Every once in a while, we like to take a break from the ‘shiny’, the glossy, the oh-so-stylish. It can be overwhelming. Michelin star ‘promises’ don’t always give us an amazing food experience. But we think that there are lots of wonderful places out there that aren’t plastered all over Michelin; places that do good old-fashioned British grub. This was exactly our train of thought as we drove through some glorious home counties countryside this week. We decided that we were going to take a punt and walk into the next decent-looking pub. Our drive took us through the town of Marlow and, just past a large supermarket on the West Road, we spotted a cute little pub called The Hand and Flowers. We called and booked a table. Surely, we thought, we would find some good honest fare in this pub in rural England? Okay, not quite rural, but having spent most of my life living in St Johns’ Wood, Marlow is rural okay?
Bang on 6.30pm, we walked into an empty pub with more staff than you might expect in such a place. This was good news: no waiting, no hassle, no trying to get a waitress. We sat down and were handed the menus. It definitely didn’t read like pub food! The void left by the absence of Soup of the Day was filled with Parsley Soup with Smoked Eel, Bacon and Parmesan Tortellini. Where there should have been a fresh fish, battered and served with chips was Cornish Day Boat Skate with Bacon Roast Parsnip, Trompettes, Cockles and Lardons. We looked at each other; this was not good. After signalling the waitress with a worried look on our face, she raced over looking concerned. I complimented the menu, and asked if the restaurant, which was not filling up very quickly, was popular in the area. She smiled, said yes and then dropped the bombshell: ‘Although it has been much busier since we got our two Michelin stars’. Two? I ask. But it’s a pub! Yes, the only pub ever, to receive two Michelin stars. Trust us to sniff out the needle!
Resigned, we got comfortable and ordered. What followed was a sublime Parfait of Duck & Foie Gras and Slow Cooked Somerset Hare which was absolutely perfect as a starter. Main courses were the Slow Cooked Duck Breast and Venison with Ox Tongue which again was a delightful surprise.
The only slight disappointment was dessert. The signature Vanilla Crème Brulé was heavenly and there was LOTS of it; I believe I clapped very quietly with glee and poised my spoon waiting to dig in every chance I got; but I just wasn’t ‘feeling’ the Tonka Bean pannacotta, which was my dish. It looked absolutely beautiful, but there was no real dancing and cheerleading going on in my mouth.
As a whole the food was gorgeous, it didn’t hurt the wallet too much and I think we were at the point where we could just about walk instead of being rolled out. While we slowly made our way out, we couldn’t help but notice the queue of diners waiting for a table at the bar and almost spilling out of the door… it seems like just getting a table there was a stroke of luck!
For More Michelin Starred Pubbiness: http://www.thehandandflowers.co.uk/