeaways – will be donated to the neonatal unit appeal.

“A lot of our customers have babies who were born prematurely or sick, so we felt we wanted to help this appeal,” said Mr Syed.

The Grange’s whole ethos revolves around customer care and satisfaction. But it would be extremely difficult for a customer not to leave their premises replete and satisfied.

We dined fit for a queen and king on the Grange special mixed starter, a mouth-watering array of chicken tikka, sheek kabab, vegetable samosa and onion bhaji all served with juicy fried onions.

Then there was Tawa Gosh, tender pieces of lamb cooked in a tangy sauce with fresh garlic, ginger and herbs. Equally delicious was Hari Hari Mirchi, chicken simmered in garlic and herbs and garnished with fried onions, green chillies and coriander.

With vegetable side dishes, rice and naan breads included in the price, it was hard to believe we had eaten quite so much for under £20.

The Grange, which sometimes offers live jazz as background music, is open Monday to Friday from 12 noon until 2pm and 5.30pm until 11pm. On Sundays opening hours are 12 noon to 10.30pm.

For bookings contact The Grange on 01908 340607 or 01908 340660

If you have dined at The Grange, please rate your experience by awarding it between between 1 and 5 stars, at the top of the page.

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Murrays @ Whittlebury Hall

Whittlebury, near Towcester

Murrays at Whittlebury Hall

Opening times

THE shower in the room is extremely hot. As in ‘burn your skin off if you stand under there too long’ hot.

I mention this as I wouldn’t want this review to seem too glowing, but it is the only negative thing I can find to say about my stay at Whittlebury Hall.

Because the rest of it has been magnificent. If I were a trendy web type creating a ‘tag’ cloud of the words surrounding my visit it might look something like this: caviar, sauna, sausages, comfort, swimming, beef, steam room, ice cream.

A pretty attractive selection of dictionary data I’m sure you’d agree.

And ones that describe a business which is still very much open despite the fact the company which owns it, Whittlebury Hall Limited, has gone into administration.

Hotel manager David Munson is keen to stress this as Mrs Lewis and I sip drinks in the lounge before enjoying our main ‘task’ of the visit: sampling the wares of new head chef Damyan Stafanov at Murrays restaurant.

Murrays currently holds 2AA Rosettes and is looking to gain a third – something that would allow its sister eatery Astons to apply for its first Rosette. Mr Munson even goes a little misty eyed when mentioning the longer term possibility of Michelin stars.

Swapping Michelin stars for tyres, brings us to another Murrays talking point – motorsport. Named after iconic Formula 1 commentator, Murray Walker, the restaurant is adorned with pictures and humorous quotes from the renowned race watcher. Whittlebury, with its close proximity to Silverstone, is a well-known temporary home for race-goers and even for F1 drivers and their entourages.

Dining at Murrays is an intimate, relaxed experience – head chef Damian says his ambition is to build “on an already wonderful dining experience, using the finest carefully sourced quality seasonal and local ingredients.”

The menu he is currently using to do that is based on the theme of the Modern British Menu.

I give into an opulent desire to sample caviar and plump for Organic Salmon with lemon, Jersey Royal and caviar for my starter (£12). The tiny fish eggs are somewhat underwhelming for my common palate, but even I can recognise the high quality of the salmon.

Other starters are Tea Smoked Duck (£10) – as sampled by Mrs L – Goats Curd (£10) and Scallops and Pork (£12).

For the main course I opted for the 35 days dry aged beef, served with fillet, onions, mushroom and horseradish (£27), while my wife went for the Cotswold White Chicken with spatzle, pancetta, young leeks and morels (£20).

As with most fine dining experiences, less elegant foodies such as myself worry they will be starving after consuming these beautifully presented, but slight looking, courses but the food is more than filling and the flavours are unsurprisingly exquisite.

There is still room, however, for me to sample a delightfully tasty selection of British cheeses, complete with chutney, quince jelly, biscuits, figs and almond cake (£15) washed down with a small glass of port.

Mrs Lewis, meanwhile, opts for the Chocolate and Tonka Bean (£10) – a chocolate mousse with tonka bean ice cream that leaves her temporarily shocked when our waitress reveals the beans are poisonous. But only in large quantities, far larger – she assures us – than those used in this delicious ice cream.

I am, nevertheless, fleetingly reminded of the Simpsons episode in which Homer consumes a poisonous fugu fish at a sushi restaurant and is told he only has 21 hours to live. I hasten to add that Mrs L remains fit and healthy after her tonka bean encounter.

