Milton Keynes has gained an unfortunate reputation of being the chain restaurant capital of the UK. Six years into my career of blogging about the independent food and drink scene, I think that is a highly unfair assumption now. You will find those who criticise Milton Keynes don’t live here. By now, I hope that both Sophie etc. and Eat & Explore MK has highlighted to you that there is an independent food scene in Milton Keynes that is alive and kicking. I would really love to prove to everyone who reads this blog that you can enjoy the same food you like eating at your favourite chains at independent restaurants across MK. Not only are they totally unique to the area, but the food is better quality, better value, locally sourced and supports someone’s dream.
I asked you what your go-to chains were and I have taken up the challenge of finding tastier alternatives for you to enjoy! So in this MK food guide, you’ll find amazing independent alternatives to chains in Milton Keynes.
Independent restaurants to visit instead of chains
- Yo! Sushi – Akasaka
- Starbucks – Bogota Coffee Co.
- Nando’s – House of Chicken
- Domino’s – Oleevo Pizza
- Wagamamas – Mii & U
- Prezzo – Nonna’s
- Banana Tree – Thai Modern
- Bella Italia – Fratellis
- McDonalds – Gourmet Burger Joint
- Turtle Bay – Auntie Marlin’s Kitchen
- Miller & Carter – The Carrington Arms
- Krispy Kreme – House of Dough
Every effort has been taken to ensure the information in this blog post is correct, however, I advise referring directly to the vendor websites and social media pages for the most up to date information. If you do see an error or something is incorrect, please contact me via email@example.com.
Instead of: Yo! Sushi
Yo! Sushi is good, but Akasaka’s sushi is even better. In fact, the two restaurants aren’t even on par. The sushi at Akasaka is fresher, tastier and there’s a great range to try. There’s even a kids menu. Based in Wolverton and Central Milton Keynes, this little sushi spot serves up lots of Japanese dishes if sushi isn’t your thing. The fish is fresh, high quality and delicious and you get generously sized rolls. The average cost for a meal for two at Yo! Sushi is £30 and you spend the same at Akasaka and get a lot more for your money. Those dishes stack up! I recommend the salmon and avocado roll and the tuna negitoro roll. You also must try the Nasu Dengaku – it’s delicious!
Opening hours: Monday – Friday 5pm – 11pm, Saturday 12pm – 11pm and Sunday 12pm – 10pm.
Price range: From £2.50 – £15 for individual dishes.
Dietaries: Akasaka caters for vegan and vegetarian options. These items are clearly marked on the menu.
Bogota Coffee Co. The Hub, CMK
Instead of: Starbucks
Like most places in the UK, there are far too many coffee chains on the high streets. It’s quite sad to see that small high streets have become home to some huge chains which makes it so much harder for small shops to survive. One of my favourite coffee shops in Milton Keynes is Bogota. If you like to go and work in your local Starbucks or Costa but are put off by the coffee (and the price!) Bogota could be your new mobile office. The coffee is truly delicious and there’s a lovely chilled vibe in the café that you just can’t replicate anywhere else.
Location: 4 Rillaton Walk, Milton Keynes MK9 2FZ
Opening hours: 9am – 3pm daily.
Price range: Coffees are around £3. Food is also available.
Dietaries: Caters for vegan.
Good to know: Dog friendly.
House of Chicken, Bletchley
Instead of: Nando’s
Everybody loves a cheeky Nando’s don’t they? So much so there’s bloody FIVE of them in Milton Keynes. No disrespect to Nandos, because I love chicken and chips as much as you do, however, if you’re after an independent alternative, look no further than House of Chicken in Bletchley. Don’t let appearances fool you – the food is GOOD. The meat is locally sourced and freshly cooked – and you can tell! It is super reasonably priced – much cheaper than Nando’s! We had the meat platter though I would recommend the half chicken as that was by far the tastiest meat. Just don’t forget to ask for your bottle of Peri Peri! Oh, and you MUST try the Pastel De Natas – they are absolutely to die for.
You could *almost* be in a little Portuguese restaurant, it has such a great atmosphere. All of the wines and beers are all sourced from Portugal too. It’s not the prettiest but it’s definitely tasty.
