Thursday, 16 June 2016

Anniversaries, Paris House and Michelin Stars

Can anyone explain to me the apparent requirement that forces posh restaurants to serve tiny portions on enormous plates? 'I'm sorry chef, you'll have to wait until next year, your plates just aren't big enough.' Surely there's a compromise to be found?

As we sat at the table of Paris House eating a 10 course marathon meal extravaganza, and considering that point (in my head), I was also reminding Mrs P just how lucky she was for being married to me for the past 5 years. No, wait. It was the other way around wasn't it, I was reminding myself about how lucky I was for being married to Mrs P while also talking about these needlessly enormous plates. It was our five year anniversary and I thought that I had a lot to make up for during the previous five years of embarrassing decisions and general knobbyness that Mrs P has had to endure at my hands by treating her to some slap-up nosh.

I've written about it in a bit more detail over at Two Men About Town so head over to get the full run down.

Five years though... to be fair, I'm quite grateful that she's not slapped an injunction on me by now. So I figured that if nothing else, she deserved a bit of a treat and Paris House certainly gave us that. I've been lucky enough to go over there a few times to meet Phil Fanning, owner and Head Chef during my experiences judging the MK Food Awards and don't think for a second I missed the opportunity to introduce Mrs P to 'my close personal friend (aka someone I've met a couple of times) Phil, you know, the Michelin starred chef'. 

Just in case you can't be bothered to click on the link - here's a couple of the best pictures/dishes:

The review contains all my thoughts about the place so have a read if you want to know all about the food and why you should appreciate fine dining as an unforgettable experience, but I kept back this one to share with you lovely people who continue to read these posts for your own oddly comforting yet still undeniably voyeuristic reasons; why is it that the good times feel too short and the bad times feel too long?

Happy Anniversary Mrs P, it feels like yesterday and in 40 years time, I hope it still does.

Monday, 30 May 2016

The Black Horse in Woburn

So, my Two Men About Town blog has taken off a little more ferociously than I had first thought and I've not had that much time to put down much on here but here's a link to my experience at the launch of the new Summer menu at the Black Horse in Woburn that I was lucky enough to be invited to:

The Black Horse Summer Menu Review

I've mentioned how uneasy I find these press events and really, unless you can get talking to people that realise and appreciate how inherently odd they actually are, I'm remain unconvinced. Luckily I was on home turf at the Black Horse and the team there are quite exceptional. They have been my go-to venue of choice for lunches with family for the last couple of years because a) they are consistently good, and b) they have always pitched the menu on the right sight of 'expensive enough to be worth the trip vs. enough good value not to mind.' So once again, they produced a solid and excellent performance even in the most extreme of circumstances (names of those involved have been changed to protect the innocent)

It's weird to think that we're now moving into the Summer season which is when (this time last year) I started to really see interest get put my way with all sorts of people getting in touch. This blogging lark is interesting in how it changes the way you start thinking about what you're doing and where you're going. I think that an honest blog and trusted is worth a lot more than a hundred Trip Advisor clones, even if we do get it wrong every now and then.

Coming Soon: Paris House - A Michelin Starred Anniversary (because she's worth it)

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Wine Tasting at The Old Thatched Inn in Adstock

I used to think that there was nothing better than going out for a good knees up on a school night. These days I try and be a bit more measured in my approach but still it's good to meet new people.

I spent a very relaxing evening last week doing exactly that at one of Mrs P's favourite pubs The Old Thatched Inn; eating, drinking and talking. What's not to like?

All the details are over on Two Men About Town: so check it out if you want to know what happens when you sign up for something without really thinking it through...

Friday, 20 May 2016

Two Men About Town - a new direction

I've been blessed in my life with some truly great friends, I've known some for over 30 years and others for less than 2 but I'm glad to say that I am lucky that I have the opportunity to make new ones every day. Recently, one of those friends said:

'Hey Rob, I really like your blog, It's amazing, clearly the best blog written by anyone ever but you don't talk about much other than food. Let's do a blog together where you can talk about anything because I really value your thoughts on various topics such as what type of shoes you wear or the crisis in the Middle East.'

Yep, that's what he said and if @suburbangent tries to tell you different, he's a dirty liar. So, without any further fanfare and self-trumpet blowing, I would like to present to you, in association with my good friend Mr SuburbanGent:

Two Men About Town

I'm not going to stop RobsRibs but Two Men will be a place for far more discussion on everything that is stimulating, intriguing or pleasurable in our lives. However, you can assured that because I'm involved there will still be food, a lot of food.

