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Sunday, 16 December 2012

40 B4 40-The Hand & Flowers - again!

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No. 28: The Hand & Flowers, Marlow

After finding an excuse to book a return visit to the excellent Hand & Flowers, my business meeting was cancelled at the last minute.

Having booked the restaurant over a month before, I had no intention of letting the table slip, so it was my wife's lucky day!

This is our second visit to Hand and Flowers in Marlow, Buckinghamshire. The restaurant is the first and only pub dining rooms to be awarded the coveted Two Michelin Stars, they are also the current AA Restaurant of the Year 2011-12.

The restaurants head chef and owner is Tom Kerridge, a former winner and judge on BBC’s ‘Great British Menu', and of course, our headline act from Milford on Sea Food Week 2012.

On arrival we were greeted with a complimentary glass of champagne from Tom, nice touch!

The menu was extraordinary, and choosing tricky.  Fortunately, having eaten here before, we knew whatever we chose was going to be an experience.

Before we had even chosen what we were going to eat, we were served with a cone of Whitebait, home made bread and pots of salt and pepper to season the home-made butter. Everything was off to a great start.

For starters I went for the Blow-torched Scottish Scallop with Warm Roast Chicken Bouillon, Morels, Nasturtium and Apple. My wife went for, Salmon Tartare with Poppy Seed Crackers.

Naturally, each had to be shared, but thankfully my share was greater.  The crispy apple with the scallops & nutty mushrooms was masterful.

Our main courses of slow Cooked Duck Breast with Savoy Cabbage, Duck Fat Chips and Gravy, and the other house speciality of Hand & Flowers Fish & Chips, kept the juices flowing. As I savoured the duck fat chips and amazing fish in batter, I was almost overwhelmed by the accompanying Pea Puree, which was certainly one of the best sides I have ever eaten.  Meanwhile my wife was going though a mix of emotions.  The duck was succulent, with a crispy glazed skin and jus that had her in heaven.  Worries appeared as she became full, yet she battled on, and on, fighting her expanding food baby, until she had completed her meal.  Afterwards she sat almost in complete silence, with a silly grin, just saying 'that was the best, ...ever'.

My dining companion was now just a quiet Michelin Man as I ordered sweet.  A hard one, yet I resisted the Tonka Bean Panna Cotta.  I know it is delicious, but I was up for something new, so it was the Banana SoufflĂ© with Gingerbread Custard and Yoghurt Ice Cream. Wow!

Over coffee and a Bailey's I enquired if they had a fork lift to get my wife to the car, but I had to settle for throwing her over my shoulder.

Tom says that he just 'cooks great food, simply'.  I think he is wrong, he 'cooks great food, in amazing combinations'. This is definitely a place to really experience great food, cooked by a master with true passion.


RAC Club, Pall Mall, London - Great Gallery Restaurant

Sadly, a couple of weeks ago I made a 'wifeless' visit to the RAC Club, which meant that it did not qualify for our 40 B4 40 Challenge. Invited by a customer, who was also a member, and accompanied by Alistair, we had the pleasure of dining in the Great Gallery Restaurant.

The restaurant had reportedly had a recent £1m makeover, and it was spectacular. The food was also excellent, but taking pictures of the plates was not really the order of the day.

A later tour of the club's facilities was similarly impressive. We particularly enjoyed the Long Bar, but for probably longer than we should have!

Having started the day with coffee in The Ritz, followed by our leisurely RAC lunch, we then moved on for a tour of numerous London bars. Arriving home from lunch at around 11.30pm, it is suffice to say, we had enjoyed our day!


The Hand and Flowers
126 West Street, Marlow, SL7 2BP

If you are wondering what the 40 B4 40 Dining Challenge is all about, please click here and all will be explained.


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