Hands and Flowers**, Marlow

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Hands and Flowers**, Marlow

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.

Hands and Flowers**, Marlow-bread

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!

Hands and Flowers**, Marlow-fish

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.

Hands and Flowers**, Marlow-pig's head

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.

Hands and Flowers**, Marlow-foie

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!

Hands and Flowers**, Marlow-duck

Hands and Flowers**, Marlow-duck

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.

Hands and Flowers**, Marlow-venison

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.

Hands and Flowers**, Marlow-souffle

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.

Hands and Flowers**, Marlow-chocolate

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
Hand & Flowers on Urbanspoon

Chicken with Yam and Cordyceps Militaris Soup 山药虫草鸡汤

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Cordyceps militaris - a cheapo version of the precious Chinese medicine, Cordyceps sinensis (dong chong xia cao; 冬虫夏草. I was a bit confused when I saw the name on the packaging as it's labeled as '冬虫夏草' and the price was a fraction of the real deal. When I looked closer, they didn't have the worm-like appearance like that of Cordyceps sinensis. It should labeled as '北虫草' (bei chong cao) instead of '冬虫夏草' (dong chong xia cao)! Confusing much!

Cordyceps militaris 北虫草

Whatever the name is, this Cordyceps militaris is a type of artificially grown fungus and its medicinal value is similar to that of the much more expensive Cordyceps sinensis. It helps protect the lungs, nourish the kidney, stop bleeding and has anti-aging and anti-bacterial properties.

Chicken with Yam and Cordyceps Militaris Soup 山药虫草鸡汤

Chicken with Yam and Cordyceps Militaris Soup 山药虫草鸡汤

Printable recipe
By Pig Pig's Corner

Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 2-4 hr
Yield: serves 4 or more

  • 1 whole chicken - halved or chopped into pieces
  • 900 g Chinese wild yam 山药
  • 15 red dates - seeds removed
  • 2 tbs goji berries
  • 25 g Cordyceps militaris - rinsed
  • 2 L water
  • Salt to taste
  • Remove yam skin with a peeler. chopped into pieces then soak in water till later use.
  • Blanch chicken. [Place chicken into a large pot, add enough water to cover. Bring to boil. Once water comes to a boil, remove from heat, drain and wash.]
  • Place all ingredients in a pot. Bring to boil then reduce heat to simmer for at least 2 hours covered.
  • Add salt to taste.

Keisuke Tonkotsu King (Orchid Hotel)

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Keisuke Tonkotsu King

Unsurprisingly, this is a ramen joint that specializes in tonkotsu style ramen; essentially the soup is made from the essence of pigs, bones and all. In fact, they’re so sub-specialized, they pretty much only sell tonkotsu ramen!

Located in a corner ground floor shoplot near Tanjong Pagar MRT station, it is actually really easy to find: just look for the queue. We went early at 6 pm and even then had to wait approximately 30 minutes before we ended up with our first mouthful of ramen.

Keisuke Tonkotsu King

To be fair though, they do try to speed up the process by giving out the menu to people waiting in the queue. In fact, it’s not just the menu they’re giving out, it’s the ordering sheet of the whole menu. It does work as well, as within 2 minutes of being seated inside the rather cramped restaurant, steaming hot bowls of ramen was placed in front of our greedy faces.

Keisuke Tonkotsu King menu

The distinctive thing about this restaurant is the ability to custom-make (to a certain degree) your preferred style of ramen. The options are basically soup type (all tonkotsu), choice of toppings (seaweed, egg, chashu), “taste of the soup” (presumably how intense or concentrated the soup is), how much chicken oil is added, and the texture of the noodles.

Keisuke Tonkotsu King ramen

We tried a “Red Spicy” and a “Black Spicy”, the former’s spice coming from chilli while the latter is based on black pepper. Luckily, the addition of the spicy paste is on the side of the bowl, so we were still able to sample the soup before mixing it in. We found the soup to be very flavourful, very strong pork flavour, but also very oily (with “normal” oil level) and fatty (pork fats floating around). Personally, I felt the black spicy version to be more aromatic while the red one seemed to lack a little something, although it has to be said that the soup was already very tasty!

Keisuke Tonkotsu King ramen black

Shortly before the ramen arrived, a little pestle and mortar was given with some black and white sesame seeds inside. No definite instructions were given, but its pretty self explanatory I assumed. Anyway I grinded it up and tossed them all into my bowl, which added a nice extra aroma, but I felt that using the entire volume given was a bit too much; half would have been enough.

Keisuke Tonkotsu King eggs

The egg given in the bowl of ramen was very good, seasoned enough to stand on its own and with a molten yolk within; probably the best egg we’ve had in Singapore ramen stores so far. The chashu however, was nothing to write home about.

Keisuke Tonkotsu King tamago

There was a basket of eggs on the table, which we had to share with strangers; sadly, these eggs were plain old hard-boiled and didn’t taste anywhere near as good as the ones in the bowl. There was also a little container of bean sprouts, slightly pickled. Both the eggs and bean sprouts were complimentary (and as far as I can tell, without limit, although how much eggs or bean sprouts can one eat anyway?). Personally, I liked adding the slightly tangy sprouts to my bowl of very rich soup as I feel that gives it better balance.

On the noodles itself, they’re the thin stringy type normally associated with hakata style tonkotsu ramen. The PigPig found my “normal firmness” to be a bit on the soft side however, she much preferred her own “hard firmness”. I also ordered a kaedama (an extra portion of just noodles to add into my bowl of leftover soup) of “hard” level, but I think as the soup had cooled down by then, it didn’t continue cooking/softening in the soup and remained a bit too hard for both of us. Basically, if you’re gonna order kaedama, be warned and don’t order the “hard” firmness!

Keisuke Tonkotsu King extra noodles

Altogether, the two bowls of ramen cost us just under $40, including taxes. Water, or rather, tea, was free, available to hot and thirsty people waiting in the queue.

Keisuke Tonkotsu King

Keisuke Tonkotsu King (Orchid Hotel)
1 Tras Link,
#01-19 Orchid Hotel,
Nearest MRT: Tanjong Pagar
Tel: +65 6636 0855