Whittlebury Hall – home to 211 spacious bedrooms – was opened in 1999 as a hotel and management training centre (the National Audio Show is springing into life as we leave). The famous Spa was added in July 2005 and it also offers a popular Leisure Club. After a good night’s sleep the latter was something we were able to use to indulge in a spot of relaxation.

Offering a bubbling Jacuzzi, sweltering hot sauna and steam rooms and a welcoming swimming pool it proved the perfect start to our day. The Leisure Club also offers a modern and tiring looking gym boasting, I am told, 44 pieces of ‘the latest Cybex equipment and power plate technology’. Wow – far too much like hard work on a Saturday morning.

What wasn’t hard work at all was the delicious breakfast that rounded off our trip to Whittlebury Hall.

Served in Astons, diners can choose from a traditional English brekkie or the usual Continental alternative. Safe to say we left with full bellies to counter any benefits the sauna may have had.

I am guessing F1’s best drivers don’t eat so heartily before heading off to Silverstone, but if you want to enjoy a taste of the high life enjoyed by these racing heroes, Whittlebury Hall is the place to be – and it’s definitely open for business.

Just watch out for those showers...

If you have dined at Murrays, Whittlebury Hall, please rate your experience by awarding it between between 1 and 5 stars, at the top of the page.

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Browns Bar & Brasserie

Milton Keynes

Calcutta Brasserie

Opening times

STYLE and comfort are as much products of the Browns dining experience as good quality food.

The recently refurbished and classically designed interior instantly relax diners, while the brasserie style adds something a little more continental to proceedings. Located in The Hub, Browns offers a home to the lunchtime work crowd, casual shoppers, businessmen, families and romantic couples alike.

My wife and I started with the Vegetarian Platter - who could resist a dish that included something as exotic sounding as babganoosh.

And although this wonderful sounding food is, in fact, nothing more exciting than aubergine mixed with seasonings - no, I had no idea either - it was as delicious as the rest of the European style platter.

Mozarella baked mushrooms, harissa houmous, spinach and artichoke dip, herb focaccia, peppers and carrot chips made a welcome, and filling, change from Prawn Cocktail.

For our main meals we dined on grilled chicken breast with prosciutto and teleggio; and the more traditional fillet steak, accompanied by confit tomato, mushroom and the chunkiest of chunky chips.

But Browns offers a far more varied menu than those selections suggest with other options ranging for crab, crayfish and coriander cakes to chicken schnitzel, goat's cheese, brie and spinach filo parcel to pork and beef meatballs.

The desert menu is no less tempting with apple and strawberry galette, rich dairy ice cream, sticky toffee pudding and hot chocolate brownie available, along with Browns cheese board for those of us who don't have such a sweet tooth.

Suffering no such pretentions ourselves we opted for the Profiteroles and the brownie, both as good as they sound.

And if that food sounds a little bit daunting and maybe a bit too much on the Continental side, Browns also does a traditional sounding Afternoon Tea including cucumber sandwiches, cream cakes and good old fashioned tea. As I said, style and comfort...

If you have dined at Browns Bar & Brasserie please rate your experience by awarding it between between 1 and 5 stars, at the top of the page.

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Red Hot World Buffet and Bar

Theatre District, CMK

Red Hot Buffet

Opening times

Located in the heart of the Theatre District, Red Hot can cater for more than 350 people.

If you ever struggle trying to pick a meal from a set menu, Red Hot offers over 120 dishes from seven different world cuisines including Chinese, Italian, Mexican, Indian, Cajun, Japanese and Thai.

Hearing the words 'all you can eat buffet' has always evoked a heady mix of delight and trepidation. The thought of feasting on a myriad of foods is tempered by the knowledge that self control is not my forte.

So when I hear that Red Hot World Buffet serves up to 120 dishes, spanning the cuisines of seven countries, you can imagine my concern. Furthermore, the food snob in me is sceptical about how a restaurant can produce such a vast selection to a high standard.

So I was pleasantly surprised to find this Theatre District restaurant, in Savoy Crescent, Milton Keynes, really does just that. And its stylish red and black decor and soft lighting create an unexpectedly contemporary feel for a buffet-style eatery.

I'm clearly not alone in reaching this verdict. While many other local restaurants have been badly hit by the recession, Red Hot World Buffet still has crowds of hungry diners pouring through its doors throughout the week as well as weekends.

