Monday, April 16, 2012

The Hand and Flowers, Marlow

This was our first ever time at a Michelin Star restaurant, let alone a two Michelin Star restaurant, so Mr P and I were very excited about going to Tom Kerridge's establishment in Marlow. We had driven past many a time as we used to live nearby and decided to go for our Seventh Anniversary.

So onto the food. For our starters I ordered Salmon Tartare with Poppy Seed Crackers and Mr P the Parfait of Duck and Foie Gras with Orange Chutney and Toasted Brioche. While waiting for them to arrive we had the treat of homemade sour bread which was still slightly warm with lovely salted butter. We were also given whitebait served in a little paper cone accompanied with marie rose sauce. I enjoyed the presentation of the wooden block (they seemed to enjoy serving on wooden blocks a lot here), and found the whitebait perfectly pleasant. The marie rose sauce perhaps lacked a little punch but still a nice accompaniment.

(The drink that looks like a giant whiskey was actually a ginger ale in case you were wondering)

So the starters arrived and they both looked pretty, especially the salmon. The salmon had a bed of tartar with a mousse on top. It came with poppyseed crackers which was an obliging pairing. The mousse was just a little too cold and the size of the portion a tad too big for me to finish as it was fairly rich. However, I gave it my best shot and found it perfectly creamy. The tartar underneath helped to cut through the richness and a little pickle cucumber piece on top was very enjoyable.

Mr P's Parfait was also a delight. The rich foie gras with the orange chutney on top of the brioche was simply melt in your mouth. Did I prefer Mr P's starter over mine? Perhaps a little bit but they both had their merits. Mr P also thought his starter was a little too big but pointed out, he is a pig, so it was not the end of the world.

Next up our mains. I went for Slow Cooked Duck Breast with Peas, Duck Fat Chips and Gravy, and Mr P had the Loin of Cotswold Venison with Ox Tongue, Bérigoule Mushroom, English Lettuce and Prickly Ash with a side of Pomme Boulangère.
I forgot to take a picture before we tucked in hence the messy look in the photos.

We ended up doing a fair bit of swapping with our mains because that is what we are like, hence my plate (board) has his veg and he has my peas. I have no complaints over how my duck was cooked as it was perfectly seasoned, a nice salted bit on top, and the gravy tasted meaty. It also came with a duck faggot which was a confit of duck leg. Mr P ate most of this and said it tasted really gamey and was deep in flavour. The peas were delicious, fresh and mixed with pea shoots. I had been looking forward to the duck fat chips the most and was unfortunately a bit disappointed. They were ok but when biting into them they seemed to be a bit hollow. Rather than getting a crispy outside and fluffy middle it was an odd chip, just a bit empty and dull.
Mr P's venison was a taste sensation and I think I actually preferred his pick again. The ox tongue is something I had never tried before and found it to be the same texture to salt beef. It was a little too salty for me but still a delight to have. The prickly ash tasted like perfectly cooked cabbage and I enjoyed it a lot. The cooked lettuce I must be honest and say, I do not see the point. It was cooked lettuce, not really a fan of that. Mr P's Pomme Boulangère was more to his taste than mine, layered potato with cooked onions on the bottom which added a sweetness and he enjoyed it with his venision.

Now for the puds! I went for Passion Fruit Soufflé with Kaffir Lime Ice Cream and Warm Toffee, and Mr P the Hand & Flowers Chocolate Cake with Salted Caramel and Muscovado Ice Cream.

We both enjoyed our puds a lot. I had never eaten a souffle before and liked the sound of the combination of flavours. The souffle was light and airy with lovely fresh passion fruit. The kaffir ice cream was possibly my favourite part of the dessert as it was so refreshing. It had a sort of sherbet flavour to it and I poured the toffee on top. Simply yummy.
The chocolate cake was more like a rich torte. It was lovely bitter chocolate and the muscavado ice cream was in Mr P's words, delightful.

Mr P had some Redbush tea and I thought the teapot was cute, here it is with its giant cork (on a wooden board, that is 5 I counted):

A couple of minor things that irritated me on our visit that I did not quite like was how close the tables were to each other. They had big tables and maybe if they removed a couple it would feel less cluttered? But then they would have to serve less people which they probably would not want. I did not feel quite comfortable chatting without the feeling someone was listening.
Also, when someone called to confirm our reservation she hastily made clear they needed our table back for 14.15pm, we had booked it for 12.30pm. I know they need to turn tables and we had just enough time to relax and eat our meals but I found it unnecessary. They are not the first or shall be the last to do that but I do not like it.

Overall, I enjoyed myself and found that the setting, more gastro pub than posh restaurant to be welcoming. The staff were friendly and happy to answer any questions we had. They had a busy presence but not overly in your face. When the bill came we were pleasantly surprised that it had not automatically included a service charge which I like, as it gives the customer the option of paying what they feel is deserved, and I thought the service was great.

If I am 100% honest, I probably have enjoyed meals in other restaurants more without any stars, and perhaps had overly high expectations for our first Michelin experience. Saying that though, I am glad we went but I am not sure we would revisit. We have a long list of restaurants to try!

The bill for 2 people including service and drinks (no alcohol) was £110.

Value for money:8


Homeandfood said...

The Hand and Flowers is in the little town where my family grew up, we now live in Winchester which is further south. I've never been to the hand and flowers but I am absolutely itching to try it out! I must say, that chocolate cake looks absolutely out of this world.

Mrs P said...

Certainly give it a go it was a nice treat. Also, I have not been for a long while but The Vanilla Pod in Marlow is also pretty great.