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The Swan wins for the third year running

  The Swan at Salford has won two prestigious awards at this year’s Milton Keynes Food & Leisure Awards. Talented young chef Stefano Boi, 26, sous chef at the pub has been named Chef of the Year, making it the third year running that chefs from the pub have earned the coveted title, and The Swan picked up the public’s vote for the best pub in Milton Keynes at the annual awards. 

Like his fellow chefs Mark Austin, who heads up the kitchen at the Salford gastro pub and Shane Clarke his deputy, who won the title in 2012 and 2013 respectively, Stefano’s flair for cooking good, honest plates of seasonal food shone through at the awards.  His approach to the competition, including the effort he put into creating his menu and the skill he showed in cooking it for the judges, all contributed to his success. 

Before joining the team at The Swan, Stefano worked in fine dining at Luton Hoo Hotel, Golf and Spa, where he evolved as a chef and learned many of the core skills he would come to rely on as a chef.  

He used all of this great experience, alongside working in a busy award-winning gastro pub kitchen, to devise a three course menu inspired by great British, local and seasonal produce for the awards.  He then competed against 10 other chefs at the cook-off at Milton Keynes College on 8th April, which saw fierce competition in the kitchen as contenders worked hard to create three perfect plates of food.


Stefano’s menu particularly impressed the judges, with his main course of slow-cooked Jimmy Butler’s pork collar coming in for particular praise.  Judge Phil Fanning, head chef at Paris House in Woburn said that “Stefano is a well organised chef with a calm aura.  He does great flavours and is passionate at such a young age.” 

The Milton Keynes Food & Leisure Awards recognise the best places to eat, drink and socialise in and around Milton KeynesNow in their third year, the awards also call upon local people to vote for the best restaurants, pubs, hotels, chefs, gyms and destinations in their area, with the top chefs being chosen by a panel of expert judges at a live cook-off. 

“I entered the competition because I felt it was a good opportunity to showcase my skills as a chef and show my passion for what I do,” said Stefano. 

“I’m quite competitive but I’m also quite humble at the same time, so I was worried about not winning and obviously wanted to do well for the pub and our guests, as well as myself.  When my name was read out on the night, though, I was bowled over – it was quite a surprise.

“I think my menu stood out because I didn’t try to overcomplicate it to impress the judges, but went with dishes that were fairly simple which looked good, tasted good and were well executed,” he said. “I also tried to bring myself forward as a chef at the cook-off, talking to the judges about the ingredients and techniques in my dishes and working well with my commis chef.  

“It’s really amazing to win and I am proper chuffed about it,” he added.

The Swan was also voted Best Pub in the awards, the second time it has achieved public recognition, having been named Best Restaurant in 2013. Andrew Coath who runs the pub said that being recognised in this way was all down to the hard work put in by the team, not only Stefano and his fellow chefs in the kitchen but also the front of house team: 

“We’ve got a really amazing group of people at the pub,” said Andrew. “Talented chefs from solid Rosette backgrounds who cook some terrific food and a fantastic team in the restaurant and behind the bar, too.  Winning these two awards, which showcase the best of Milton Keynes, is brilliant news for not just for them, but also the pub and most importantly, our guests,” he said.


The Swan is at 2 Wavendon Road, Salford, Milton Keynes, MK17 8BD.  Tel: 01908 281008. 

 Stefano Boi’s menu for the 2014 Milton Keynes Food & Leisure Awards cook-off: 

Starter:        Grafham Water Line Caught Trout, Spring Onion & Brown Shrimp Risotto, Broad Bean Fritters, Chive Oil 

Main:            Slow-cooked Jimmy Butler’s Pork Collar, Sticky Cheeks, Celeriac, Asparagus & Morels,  Scratching Potatoes, Apple Jus

Dessert:        Valrhona White Chocolate Choux Swan, Raspberry, Vodka & Tarragon


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 The Embankment helps young local footballer go pro


Talented young footballer Lewis Lodge from Bedford is getting the chance to play for his dream team Luton Town FC Pre-Academy after winning much-needed sponsorship from local businesses including The Embankment in Bedford. 