The lively venue serves up a lavish spread of Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Indian, Mexican, Cajun and Italian dishes, all under one roof. As well as an overwhelming choice of buffet dishes, chefs at so-called 'live stations' will whip up your choice of curry or stir fry on demand, using fresh ingredients.

So the key to survival, I decide, is to choose a few dishes at a time, rather than get carried away. Taking a plate from the 'plate station', I start with some Indian starters - bhajis, pakora and naan bread - with a taste of tamarind, mango and mint chutneys. A mountain of fresh king prawns and mussels arranged at the foot of an ice sculpture catches my eye. I'm tempted, but decide to pace myself.

I settle for an accompaniment of glass noodle salad – one of about 10 colourful cold dishes which look amazingly fresh. After polishing that off, I take a cautious walk around the hot main dishes, kept at 63 degrees, and survey each one. Restraint falls by the wayside as I heap my plate with Thai green chicken curry, Mongolian prawns and stir-fry squid in black bean sauce, with a few steamed mussels for good measure.

All are delicious and leave me in no doubt that I must go back for more. It seems rude not to try something from one of the live stations so I pluck some fresh courgettes and peppers and ask for a small helping of chicken balti at the 'Indian Dancing Wok'. I watch as spices, chicken and vegetables are tossed in a steaming hot wok. The next station offers a choice of Japanese and Chinese noodles cooked up in the same theatrical way.

My partner and I soon realise we may have reached our limits, but I forge ahead and check out the desserts. Crafted by inhouse pastry chefs, the small squares of chocolate brownies, blueberry cheesecake and panna cotta are the perfect soupcon of sweetness to end a thoroughly indulgent meal. For the health conscious, there's also fresh fruit, or fruit flamb, while the pick-and-mix, home-made ice cream and jelly are certain to keep the children happy.

Looking around there are several families eating here and, at prices starting from £7.95 a head for lunch and £12.95 for dinner, it's certainly good value. You can even get roast dinner on a Sunday.

The venue is also popular for post-work nights out and with a capacity for 300 people, the main restaurant is an ideal place for large groups, while next to it is a smaller, more sophisticated Japanese-style dining area. This room, which seats up to 80 people, can also be hired for corporate use and networking events and bespoke menus can be arranged. And Red Hot Buffet will even quote for outside catering.

If you are dining at the weekend, you can expect to have to wait a while for a table. But you'll be invited to take a seat and enjoy a drink in the bar, which has an extensive list of wines, beers, spirits and cocktails. This is hardly a chore though. The chic, atmospheric bar with its striking ceiling to floor artwork, makes a great starting place for a fun and vibrant night out.

If you have dined at Red Hot Buffet, please rate your experience by awarding it between between 1 and 5 stars, at the top of the page.

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Calcutta Brasserie

Stony Stratford

Calcutta Brasserie

Opening times

IT turns out to be the perfect end to the day – a visit to Stony Stratford’s Indian Cuisine hub Calcutta Brasserie.

My dining partner Al and I are here to sample the Valentine’s Fare menu.
Chicken, lamb, king prawns... but wait. We are both vegetarian.

“No problem,” says clearly unfazed manager Mo who then presents us with a menu boasting a truly exceptional array of dishes for the meat-free.

Mo tells us that several of the chefs at Calcutta are also veggies, and the arrival of our starter (after the obligatory poppadoms and relishes have been polished off) shows they clearly know what they are doing.

We are served an exquisitely arranged mini-platter of palate-awakeners. Particular favourites? The Chowk Ki Tikka Potato Cakes with ginger, fresh chillies and roasted cumin for me, the Paneer Tikka Kali Mirch (cubes of Indian cottage cheese which have been marinated with spices and black pepper and then grilled) hit the right spot with Al, and we are both knocked out by the Tandoori Broccoli, which has been marinated with cream, cheese and yogurt.
Who would have thought that a vegetable so green, could make us so keen?

Our main course of Vegetarian Thaali is a sizzling hotbed of spices and we tuck into the colourful culinary delight before us with sure and certain relish.

The Calcutta Brasserie prides itself on attention to detail – all dishes are authentically sourced and prepared, and organic and free range ingredients are the norm, not the exception.

The proof is in the tasting, and at Calcutta you get a true representation of Indian cusiine: “We have food on the menu that reflects every region of India,” Mo says, proudly.

