One common complaint you hear a lot throughout the eating out scene in Milton Keynes is that there aren’t enough independent restaurants in the city. We know there is an abundance of chains although the demand must be there for them to keep opening. But we get the point, so when a new independent restaurant opens, it’s a pretty big deal.

Craft & Cleaver describes itself as a BBQ smokehouse and opened in The Hub in Central Milton Keynes about six months ago. Now it’s had time to ‘bed in’ we headed down to take a look and sample some of their food and drink.

It’s located looking out on the main central piazza of The Hub, which is also a good social area to meet friends or dine out with family. The restaurant from the outside looks quite industrial and one thing we would suggest is that they get a lit sign as unless you know where it is, in the dark it would be quite difficult to locate.

Heading inside, it’s got wooden floors and some very trendy signage on the walls. We went on a Wednesday evening and for mid-week, it was pretty busy already when we arrived. We were shown to our table (you have a mix of high and low tables and some booths) and given our menus.

The drinks menu looked pretty good, some very funky named cocktails like ‘Love Shack Shandy’ and ‘Hobo Juice’ were enticing and they had a good selection of gins, which is always a good sign. But alas, we were both driving, so we tried the virgin cocktails – the Apple and Raspberry cooler – hit the spot perfectly. There was something called a ‘Pickleback’ – described as “Originating in Brooklyn in the mid 2000’s. A Glug of Buffalo Trace with a Pickle Juice chaser” – I still have no I idea what this actually is, but maybe it’s one to try next time, when we’re not driving.

On to the food and the menu is not huge but really gives you a good selection of dishes. As you can imagine, being a BBQ smokehouse, meat features very heavily but there is a good choice of vegetarian and gluten free meals. We actually went for one of the veggie starters ‘Halloumi Mozzarella and Sweetcorn Fritters’ and also the ‘House Cured Bacon’ - definitely not one for the vegetarians. Both were really tasty, and the staff were only too happy to swap out the chilli jam for a sour cream dip instead.

And on to the mains; they pride themselves on their smoking process – all meats are smoked on site 24/7 in imported wood smokers and so trying one of their featured BBQ tray combos was a must. The ‘St Louis Ribs’ served with 50/50 fries (half normal fries and half sweet potato), buttermilk slaw and house pickles were amazing – so much meat and what a smoky tasty. You can totally understand why it’s a customer favourite. We also went for a ‘Southern Chicken Caesar Salad’ with lovely grilled succulent chicken and fresh lettuce served with a punchy Caesar dressing.

Did we have room for dessert, of course we did! Not a massive section of the menu but we found two dishes that managed to catch our eye. ‘Apple and Cherry Pie’ served with ice cream, it was really good, reminded me of traditional American style pies and ‘Blueberry & Lime Smash’ a twist on the classic Eton Mess but using Blueberry and Key Lime curd instead of strawberries, this was a huge portion, again very American!

So, what did we think of this new independent crashing in on the MK eating scene…we were very impressed – it brings something different to Milton Keynes and that can only be a good thing, the food was big and bold and very tasty, the drinks definitely need exploring more, but hey, that’s a very good reason to go back again. Big up the independents.