The Hand and Flowers, Marlow

Back in January, we tried to book a table at Tom Kerridge's two-Michelin Star pub, The Hand and Flowers, for our anniversary in June. The soonest we could book a table for was August(!), so we decided instead to book a table in November for Olly's birthday.

November has arrived, so earlier this week we headed to Marlow for dinner at The Hand and Flowers. Hurrah! A train to Marlow from Paddington usually takes about 50-60 minutes, so we hopped on the train over there and booked a car to bring us home. However, the trains were borked (epic signal failure) and it took us nearly three hours to get there. We only just made it on time!

That aside, once we finally got there that freezing evening, we had a marvellous time. The Hand and Flowers is the only two-Michelin Star pub there is, and is the second two-Michelin star restaurant Olly and I have eaten at (Le Gavroche is the other).

A birthday card was waiting for Olly on the table - a nice touch - and we enjoyed a drink at our table whilst we pawed through the menu. I had a G&T whilst Olly had the nicest beer he'd ever had. I can't find the bar menu online and the bill just reads "Red", so we may never know exactly what that beer was! (An excuse to go back?)

Once we had ordered, some complimentary bread and whitebait with Marie Rose sauce was brought to us. I found the bread to be lovely, but I wasn't a fan of the whitebait (it's the texture of it; Olly liked it though). We chose a 2010 bottle of Chapel Down's Pinot Blanc to have with our meal, which is wine made in Kent. Chapel Down really do make lovely English wine - we had one of their wines on my birthday last year so knew we were in for a treat!

To start with I had the crispy pig’s head with spiced date puree, apple, plum and pancetta. I know reading "crispy pig's head" probably brings up a certain image in your mind - it did in mine - but it's presented in a sort of croquette and is delicious. Olly had the pork and mushroom terrine with dill, pickles and toasted sourdough. The only slight gripe he had was that there wasn't enough sourdough for the quantity of terrine, but his starter was delicious.

My main was the slow cooked duck breast with savoy cabbage, duck fat chips and gravy, which is what Tom won the Great British Menu 2010 with; Olly had the tenderloin of Wiltshire pork with pickled mustard leaf, malt glazed cheek, garlic sausage and potato dauphine with a side of Hand and Flowers chips. That duck was the best duck I've ever had: it was so soft with not a trace of fat. Olly kept unearthing new delicious elements with every mouthful of his main - I tried his potato dauphine and malt glazed cheek and was very jealous! His side of Hand and Flowers chips also win the accolade of best chips ever!

For dessert, I had the Hand & Flowers chocolate and ale Cake with salted caramel and muscovado ice cream, whilst Olly had the blueberry soufflé with Parma Violet ice cream and lemon verbena syrup. (Pictured left - it's the only photo we took of the food.) I was a big fan of mine; ditto for Olly! I had a taste of the Parma Violet ice cream and, whilst Olly liked it, I thought it was a bit odd (but I hate those sweets). With my dessert you have a mouthful of cake, followed by a sip from a mini ale tankard. I am in no way an ale drinker but it was an amazing dessert.

After dessert we settled back with a builder's tea and coffee to rest after our scrumptious meal. I was getting quite full halfway through my main course so I was stuffed, in a good way, after dessert!

We had an incredible meal at The Hand and Flowers and I'm so glad we ate there. (We didn't see Tom Kerridge though!) The service was great, and it's a nice setting inside. As far as Michelin Star restaurants go, it's quite cheap, but I know in comparison to a normal pub or restaurant it's not. If you can, book a table and start saving your pennies - you'll actually have many months to save up with current waiting times. x

The Hand and Flowers, 126 West Street, Marlow, SL7 2PB.
Dinner cost just under £180 for two people, comprising of a beer, a G&T, two starters, two mains, one side, two desserts, a mid-priced bottle of wine, a bottle of sparkling water, tea, coffee and service.

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