About 40 miles due west of central London, in a little town of Marlow, is the UK’s first 2 Michelin starred pub. Truthfully, I have never heard of this place, being somewhat out of touch with the gastronomy world, but it was recommended by a friend; I am so happy that he tipped us off.
Along with the bread (sourdough and soda, the latter being very nice and airy while the former was somewhat dour and stodgy for me) was a rather brilliant and light set of fried whitebait, set in a roll of newspaper reminiscent of fish & chips from a local chippy. The accompanying dip was simple (mayonnaise and ketchup) but highly effective. Appetite famished and ready for the food!
Crispy Pig's Head with Artichoke, Crackling and Pancetta. Truthfully, I only enquired about this dish out of idle curiosity (I was imagining a literal head on a platter!), but the waiter's description sold it to me: a whole pig's head braised slowly until the meat from the cheek and jowls as well as the fat literally slough off the bones. It then had a crispy batter coating applied to it, creating a crunchy/creamy block of porky goodness. Not to mention the rich goodness of the black pudding or the streaky pancetta. Everything on the plate was finger licking good.
Parfait of Duck and Foie Gras with Orange Chutney and Toasted Brioche. Very well blended parfait of the foie, a little bit on the airy and light side. The chutney had a distinct orange taste with some mustard seeds inside for a more mature conserve. Our only real complaint was that portion size was too large for such a rich dish.
Slow Cooked Duck Breast with Peas, Duck Fat Chips and Gravy; Great British Menu 2010. Tender lean duck breast had a sweet (?orange) glaze to it. Additionally was a rich savoury gravy, presumably made from deglazing the duck remnants. What I had assumed to be a roasted baby potato beside the duck turned out to be a round sausage, but definitely far better than the typical store bought stuff. The chips were large portioned, crispy on the outside. The peas were much better than expected, with some ham and onions used in the cooking. Absolutely superb dish, much better than what has been simply described here!
Loin of Cotswold Venison with Ox Tongue, Berigould Mushroom, English Lettuce and Prickly Ash. The venison was perfectly cooked to a medium-rare doneness, with a slight gamey aroma. The tongue was meltingly tender and I genuinely wished for more to savour. The large mushroom was grilled with a slight caramelised tinge and it had a spattering of what appeared to be bone marrow on top.
Passion Fruit Soufflé with Kaffir Lime Ice Cream and Warm Toffee. The soufflé was very light and rather tart from the passion fruit, but that was easily off-set by the sweet toffee, creating an overall good sweet and slightly tart mixture with a nice slight passion fruit background. The ice cream was more akin to lemon grass than kaffir to me, but it still had a rather exotic tinge that actually worked quite well with the passion fruit soufflé.
Hand & Flowers Chocolate Cake with Salted Caramel and Muscovado Ice Cream. Perhaps it was because we were so full by this point, but the chocolate cake didn’t really excite us that much, even if it did have a liquid oozing center.
Without going into a debate of whether it is worthy of two Michelin stars, suffice to say that that overall, the food was certainly excellent and delicious; there was also definitely very good attentive service. Suffice to say, if you are ever passing by that part of the world, making plans to detour for a hearty and well-prepared delicious meal won’t go wrong. Now, the tricky question is: if I was a Londoner, would I travel the (Google map estimate) 1 hour drive back there again? Tough call.
Best bit: oh the duck, definitely the duck. I guess getting to be in the Great British Menu actually meant something!
Worst bit: logistics; it’s a bit out of the way, even more so for the tourist like me.
Hands and Flowers**
126 West Street
Tel: +44 (0)1628 482 277