So whizz on over and take a look, you never know you might even find it interesting.

Monday, 9 May 2016

MK Food Awards 2016 - the aftermath

Who doesn't like a good awards ceremony? Usually it's a perfect chance to dress up in Tux and tie to meet, mingle and generally get drunk with as many like minded people as possible. So it was that last Sunday granted another great example for the best of the local catering industry in Milton Keynes to measure up and see exactly which of them had captured the public's heart over the past twelve months.

I covered the event last year and was really pleased to be invited to take part again, although I felt even more of a fraud as I spoke all evening to people who have put their money where their mouths are and actually done something about their passion for food and drink rather than just hiding behind the safety of a laptop and throwing out opinions whether people want them to or not.*

So what happened, who was there and what did we eat? Well, as per last year, I arrived too late to sample the appetisers made by Milton Keynes catering college students (dammit, I really do have to work on my timing), but breezed in to take my seat on the Mayoral table.

Which turned out to be a genius plan as Mr and Mrs Mayor were on the last few weeks wind down at the end of their tour of civic duty and were more than willing to join in with the gusto of the evening. I was also sat with some of the smaller independent producers whom I've recently covered and got to know - it's these guys who are willing to take the risks that the big brands won't and prove just how exciting your Friday night takeaway can be: @urbangrilla @foodinmk @mkfoodrev @goodtimescafeUK

Starters were cheese, tomato salsa and a couple of tasty green pea splodges - there is always a compromise to be had when catering for a large number of people and good spirits kept the table in excellent humour even when the temperature soared past 'sweaty' and hit 'sauna' early on.

Mains came with plenty of added gravy and mint sauce for those who wanted it.

But it was the desert that was the highlight - a trio of spoonfuls that provided chocolate, lemon and strawberry mouthfuls that tasted as good as they looked. It's never going to be easy to cater for so many people and while compromises will always have to be made, this dish made the most of the opportunity and so hats off to the team @berthoolivier for making such a good fist of it.

As with any event that I now attend alongside fellow eating enthusiast @Loubou, I have learned that she will inevitably take far better pictures than I can. So please check out her blog here as I'm sure she'll give you a much better view of the ambience and atmosphere than any wobbly views of a group of mates on the wrong side of a bottle of prosecco which is pretty much all I managed to come away with.

The big awards went to Spencer Orlington from Bistro Live for Chef of the year, The Don for Best Newcomer and Nonnas for Restaurant of the year, none of which I have visited and so they immediately jump to the top of the 'should visit' list. The winners of the category that I was lucky enough the judge was The Indian Orchard and the Hornes Brewery which are both products which I have already further enjoyed since the judging!

So, in summary I have nothing but massive congratulations for all the worthy winners and competitors that are working so hard to make my home town a better place to live and eat in. You can find all the details at the MK Food and Leisure Award HQ once they have recovered enough from the evening to post them up, or you can follow them @mkfoodawards. If nothing else, the evening just goes to show that the foodie scene here in Milton Keynes is growing at a breakneck pace and there is so much for us to be proud of. Excellent work from everyone - well done and I'll see you all next year! 

I'm describing me there in case you hadn't noticed. 

Friday, 29 April 2016

Judging the MK Food Awards 2016

A lot can happen in a year. Loads, and don't even get me started on the beginning of this year. But no matter how much is squeezed in, it always seems to go so quickly - for example, it doesn't seem so very long ago that I was judging last years entries in the local produce category of the annual MK Food Awards. Fast forward a year, and here we are again looking at even more entries. Looking across the table I'm so pleased to see that local producers are getting better and better.

As the date got closer I was once again summoned to Paris House, and I was therefore (also once again) pointedly reminded by Mrs P. that I hadn't taken her to eat there yet. Paris House as our resident Michelin starred venue remains as beautiful, classy and desirable as ever. Mrs P. need not fear, a reservation will be made.

