Saturday, 2 June 2012

The Hand and Flowers, Marlow

For a number of reasons, expectations were extremely high when we went to the Hand and Flowers. First, was the fact that it had been awarded 2 Michelin stars in the latest Michelin guide. An extremely high accolade and the first awarded to a 'pub'. Second, Tom Kerridge's appearances and masterful dishes on Great British Menu had certainly wet the appetite. Finally, I think our recent trip to Texture, had set the bar high with impeccable service and food to match. The dishes we had at the Hand and Flowers were outstanding but with some little touches missing, I think it fell slightly short of the mark.

It's in a beautiful setting in the picturesque town of Marlow. The pub itself has a warm, cosy atmosphere with low ceilings and rustic tables. The service was friendly but not as attentive as I expected. Rightly or wrongly from a 2 Michelin star, I expect them to be on the ball at catering for allergies. Although our waitress, frequently checked with the kitchen on what was and wasn't gluten free, their inability to modify dishes was a little disappointing. A pre-starter of white bait arrived which I wasn't able to eat and no gluten free bread was offered. They also provided some pickled vegetables but these weren't anything special. At no point were we offered water and dishes weren't explained when they were delivered to the table.

My choices for starter, main and dessert were also somewhat restricted by which were gluten free. Contrast this with our recent experience at Texture where they immediately offered to attempt to modify anything, this can make a big difference. I had the scallops with kohlrabi and beef boullion for starter. It was suppose to come with some breaded bone marrow and again as this was prepared in advance they couldn't modify this, in the end I suggested to the waitress to just see what the chef could do and they did me a non-breaded version. It was a beautiful starter, the scallops impeccably cooked and the beef boullion served as a jelly. At £14.50 though it was certainly on the steep side for a starter. My girlfriend opted for the crispy pigs head. Served in a block, deep fried and breaded this did look fantastic and received excellent reviews. The meat inside tender and pulled away easily with a fork, a really good dish.
Crispy Pigs Head with artichokes and pancetta
Hand dived scallops with kohlrabi and beef bouillon
For the main course, my girlfriend chose the Great British Menu winning dish of slow cooked duck breast with duck fat chips. Duck cooked to absolute perfection was simply superb. The chips were thankfully gluten free, so I pinched a couple and these had such a fantastic flavour from the duck fat and a proper chip cirspness to them. I had the tenderloin of pork with the malt glazed cheek, which once again was a display of how to cook meat to absolute perfection. Probably the most tender pork I have had.
Slow cooked duck breast with peas, duck fat chips and gravy
Tenderloin of Wiltshire pork with pickled mustard leaf, malt glazed cheek and frakfurter and potato dauphine
The dessert was also stunning, a combination of eye catching presentation and beautifully married flavours. A tonka bean panna cotta with poached strawberries, liquorice meringue and strawberry ice cream all worked perfectly. The texture of both the panna cotta and ice cream were silky smooth and the whole dish exhibited a real lightness of touch.
Tonka bean panna cotta with poached strawberries, liquorice meringue and strawberry ice cream
Expectations were extremely high and there was some truly outstanding cooking at the Hand and Flowers. The 2 Michelin star expectation though I think may be difficult to live up to. With mains at around the £25 mark, it was certainly priced in the Michelin bracket. I definitely think they could do more to cater for those who are gluten free and sometimes it's just the small touches which can detract from the overall experience. For those who can choose from the entire menu, it is a cracking menu, really celebrating the best of british. If you're expectation is an excellent plate of food, you certainly won't be disappointed.

1 comment:

  1. Not sure about this outrageous it is for established Gavroche or not even a comparison with 2 stars in France....a downfall for the Michelin..