The 12 and a half year old, who attends Mark Rutherford Upper School in Bedford, got the life-line after a chance meeting with Lance Haggith, founder of Sports Traider, who helped secure the funding from The Embankment to go towards Lewis’ training for next season which will see him continue his development into the academy.  Lance takes up the story.

“Lewis is a very talented young footballer, playing centre back for Crawley Green FC, winners of the treble in 2013, who was voted Manager’s Player of the Season as well as Parents’ Player of the Season in 2013.  In the past year he has played for and trained with Tottenham Hotspur and Queen’s Park Rangers Academy sides. 

“He is also signed to Luton Town FC Pre-Academy, and after a very successful season there, has got the opportunity to return for another season.  The only stumbling block is the £1025 needed to pay for the two training sessions a week, the games, his new kit and a residential end of season tour to Europe 

“Lewis is registered young carer to his mum Louise, helping her in the her daily routine as well as looking after his younger sister, a commitment which meant that over the last few years he hasn’t had the footballing opportunities he deserved.  Now, with the prospect of playing professionally a very real one, we turned to our friends at The Embankment to give him a helping hand.  Together we’ve supported several talented young sporting stars in the making over the years, and have a close relationship, and we thought they’d been keen to help again,” says Lance.

Jonathan Taylor, manager of The Embankment, and his team were only too pleased to step in to help Lewis raise the money he needs to return to the pre-academy, offering support from a charitable fund called the Peach Foundation set up last year to help causes like Lewis’, as Jonathan explains. 

“Here at the pub we have always supported local and sustainable projects, putting something back into our community and helping local heroes achieve their dreams,” he says.  “We donate 25p from every Caesar salad we sell at the pub to good causes, such as sporting and healthy eating activities in local schools. 

“When we found out about Lewis’ situation, we naturally wanted to do something and are pleased we can using funds from the Peach Foundation to cover the costs of his training, kit and travel this year.  Youngsters like Lewis are a great inspiration to all of us, and we’re happy we can do our bit and see him grow into the talented professional footballer he can be,” says Jonathan.

Anyone who wants to help Lewis can do so by ordering a Caesar salad next time they eat at The Embankment, or by going to to find out more or make a donation to his training fund.  


Ibis Stevenage Centre earns 2013 Tripadvisor Certificate of excellence 


Honoured as a Top Performing Hotel  as Reviewed by Travellers on the World’s Largest Travel Site

Ibis Stevenage Centre Hotel today announced that it has received a TripAdvisor® Certificate of Excellence award. The accolade, which honours hospitality excellence, is given only to establishments that consistently achieve outstanding traveller reviews on TripAdvisor, and is extended to qualifying businesses worldwide. Only the top-performing 10 per cent of businesses listed on TripAdvisor receive this prestigious award.

To qualify for a Certificate of Excellence, businesses must maintain an overall rating of four or higher, out of a possible five, as reviewed by travellers on TripAdvisor, and must have been listed on TripAdvisor for at least 12 months. Additional criteria include the volume of reviews received within the last 12 months. 

“Ibis Stevenage Centre is pleased to receive a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence,” said Ruslana Yarmolyuk General Manager  at Ibis Stevenage. “We strive to offer our customers a memorable experience, and this accolade is evidence that our hard work is translating into positive reviews on TripAdvisor.”

“TripAdvisor is delighted to celebrate the success of businesses around the globe, from Sydney to Chicago, Sao Paulo to Rome, which are consistently offering TripAdvisor travellers a great customer experience,” said Alison Copus, Vice President of Marketing for TripAdvisor for Business. “The Certificate of Excellence award provides top performing establishments around the world the recognition they deserve, based on feedback from those who matter most – their customers.”


 Restaurant Review




The former Hillside restaurant has been recently transformed into Kippings Bistro and Wine bar with a completely refurbished interior, a new chef and dynamic new menu. Kippings is situated in the heart of the picturesque village of Wheathampstead close to Welwyn and St Albans. 


The Sticks dropped in for Lunch the other week to see what Kippings had to offer. 

Kippings has a good ala carte menu with a wide selection of dishes both for starter/main course and desert. 

For starters I chose pan seared sea scallops, sweet potato purée, cumin, coriander –the scallops were amazing not over cooked like I have had at some restaurants and the accompanying potato puree went so well with it. 