Opening hours: Wednesday – Sunday 10am – 11pm. Closed Monday and Tuesday.
Price range: Main dishes are between £6 and £14.
Dietaries: Ask House of Chicken for more information.
Instead of: Domino’s Pizza
Everyone loves a Domino’s – but not in our house! Our go-to takeaway pizza is always Oleevo because it’s incredible value and totally delicious. It’s not the same as Domino’s because it’s a woodfired base, not deep pan, but it’s definitely an amazing alternative. The 18″ margarita is £18 and feeds two people (more if you’re not a big eater!) If you like deep-pan pizzas and NYC style slices, try Louis’ in Buckingham.
Opening hours: Tuesday and Wednesday 4pm – 10pm, Thursday – Sunday 12pm – 10pm. Closed Mondays.
Price range: 12-inch margarita starts at £8.50. 20% off if you collect.
Dietaries: Gluten-free bases available. Vegan and vegetarian options feature on the menu.
Mii & U Oriental Café, Stacey Bushes
Instead of: Wagamamas
Ah, another chain restaurant that I do really rate. However, the price of food at Wagas is actually pretty expensive. My favourite alternative to Wagamamas is Mii & U Oriental Café in Stacey Bushes. It’s another spot whose appearances do not do it justice. My most-ordered dishes at Mii & U is the Katsu Curry and the Pad Thai, both of which are considerably cheaper than the chain alternative. The chicken laksa ramen and chilli beef ramen are delicious too – oh and the Korean chicken pieces! Next door, you’ll also find an oriental supermarket which is great for stocking up on all your Asian cooking essentials.
Opening hours: Thursday – Saturday 11am – 9pm; Monday – Wednesday 11:30am – 4:30pm. Closed Sundays.
Price range: Pretty much every main course is under £10. I’d say the average cost is £6-£8.
Dietaries: Vegetarian and vegan options available. حلال Halal.
Nonna’s, Woburn Sands
Instead of: Prezzo
You guys said you loved Prezzo for the special offers and variety of dishes. Well, have you tried Nonna’s in Woburn Sands? This is another of my favourite spots in MK. They always have great offers on and whether you love pizza or pasta, there is something to suit everyone. They also have a fantastic vegan menu (you must try the purple gnocchi!) which is something I know Prezzo also offers.
The pasta dishes are delicious – the Agnolotti alla Lobster is so tasty and fresh! I would also recommend the sharing boards which are full to the brim with meats and fresh mozzarella. Nonna’s is a much tastier alternative because they do seasonal menus. And seasonal eating is always so much better than having the same menu all year round!
Location: The Square, Woburn Sands, Milton Keynes MK17 8SY
Opening hours: Monday: 09:30am – 4:30pm; Tuesday – Friday: 9:30am – 11:00pm; Saturday: 9:30am – 11:00 pm; Sunday: 9:30 am – 4:30pm.
Price range: Prices of starters and mains range from £6.95 – £24.95.
Dietaries: Vegan menu available. Vegetarian options are available. For other requirements, please contact Nonna’s directly.
Instead of: Banana Tree
Confession time: Banana Tree was the last chain I reviewed as a food blogger and was the one that made me decide to focus on independents. I wasn’t a fan of the food and I thought it was really expensive for what it was. A much better alternative is Thai Modern, located just down the road in Witan Studios. Not only was the food fresh, tasty and authentic, but was much better value in comparison. You’ll find classic Thai curries, massaman curries, pad Thai, stir fry, rendang, satay… All of it is delicious!
Opening hours: Mondays 5pm – 10pm. Tuesday – Sunday, 12pm – 2:30pm and 5pm – 10pm.
Price range: Banquets (set menus) are available. Individual dishes are priced up to £19.
Dietaries: Vegan options available.
Fratelli Cucina Italiana
Instead of: Bella Italia
Another amazing Italian restaurant that I absolutely love is Fratelli in Woburn. A few of you said you liked Bella Italia but were never impressed with the food (same!) I think Fratelli and Bella Italia are worlds apart but if you love Italian then you NEED to pay this place a visit. With service that makes you feel like you’ve popped to a friend’s for lunch, and delicious fresh food and great wines, it’s no surprise that Fratelli is a popular spot. Try the Pappardelle Manzo.
