Tom Kerridge is currently doing for Marlow what Rick Stein did for Padstow and Heston Blumenthal for Bray: his name is everywhere, and his fingers are in an increasing number of local pies – including The Coach and Butcher’s Tap pubs up the road in the centre of town as well as The Shed, a private dining room where you have a chef and kitchen all to yourself.
And while he may have opened the swanky Kerridge’s Bar & Grill at the Corinthia Hotel London, The Hand remains the original and best expression of what Kerridge set out to do as a chef: open a proper pub that just happened to serve some really top-notch food.
“What’s not to love” exclaims one reader, and we’re not surprised when others wax lyrical about The Hand and Flowers: “fantastic and not too fussy”; “incredible food, so unique yet beautifully simple” – the plaudits just keep coming, with two Michelin stars shining at the top of the pile.
The pay-off for anyone lucky enough to bag a table is a rolling menu of Kerridge’s greatest hits and tricksy fresh-faced ideas with a seasonal smile – think lamb and haggis toast with chorizo mayo, whipped cheese and mint jelly, slow-cooked duck breast with apricot purée, morels and a Moroccan-style savoury tart or the fish du jour served with char-roasted alliums, cheese mash, avruga caviar and sauce ‘bonne femme’.
Main course prices of around £40 have the potential to take the shine off the feel-good factor, but a three-course set lunch for £29.50 is worth anyone’s day-trip to Marlow, while Sunday lunch includes fish and chips for £21 – as well as what one reader describes as “hands down the best roast I've ever had”.
This is a world away from your average gastropub fodder, and there are delicious surprises right to the very end: one reader loved the “mini ale” served with his dessert (a boozy chocolate and ale cake with salted caramel and muscovado ice cream). The only downside is the fact that you have to book “ages in advance”, but that’s small beer when the restaurant can deliver such quality, warmth and pleasure.