126 West Street, MARLOW, SL7 2BP
Popping into the Hand & Flowers just for a pint would be a bit like driving around the Silverstone racetrack in a Citroen 2CV - a wasted opportunity. For a decade now Tom and Beth Kerridge's pub has been turning out food that has garnered praise, headlines and a host of awards. Not your everyday pub then. One of the many compelling attributes of the H&F is how comfortably the place sits with its pub past, with a satisfying lack of pretension all round and, given the outstanding food that follows, the place is uncannily relaxed and friendly. It still looks like a pub from the outside, with a proper pub sign and colourful hanging baskets at certain times of the year, and there is still a sense of rusticity within. Look a little closer and you might notice the attention to detail that has gone into making it look so humble - interesting artworks, precise table settings and the professionalism underlying the cheerfulness of the service team. Tom has made an impact on our TV screen in recent years, ever since his triumph on the BBC's Great British Menu in 2010, and his relatively direct approach to cooking and passion for robust flavours has hit home. The menu has an unaffected British flavour and there's smoking, pickling, salt-curing, blowtorching and all sorts going down in the kitchen. The lack of a tasting menu proves the direct and unpretentious nature of the place, with the à la carte menu supported by an amazingly good value no-choice set lunch option. There's a Sunday lunch menu, too, where treacle-cured Chateaubriand of Stokes Marsh Farm beef with Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes and red wine sauce may just well prove to be the best you've ever had. The simplicity only extends so far, for the technical accomplishment of this kitchen delivers refinement, too. Take a soup of lovage flavoured with Bramley apple, for example, which comes with smoked eel and ham and cheese tortellini, or another starter that partners roast English onion tart with an étuvée of alliums, smoked butter and salt-cured pork. Among main courses, the Essex lamb 'bun' may sound humble but delivers powerful and complex layers of flavour, while Cornish line-caught cod is matched with a black grape sauce and is served with endive gratin, hazelnuts and ham hock butter. Finish with something as simple as chocolate and ale cake, which is of course quite brilliant.
Tel: 01628 482277
Please quote 'The AA'.
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Dates closed: 24-26 Dec
Sunday lunch available.
Days closed for dinner: Sun, 1 Jan
Cooking type: British, French
Chef: Tom Kerridge
Number of seats: 54
Steps for wheelchair: 2
A La Carte Dinner Main Course from: £27.00
Prices are for guidance only. Please check when booking for current rates.