A meal at the Hand and Flowers, Marlow
A couple of months ago Paul Ainsworth (yes, met in person!) told my sister and husband to watch him on the BBC as he was going to appear in the Great British Menu.
We watched, we enjoyed it and with Paul, another chef caught our attention (and that was not Tom Aikens). Big guy Tom Kerridge seemed really friendly and his food very appetising so, for the occasion of foodie sister’s visit, we booked Sunday lunch at his Marlow Michelin starred establishment, the Hand and Flowers.
On a wintry July Sunday we made our way to Marlow, an hour or so drive from central London. The venue is quite small, and being an old inn, has beautiful wooden low ceiling and a warm feel to it, perfect for a winter’s day but also a dreary summer’s lunch.
Service was friendly and attentive without being pretentious. The wine list is pretty extensive but we opted for ‘real ale’, while husband had a glass of wine. The place serves NO cider at all, which we thought was a pretty major flaw… And a strange one too, for a country pub. Anyway. The menu is not particularly large on the Sunday lunch, but has some interesting dishes. First, we were served some whitebait with mary rose sauce with some black pepper soda bread which was fantastic. Foodie sister went for Quail tart, which was full of different flavours but some of them did not seem to mingle completely, such as the olives in the filo pastry base.
Husband had Moules mariniere which came out of their shells and served with a cute tiny size loaf of bread. I think my starter was the best, and I gloat in my choice. The Parsley soup with bacon and smoked eel was exceptional. I loved how the different flavours merged together, from the delicate green hue of the herb to the borage flowers floating on the surface, with a hint of lemon and fresh olive oil. The small pieces of bacon and the smoked eels added texture and substance. Maybe the dish did not even need the Parmesan tortellino, whose dough was a touch hard too.
The mains arrived. Husband’s had Roast Chateaubriand beef which was good, cooked to his liking. Then… sister and I saw our dish.
I remembered the potato sack from the tv show but sure was not prepared for the Roast Hog.
In my imagination (which I seem to be relying upon too much lately) I had pictured the roast hog that Canteen sometimes roast on the South Bank and for some sort of mental association, I ended up expecting something like Pitt Cue pulled pork.
Oh no. Tis wasn’t.
The picture says it all. Pig’s trotter. Pork belly. Pig’s head cube.
Challenging to say the least! I’m fairly squeamish when it comes to meat… It was served with apple sauce and gravy which were both light and delicate, thankfully. Mitigated the rest, somehow.
We attempted to get the potatoes out, which was quite difficult despite the tools given. Well cooked, but maybe too much of a gimmick?
The pigs trotter was the hardest thing for me. It did actually taste good, and was very well seasoned but too heavy and not just on the eyes.
The pork belly was the most normal piece to eat, and it was pretty good, with good crunchy crackling although a little under seasoned. The most surprising, because it was actually the best piece, were the deep fried cubes of pigs head. Really delicious and not too heavy on the palate. I could have almost eaten a second one.
The whole dish was also accompanied by the salad which has Tom’s signature home made dressing.
We were really full but seemed silly not to try a dessert, so we opted to share a Raspberry soufflé with muscovado ice cream and mint sauce. And well we chose!
It was divine, maybe the best dish of the entire meal… certainly a strong contender to the soup.
The lightest, fluffiest soufflé I have ever had, sweet to the point. The mint sauce was intense and I’d love to know how he makes it… The ice cream a good complement.
The bill came to 120£ for three, which is very reasonable.
We enjoyed our lunch, although I would not choose the Hog again. Good to try once, as it’s an elaborate creation, but not my ideal dish.
I would definitely recommend this for a Sunday outing or a day trip, but I am not sure I would get my husband to drive me all the way back here just for a meal!