Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Anniversary indulgence, The Hand and Flowers

Mrs Stuffy and I are irregular followers of the Professional Masterchef series as you'll know from my Michel Roux Jr post and we also enjoy the Great British Menu (particularly this year as one of the runners-up was Mary-Ann Gilchrist from Llanwrtyd Wells, someone whose cooking I think easily merits the 300 mile round trip).

But I digress, Mrs Stuffy (like many ladies in this part of the world apparently) has become a bit of a fan of Tom Kerridge, chef at the Hand and Flowers in Marlow, a larger than life figure who is pretty much ubiquitous in both those cookery programmes and indeed most culinary broadcasting on the tellybox at the moment. As is ever the case with her ladyship, no sooner the thought than the action and she promptly leapt to the phones and secured a 9:00 pm dinner reservation on our 13th wedding anniversary at his 2** Michelin starred pub in Marlow, some forty minutes up the road from us.

Nine of an evening is late dining for us but getting this reservation was no small achievement and required military grade anticipation and planning, they're booked solid on Fridays and Saturdays till November 2014 and weeknights aren't much better. With tastebuds a tingling we set off on a wild and wet and windy weeknight to celebrate 13 years of wedded bliss. (total lack of sarcasm there by the way).

It's billed as Britain's only Michelin starred pub and I'm not sure where the line is between restaurant, pub and gastropub, they also have some bedrooms apparently so go-figure as our American chums say, however whatever it is it's a welcoming establishment, the staff were young, from many corners of the world and competent,calm and cheerful, one suspects that Tom, if you do a good job, is probably a nice guy to work for. 

Despite his claims that it's simple food it isn't really, it's very high quality dining served in a relaxed setting, this is not just well-executed pub grub. You can see the menu here,  so I won't go into detail but I'm happy to admit that I was blown away by the flavours in my starter, a clever alternative scotch egg, using salt cod as the meat wrapping and a perfectly cooked bantam egg at it's core. My main course of pork was sublime but it's the dessert we've been boring people to death with for the past fortnight. 

I was replete and not drinking so demurred when asked to plump for a sweet but her ladyship bullied me into sharing  a Chocolate and Ale cake with a muscovado and salted caramel ice cream. 

The cake, tried on its own, was just a little too bitter, the ice cream, on its own, too salt. Together, they blended into distinct but complimentary melt-in-the-mouth deliciousness, beautifully presented, exceedingly clever, a sign of a great palate and perfectly executed

Many top restaurants deliver flawless food, but perfect delivery can all too often be less than exciting, this meal was a series of small delights. It wasn't a cheap supper but well worth it, I'm glad we saved up for 13 years for it.

 Her ladyship chatted to the man himself in the bar afterwards, service having ended and told him how much better than Le Gavroche it was, good timing since he and Michel Roux Jr were on the radio together next morning, I hope Tom was polite enough to keep Mrs Stuffy's observations between the two of them.

But, you know, I reckon she was right...

If you can, go there.... enjoy

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