I joined the esteemed panel which this year included (alongside Steve from the ever present @mkfoodawards) Phil Fanning of @parishousechef, Jeff of @jeffthechefhogs and Lou from @loubou. The entries for the 2016 awards were as varied as ever and for those interested in the full list:


Kandola’s Kitchen – Chocolates 
Gunter Weber – Rural Honey
Frosts Food Hall – Chicken Liver Pâté
Fistful of Spice – Caribbean Hot Sauce Mango Chilli 
Virtual Orchard – Cider Vinegar with Mother
The Indian Orchard – Garlic and Tamarind Pickle 
Jam Moo Kow – Plum & Cinnamon Jam
Wodehill – Croxton Ewe Cheese
Amazing-Grains – Rye Bread

Hornes Brewery – Triple Goat Porter 4.6% vol
Bucks Star Brewery – Cloudy Artisan Beer 4% vol
White Park Brewery – Oast House 4.8% vol
Concrete Cow Brewery – MK IPA 5% vol

Full details of this and all the categories will be announced on the 8th of May - but suffice to say that choosing from such a group of products was not easy and there was much discussion on the individual merits of each entry. What was also not easy was consuming a combination of all the above at 9am in the morning, lucky they don't call me Rob 'iron stomach' for nothing. This judging lark isn't all fast cars and fancy country houses you know.

And as so you, dear readers, would expect, I'll be there on the 8th tweeting and blogging so you won't miss out on the action. If you haven't already, you only have a couple more days to enter the public vote so get yourself over to and let them know what you think.

Lou took much  better pictures than I did so head over to her blog at Miltonkeynesgirl to check them out.

Monday, 25 April 2016

The Old Thatched Inn - Adstock (redux)

Last year, I was in need of a good Sunday lunch and together with my brother-in-law, the Family P all trooped off to The Old Thatched Inn (TOTI) at Adstock. As you may recall, it wasn't a 100% satisfactory experience, but since then I have suffered many such Sunday lunch related disappointments and so, when they got back in touch and offered us the chance to give TOTI* another crack, we jumped at the chance. Admittedly, Mrs P has visited a few more times than me but she has been a die-hard TOTI fan for a while and even demanded that I include them in my recent top tips.

So, a date night was confirmed and after the babysitter arrived (this was adult time - no dolls or disney channel talk allowed), we got right to it so to speak. As before, this place looks great. Full of generous helpings of character and homely atmosphere. It represents the best kind of modern country pub. It's the sort of place you could rock up for a decent pint, then after a couple of drinks decide to stay for a bit of pan-fried Aylesbury duck breast in the restaurant. As you do.

His and hers, Mrs P has always loved a good pint of bitter**. The beer here is good but not spectacularly local and there is still enough Doombar on tap for the average non-fanatical beer drinking CAMRA aficionados among us.  They do, however, serve bubbles by the glass. A Mrs P pleaser for sure!  

The decor remains relaxed and wonderfully comfortable with big squashy sofas from where you can enjoy your pre-dinner drinkiepoos.

Starters were a wild garlic and white onion soup with some kind of giant homemade fried focaccia croutons and a Mediterranean salad. Wild garlic is just so now, dah-ling and this was absolutely lovely - the portion was ample and the flavour was just as generous. The salad was fresh and light with classic flavours and again, presented in bumper proportions.

Mains were equally impressive and looked if not pretty, then certainly tasteful. The duck and mash were soft and packed with flavour, the skin crunchy and beautifully blistered. The cabbage bringing a mild but sharp twang that cut through the fatty duck like a tasty bolt of lightning through a storm called Dinner.

The menu proudly declares that the blade of beef has been cooked for 8 hours and having tasted it, I would believe them even if they claimed to have spent 6 of those hours painting each one with freshly squeezed rainbow juice from a brush made from shaved unicorn hair. The meat simply melted away and with the crunch of the veg was such a joy that I had to resist the urge to slap Mrs P on the hand with my knife when she suggested that we 'swap plates'.

The puds were equally stella with an apple and custard tart sitting alongside the most intense chocolate parfait I've ever had. The tart was creamy and smooth with that custard nestling within its pastry cup just daring you to smother it with the quenelle of solidified apple sauce that was placed so tantalizingly close.

The parfait was a great mix of tastes and textures. From the crunch of nuts, the smooth nutella dollop on the top and the dense and intense parfait itself;

Understated and classy, the plates brought the whole meal to a well deserved end. We rolled out seriously pleased and replete, safe in the knowledge that if we had paid for the meal, we would still have had change from £30 a head plus drinks. For food like this, that is serious value. 

A great pub, my only slight annoyance is that they insist on calling themselves a 'gastro pub', there is no shame in being just a pub and TOTI can sleep easy knowing that they are good enough to let the gastro speak for itself.

*Great acronym - every time i say it, I think of this, but perhaps that says more about me than I would like to publicly admit.

**That joke actually caused Mrs P to commit physical violence upon my person. 

While Mrs P and I dined as guests of TOTI, the opinions expressed here are mine and mine alone, it must be said though that we liked it so much that we signed up there and then for their upcoming wine tasting evening. Four courses and wine for 45 quid, what's not to like?