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Image 1: How often does a pub earn 2 Michelin stars? Well, this one did – so we decided to check it out.
Image 2: Marlow’s about an hour by train from London. The pub, called the Hand & Flowers, is a 15-minute walk the train station.
Image 3: It’s hard to believe that a pub can be fully booked virtually every day. Must be good!
Image 4: Given its Michelin status, we were expecting something fancy. But no: it’s really just a normal, if nice, English pub. As this was our first 2-star experience without a tasting menu, we (a party of three) created our own by ordering a bunch of interesting-sounding dishes. !
Image 5: Freshly baked sourdough bread.
Image 6: In the spirit of pubs everywhere, our food was delivered pretty quickly. But if the speed of service was typical, the preliminary nibbles certainly weren’t – fried whitebait with Mary Rose dipping. I have to say that it worked pretty well.
Image 7: And now pork terrine with nicely arranged pickles on the side. Unfortunately, however, the terrine itself didn’t quite live up to the promise of the presentation. It was really quite ordinary.
Image 8: Of course, it came with toast, but also an aromatic truffled butter. OK-ish, though I couldn’t help feeling that the butter could have been creamier.
Image 9: To conclude our starters, there was parfait of foie gras, surrounded by orange chutney to give the dish some acidity. The combination was delicious – the foie parfait was beautifully rich and airy.
Image 10: The parfait was served with a warm brioche and we decided to create our own wine pairing with a glass of Sauternes. Rich foie gras, buttery brioche, with a sip of Sauternes… Classic winning combination!
Image 11: And now our mains starting with a pig's head croquette garnished with pickled rhubarb on a thin slice of bacon. We were simply blown away by this - a very delicate, crispy surface encasing the melting cream of pig's head! This was way beyond what we expected from a pub!
Image 12: We also ordered a classic - the Sunday roast - mainly just to see what a 2-star version would look like. These strips of roast beef were sitting on Yorkshire pudding.
Image 13: After adding red wine sauce, we tucked in. The roast was acceptable, and even good, but the Yorkshire was a slight disappointment. Not as light or crispy as we had hoped.
Image 14: In contrast to the previous course, this loin of venison was definitely special. The chocolate red wine sauce added that extra dark and earthy overtone that everyone looks for when eating game. The crispy beetroot tart, served on the side, with chestnut and bacon complemented the main dish perfectly. An excellent dish!
Image 15: Finally, from the Great British Menu, we had slow-cooked duck breast on a cutting board. This came with a crispy puff pastry of minced duck and duck-fat chips with sauce. The duck itself had a nice crispy skin, and the sauce...Wow! It was packed with an intense duck flavour and a hint of sweetness from Char Siu sauce! There was no doubt about it – this was definitely the highlight so far!
Image 16: A bunch of sides for sharing. None of them were particularly special, though! OK, it’s desserts time!
Image 17: First, a melon ice cream on an imaginative and bright melon checkers board. It made a fruity and refreshing dessert, though the accompanying pistachio cake was way too sweet.
Image 18: And then a melting hot chocolate tart topped with malted milk ice cream. This course contrasted well with the light ice cream of the previous course, and closed the meal a heavy note - but in a good way!
Image 19: Afterthought…we told that the apricot soufflé here are to die for, so we ordered one to share. It came with a side of yogurt ice cream and an apricot sauce. Actually, we’d have preferred it without the sauce, since it was rather too intense - more like jam than sauce. All the same, we enjoyed the soufflé and the ice cream.
Image 20: Perfectly risen soufflé!
Image 21: The overall experience? Well, there’s no doubt that, for a pub, the food’s exceptional. But 2-star quality really? With service and a glass of wine, it came to a pricey £65 – and when you add in the train fare, there’s a question mark over whether the trip was worth it. We had an exceptional 3-course lunch at Koffmann the previous day for only £35, also with a glass of wine, but without the hour-long train journey!