Tel: +44 (0) 1628 482277
Address: 109 / 126 West Street, Marlow, Bucks SL7 2BP
Cuisine Type: Rustic French
Nestling just the right distance away from High Street sits The Hand & Flowers, a somewhat recent addition to Marlow’s food and drink landscape. Under the direction of expert chef patron Tom Kerridge, The Good Food Guide recently awarded the eatery Buckinghamshire’s Newcomer of the Year, so I was keen to sample the goods.
Visiting on a very chilly evening, we were hugely grateful to be greeted with low beams, candle-lit tables, a toasty open fire, and most importantly, a fantastically warm welcome, creating surroundings that I would describe as cosy, unpretentious elegance. And the menu is divinely Anglo-French.
The first thing that jumped out at us was the very well chosen, worldly wine list. Excellent white wines from distinguished and lesser-known vineyards started at a reasonable £15.00 and stretched to £28.00 per bottle. Gorgeous reds (£18.00 to £35.00), including Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley Chateau Musar, also warmed the heart. For those festive occasions, fine wine specials (up to £55.00 per bottle) are readily accessible and encouraged. Serious beer drinkers can rest assured knowing a selection of real ales is also available.
Sumptuous, comforting starters (£5.50 to £10.50) such as the restaurant’s popular potted Dorset crab with brown bread, cucumber and dill chutney, and glazed omelette of smoked haddock and Parmesan went down an absolute treat, with potato and horseradish soup with autumn truffle a very close runner-up. Game lovers will be delighted to find beauties like pressed terrine of wild rabbit on the list. Oooh, and warm crusty bread rolls were perfectly timed to help scoop up precious residual bits. Presentations were positively endearing – we loved the individual little copper saucepans that seemed to come directly from the blazing oven to our plates.
After debating over which main courses to commit to (£15.00 to £19.75) – all looked so delectable – I decided on halibut with a soft parsley crust with Savoy cabbage, pumpkin ravioli, and potato gnocchi, which smouldered with autumnal flavours and was ridiculously melt-in-your-mouth. Hubby – a devoted carnivore – couldn’t resist wintry red wine braised shin of beef with herb dumplings and parsnip puree. Judging by his wiped-down plate, that was a sound choice, too. And we vowed to return for the confit belly of Suffolk pork with braised Puy lentils, pickled beetroot, honey roast apple and mustard dressing.
Desserts (all £6.50) – the house speciality – should not be overlooked. Make room! Hubby devoured crunchy Bramley apple crumble with blackberry sorbet, and for me, a gloriously boozy finish with the prune and Armagnac trifle – and at the risk of being slightly over-dramatic, I was thankful I wasn’t driving.
Without having tried all the other Marlow eateries, I suspect you would struggle to find one on a par with The Hand & Flowers. And if it’s any testament, we tried to book Christmas day lunch, though it seems this little gem has already been exposed. Maybe next year!