And he has every right to feel that way with fare so fabulous as this.
It is a given that we will indulge in dessert too, and while Al opts for the Rasmalai, I carefully dismantle the delicious Mango Kulfi, which looks like a work of art. It is delicately matched with a strawberry sauce and juicy blueberries. We enjoyed wonderful food and fantastic presentation in a venue that succeeds in feeling classy and cosy.

The three course Valentine’s menu with champagne reception costs £24.95 per person. Call 01908 566577 for bookings and make your Valentine’s Day a spicy one.

If you have dined at Calcutta Brasserie please rate your experience by awarding it between between 1 and 5 stars, at the top of the page.

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Lassan

Olney

Lassan, Olney

Opening times

AS a town Olney generally does everything with a pinch of class and a great deal of pretty. And its newest addition doesn’t buck the trend.

Described as an ‘upmarket Indian restaurant’ and positioned in the north of the town in the renovated former Castle pub, Lassan only opened on October 10. But the Dartmouth Road eatery is already popular with Olney foodies as it was packed during our visit last Thursday night.

And you can tell why when you taste the food served up by attentive and friendly staff.

My wife and I kicked off with the usual poppadoms, followed by Onion Bhajee (£3.50) and Tandoori Jheengha (£5.50).

And there was no messing around with small starters. My wife’s Onion Bhajees were the biggest either of us had ever seen, with plenty of quality flavour to complement the quantity.

The Tandoori Jheenga – consisting of jumbo tiger prawns marinated in yoghurt, spices and grilled in the tandoor – was as delicious as it sounds, with a spicy taste which added to the dish, rather than swamping it as can be the case.
Accompanied by the largest of large Cobra beers I took on the Chicken Bhuna (£8) for my main course; while Mrs L went for the Butter Chicken (£9).

As with every Indian the main courses were accompanied with a range of side dishes, in our case a sweet Peshawari Naan, plain naan (both £3), cucumber raita (£2.50) and Khattley Meethey Baingan (£4) – a dish consisting of baby aubergines with sweet yoghurt and tamarind sauce,

Lassan offers an original and varied selection of side dishes, with other options including Mushroom Hara Pyaz – button mushrooms and spring onion – and Bhindi Do Pyaza – stir fried Okra with red onions. The main menu also includes the superb looking Lassan Special Thali, a dish which was served up at a table close to ours.

This monster of a meal, costing £15, comes on a wide, round plate and has separate compartments for Chicken Tikka, Galouti Kebab, Chicken Tikka Masala, Kashmiri Rogan Josh, Aloo Gobi, Dal, Raita, Naan and rice. Hope you’re hungry...

The real joy of Lassan is the variety and flavour of the food. This is not your average quench the fire in your mouth with lager Indian that can be found on every high street.

Lassan, like picturesque Olney itself, is worth going that little bit further for.

If you have dined at Lassan, please rate your experience by awarding it between between 1 and 5 stars, at the top of the page.

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Papa John's

Newport Pagnell

Papa John's, Newport Pagnell

Opening times

Pizza – it’s one of the simplest meals you’re ever going to eat, but so easy to get wrong if it’s not on point

Yet the good people at Papa John’s new restaurant in High Street, Newport Pagnell, provided exactly what we needed on a cold Tuesday night.

There are hundreds of takeaways in Milton Keynes, so why would you choose this one? Because if you’re hungry or want to feed an army, Papa John’s provide the largest pizza in town – literally.

The Extra Extra Large pizza is 15 inches in diameter compared to the largest offerings across town of around 12 ins, but the extra really does make the difference.

I had never eaten a Papa John’s pizza before, but I certainly will again. And their Two-for-Tuesday offer is on hand for the really hungry, or those wanting breakfast the next day.

We were delivered, on time and still hot, five of the XXL pizzas, priced at a reasonable £15.99 each, showing us the wide array of toppings on offer. We enjoyed All The Meats (ham, pepperoni, sausage, bacon, spicy beef), Chicken BBQ, the Hawaiian Special, The Works (pepperoni, Italian style sausage, ham, mushrooms, green peppers, onions, black olives) and the vegetarian option, The Garden (red onions, green peppers, cherry tomatoes, sweetcorn, mushrooms) – not to mention potato wedges, chicken dippers and wings on the side.

The Original base was deep and doughy, with a thinner option available, the toppings were full of flavour and there was something for everyone to enjoy.

Papa John’s give us a feast fit, and large enough, for a king – a king who didn’t fancy cooking for himself after work.

If you have dined at Papa John's, please rate your experience by awarding it between between 1 and 5 stars, at the top of the page.

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