Looking for Michelin-starred restaurants? Read our review of The Hand and Flowers, then check out more suggestions for gastro pubs.
The Hand and Flowers in a nutshell
Tom Kerridge’s original and most lauded restaurant, The Hand and Flowers has all the character of a great pub (a good drinks offering and a strong salty-snack game) but with the added bonus of some of the best, refined, British cooking you’ll experience in the country – and, probably, the world. It’s the only pub in the UK with two Michelin stars – this is fine dining without the dress code.
Who’s cooking at The Hand and Flowers?
With Tom Kerridge’s restaurant empire ever expanding outside of his beloved Marlow – with Kerridge’s Bar and Grill in London and The Bull & Bear in Manchester – 2019 marked the year that a new head chef took over the helm (from Aaron Mulliss) of The Hand and Flowers. After working for Tom for eight years, from junior to senior sous chef, Jamie May is now head chef and proving himself a very capable pair of hands.
What’s the vibe at The Hand and Flowers?
Wood, leather and smoke – with tactile wooden tables and chairs, flagstone floors, exposed-brick fireplaces and soft, sink-into leather chairs – make up the décor in the 17th-century dining room and bar, but with elegant touches, including delicate glassware and pretty patterned plates. Hospitality is the name of the game – with every single member of the loyal, well-trained staff beaming, genuinely happy to serve you.
What’s the food like?
A meal that starts with paprika-dusted pork crackling pieces the size of your fist and finishes with a soaring banana soufflé with a molten banoffee sauce and caramelised walnut ice cream, is alright by us.
This is a menu built on “strong French foundations” but that celebrates the British Isles and all they have to offer. There’s no messing about – this is rich and rib-sticking stuff. Start with beef toast and dripping, which is far greater than the sum of its parts – arriving with a quenelle of fiery mustard butter atop umami-rich ground beef, slicks of homemade, tangy salad cream (in the summer, turning to brown sauce in the winter), a fried quail’s egg and some seasonal veg. You’ll double take when the main of ‘Essex lamb bun’ hits the table, looking more like a polished cricket ball. Shiny, golden pastry breaks apart to reveal a layer of rosy lamb cutlet, shredded, slow-cooked lamb breast and sweetbreads, and irony savoy cabbage. It’s served with salsa verde and gravy, but it’s pretty perfect all by itself.
And the drinks?
Ask the staff to guide you through the wine list, which steers away from pub classics and looks to interesting biodynamic bottles, individual growers, and little-known grapes. Order the Vigna del Volta Malvasia Passito for something a little bit different – a naturally fermented, complex dessert wine. There’s a small selection of beer on tap, and a cracking cocktail collection, including a surprisingly large and diverse range of grown-up non-alcoholic options, including the Espresso No-Martini made with Seedlip Spiced 94, fresh espresso, chestnut syrup, vanilla sugar and tonka bean droplets.
This is the priciest of Tom’s three Marlow pubs but book in for the set lunch and you’ll be able to get three courses for only £29.50, which when you consider some regular main courses are around the £40 mark, is a serious deal. There are also rooms if you wish to make a trip of it.
The Hand and Flowers, 126 West Street, Marlow SL7 2BP
Words by Laura Rowe
Photographs by Cristian Barnett