For main course I selected char grilled ribeye, fried duck egg, triple cooked chips, blue cheese butter-the ribeye was the tastiest I had had in a long while and perfectly cook Medium rare as requested and the blue cheese butter and fried duck egg is a different twist on the norm,but extremely good.


And for dessert cheesecake topped with fresh fruit – a wonderful smooth cheesecake topped with fresh fruit a great way to finish a meal.

This is one restaurant you should visit soon, great food, great service,and great menu ideas. Kippings should be commended on what they have achieved since opening in September.



Kippings is open daily from Tuesday to Saturday for lunch and dinner and Sunday for breakfast and lunch.

Telephone - 01582 833122

Email -

 1 Church Street, Wheathampstead, Herts AL4 8AR


Owner Patricia Kandrácová explains all about Kippings and her vision :-  

“Despite the seemingly never ending news of corporate failures and house repossessions, we plan to buck the by opening a new restaurant in an iconic Wheathampstead landmark.
11th September 2012 we relaunched Kippings Bistro and wine bar on the Wheathampstead High Street.” 

 “The 42 cover Bistro provides a new use for the Grade II listed dwelling that forms part of the site, as a wine bar and lounge ' It is an important that the building provides flexibility to suit customer moods and the wine bar provides the opportunity for them to enjoy the building without necessarily having a sit down meal.
 It is all about listening customers and giving them what they want.
 It is always hard to compete with the large chains, but we have unique offering for the area from Jack and his kitchen team and with the combination of a unique location and a committed professional team, we are very optimistic that Kippings will become permanent local landmark"



Have you ever wished you could create those wonderful,

 authentic Indian curries,

but don’t think you have the time or know how?



Well the Sticks may have the answer ……..

We tried out this amazing product

Bipin's Curry Fusion Masala Range

The fresh curry paste creations are a delicate blend of 20+ pure unadulterated fresh green Indian herbs and whole ground authentic spices based on 4 generations of authentic Indian cooking.

Simply add Bipins fresh masala curry paste to freshly prepared meat, fish or vegetables. For a slightly milder experience use more of the core ingredient. Additionally, add vegetables to the meat such bell peppers or sweet potato. This will serve 4+ people as a main dish. Or simply use half the amount to serve 2 people and save the rest of the masala paste for later. Cook on low heat in a heavy pan keeping the lid on to prevent loss of moisture. Cook for about 20 minutes mixing occasionally. An option is to finish off by folding in about 2-3 tbsp of single cream, yoghurt or coconut milk. This will add a new dimension to the dish and make it saucy. Warm through and rest for 5 minutes and garnish with coarsely chopped coriander. Serve with plain boiled rice and green leaf salad with thinly sliced onions. There is no need to add any oil, salt or water or brown the meat. Keep it simple and natural, you'll be amazed how the flavours infuse into the meat/vegetables/fish. You'll be surprised as to the amount of moisture released from the meat/fish/vegetables, a truly tasty experience that makes you think it was made in a restaurant.

Bipin's masala is made from pure unadulterated fresh Indian herbs and spices to traditional authentic Gujarati recipes handed down through generations with a little sprinkle of innovation added through a scientific background to put the authentic experience in your hands. The result has been a unique highly aromatic deeply flavoursome blend of masala that everyone can use. There are just 100% fresh ingredients, no additives, no preservatives, no colourings and no flavourings. There are 6 main varieties of fresh Curry Sauces; Surti Masala, Jeera Masala, Methi Masala, Machi Masala, Grama Masala and Sheek Masala. In addition there are the Royal Korma Masala Chilli-heat-free and special limited addition hot masala. 

Bipins of Hitchin

Make Authentic All-Natural Curry At Home

Bipin's are a local producer in Hitchin, Hertfordshire, of a unique range of All-Fresh, All-Natural Gujarati Masala (a distant relative of the curry paste!). Bipin's masala is a very convenient way of making a real authentic Indian cuisine without all the fuss; simply "add & cook" to create a truly authentic, fantastic tasting aromatic curry. On this website you will find lots of new dishes and recipe ideas to try out. Over 12,300 people have enjoyed the masala with 100% resounding success.