Opening Hours: Monday – Thursday, 12pm – 1:30pm and 5:30pm – 9pm 12pm – 9:30pm on Friday and Saturday. 12pm – 3pm on Sundays.
Price Range: Average main course is £10 – £15.
Dietaries: Caters for vegan, vegetarian and gluten free.
Gourmet Burger Joint, Newport Pagnell
Instead of: McDonald’s
I don’t think it’s fair to compare fast-food chains to indies because they both offer something very different HOWEVER if you do like a Big Mac and want to find a similar alternative, I recommend Gourmet Burger Joint in Newport Pagnell. The House Burger is EPIC! A beef patty with southern fried chicken breast, cheese, bacon and gherkins. Strangely enough, it does have that fast food flavour but you can tell that the ingredients are high quality and it doesn’t leave you feeling greasy afterwards.
Opening hours: Tuesday – Sunday, 4pm – 10pm. Takeaway only.
Price range: Wings start at £6.50. Burgers start at £5.50.
Dietaries: Vegan options available.حلال Halal.
Auntie Marlin’s Kitchen
Instead of: Turtle Bay
What a find Auntie Marlin’s Kitchen at Potterspury House is! Located a stone’s throw from MK just off the A5, Auntie Marlin’s Kitchen serves up incredible Caribbean food that tastes as authentic as it gets. The curry goat is absolutely sensational and packed with flavours. The jerk wings are punchy and the extras are all just so tasty. I recommend getting the sharing patter for two people (£32) and make sure you try the mango and lime prawns. It’s a totally unexpected destination but one that I wholly recommend in place of Turtle Bay.
Opening hours: Open for dine-in on Saturday evenings. Takeaway is also available.
Price range: £10 – £15 per head for a main. Sharing platters are available.
Dietaries: Vegan and vegetarian options available. Ask directly for more.
The Carrington Arms
Instead of: Miller & Carter
If you love steak, then I am sure you will have visited Miller & Carter. If you REALLY love steak, I bet you have visited The Carrington Arms in Moulsoe? If not, it’s high time you put this indie steakhouse pub on your list. Using Woburn Country Foods steak, you can choose your own cut of steak from the counter and then ask the chefs to cook it your preference. It’s an excellent place to go for steak-lovers and you get a gorgeous, locally sourced cut of meat. The sides are amazing and when you visit The Carrington Arms, you are supporting all of the other local vendors that they supply in their restaurant.
Opening Hours: Open daily, 12pm – 11pm (Last orders 10pm)
Price Range: Average cost of a main is between £10 and £20. The steak price depends on the cut but includes three sides and a sauce.
Dietaries: Caters for gluten-free, vegetarian and dairy-free. For other allergen information please contact The Carrington Arms directly.
House of Dough
Instead of: Krispy Kreme
There are some undeniably decent chains for doughnuts in Milton Keynes, but I think the indies do it far better (and fresher!) I love The House of Dough in Stony Stratford. It sells amazing doughnuts in a variety of indulgent flavours from glazed to sugar cinnamon, Nutella to lemon. Be quick – they usually sell out long before their closing time, especially on weekends!
Website: They don’t have one, but you can browse the menu via MK Eats.
Opening hours: Wednesday – Sunday 11am – 5pm.
Price range: £2.50 per doughnut.
Dietaries: No vegan or gluten-free options are available at the moment.
So there we have it – the best independent alternatives to chain restaurants in Milton Keynes!
I’d love to hear what chains you always visit and see if I can offer an alternative. I want to show you that it’s possible to still get great tasting food in Milton Keynes that is as good value as the chains (sometimes cheaper!) and supports local businesses.
I hope you find this post useful and don’t forget to let me know if you try anywhere from my recommendations. Share your photos using my hashtag #EatandExploreMiltonKeynes on Instagram or leave a review in my Facebook community group, Eat & Explore MK.
Which independent alternative will you try?
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