Thursday, 21 June 2012

Hand & Flowers

I first saw Tom Kerridge on Great British Menu in 2010 (it was the year he won the main course with his roast duck and duck-fat chips). Not only did he seem like a great bloke but (and this is going to sound clichéd) I was struck by the way he was so innovative in both the dishes and their presentation - the crayfish scotch egg will always stick in my mind. Coupled with the fact that he serves up his food in the (at the time) only Michelin-starred pub in the UK meant that the Hand and Flowers made its way on to my wish list rather easily.

This week I finally got to go to this, now 2 starred (and more on that subject later), gastro-pub with a friend from work.

It really is a delightfully restored old country pub at the end of Marlow high-street. The interior is bare wood aplenty, with risk-of-head-hittingly low beams, and really a touch too dark. Although it's a pub, the bar is only a couple of metres long (if that). The thing that gets people in is obviously the food. This is what we had (apologies in advance for the poor photos).


Fried whitebait and bread

I don't normally talk about the nibbles but these whitebait were quite unexpected but light and delightfully crisp. And the bread. Oh, I could have eaten the sour-dough bread slathered with butter till the cows came home.


Crispy Pig's Head with Rhubarb, Crackling and Pancetta

This was a brilliant starter. The pig's head was terrifically meaty and porky. Even though I was expecting a rather more solid filling under the golden crisp exterior (I guess I was expecting more of a crubeen), which was a bit disconcerting at first but not to the detriment of the dish. The rhubarb came in a variety of form including puréed and the revelation that was pickled. I think the pickled rhubarb may have been the making of the dish giving an acidic note and real texture. I would love to know how they cooked the pancetta as it was literally melting and almost acted as another sauce (was it just thinly cut and melted by the heat of the plate?). The only mild disappointment was the thin sliver of cracking (surely everyone loves crackling?). Whilst a delightful garnish (how on earth do they get such a thin pencil-lead strip of cracking?), gimme more!

Salt Cod Scotch Egg with chorizo and Red Pepper Sauce

The presentation of this scotch egg made us giggle. It just needs a couple of eyes and there's the head of a Basque man on a plate! Apparently it was tasty, albeit a touch too minimal.


Slow Cooked Duck Breast with Peas, Duck Fat Chips and Gravy (GBM 2010)

K had the duck. The meat was well cooked and accompanied by a serious gravy. The side dish of peas with lettuce and lardons were incredibly moreish. The much-vaunted triple fried chips were, to be honest, simply OK. They didn't rock my world or blow my mind. Good chips yes, but nothing to write home about. I'm pretty sure I've had better elsewhere.

Loin of Cotswold Venison with Ox Tongue, Berigoule Mushroom, English Lettuce and Prickly Ash

When this arrived, my first thought was "Good Lord that's a lot of pepper on my meat!". Turns out those chaps in the kitchen know what they're doing as the prickly ash complimented the venison really well. The slab of berigoule mushroom with lardons and puffy crackling "popcorn" was a great accompaniment. As was the lettuce (why don't more people cook lettuce?). This was the first time I'd had ox-tongue and to be completely honest it tasted so like my childhood memory of Spam I was knocked for six.


Passion Fruit Soufflé with Kaffir Lime Ice Cream and Warm Toffee

We both had the soufflé to finish. When it came it was suitably impressive with the soufflé imperiously risen. Now, I expecting something comparable to my memory of the passion fruit soufflé I had at Le Gav. It's just a shame it didn't. It simply didn't taste of anything, let alone passion fruit. A disappointing end to an otherwise enjoyable meal.

I can understand why it got it's first Michelin star, but two? The food was just simply not in the same league as that at Le Gav, it's really just sophisticated "meat and two veg" meal. Having said that it is incredibly good value with starters and puds at about £9 and mains at about the £25 mark.

I'll remember my meal because of the overall experience which included being interviewed for a well-known cookery TV competition (a variant of which has professionals competing) about my venison that had been cooked by one of the contestants (never fear, you'll be saved from my musing as they obviously won't let my ugly mug get on the TV) and K's surprise at getting a soufflé for pud.

It's a very good gastro-pub and I'd definitely go again, I'm just not sure that it's "worth a detour".

Hand & Flowers on Urbanspoon


  1. Agreed - twas a good evening! And I enjoyed my souffle surprise but more the ice cream than the souffle!

  2. are you sure it worth it?

  3. The overall the impression that you get at the end of the meal is that the service team is very young and not ready for this level. If you’re expecting to see two star amenities, do not go to the toilets, it will be blindingly clear that this is just a pub.
    It is a shame that rising talent is pushed so quickly, it certainly doesn’t deliver the desired results.


Related Posts with Thumbnails