The Hand and Flowers
I keep a list of restaurants I want to go to in my little black book of wish lists.
It is like one of those bucket lists that many people make… bungee-jumping, swimming with sharks, eating snakes, getting locked up in a prison cell for a night… mine is filled with a list of all the incredible places to eat, to try to understand and enjoy the incredible food that chefs spend their entire livelihood trying to create, perfect, and push the frontiers of culinary barriers to amaze and surprise us mere mortals.
I got to go to one on my list the other day.
The Hand and Flowers needs no introduction for us Brits, but for my international readers, it is essentially a glorified gastropub nestled on the edge of Marlow village. But it is not your ordinary local… this is a two Michelin-starred pub. The food is by Tom Kerridge, the TV chef, whom I adore. Tom Kerridge used to be a big lad, the kind that makes you ‘know’ that he loves food and that his food would be amazing. He has lost a considerable, worryingly amount of weight recently, and although I am pleased that he is fitter, I want the big cuddly Tom back. I have wanted to go to The Hand and Flowers ever since I knew of him, and was excited when my boy surprised me with a last minute reservation for the 20:30 sitting on a Friday night.
Marlow High Street is lurvely dahling. Just like that. A quintessential English countryside village, with boutique fashion and preppy shops like JoJo Maman Bébé nestled in amongst the high street chain shops and eateries. A WH Smith housed in a Tudor style once-house makes going in to buy colouring pencils feel posh. I was surprised to find that The Ivy Marlow Garden is going to open soon. What is poignant is that it’s going to be right next to a Wimpy. A Wimpy?! How is it still in business? I vaguely remember having unknowingly found myself inside one when I was 12 years old on Purley High Street, sitting opposite a spotty awkward boy and his mom as third-wheel, picking at an overcooked beef patty with a fried egg on top. Who still eats there when we now have Shake Shack, I have no idea. Welcome to the modern Britain, where nothing surprises you anymore.
Once you get to the edge of the High Street you come across this low laying simple pub.
As you approach it, you can see in the windows, the candles flickering on wooden tables and it is packed inside.
The heavy oak door opens up into the restaurant. The decor is quaint, shabby chic, traditional and cozy.
What’s the word I’m looking for… aah yes. Rustic. It is very rustic.
We were seated on a little table for two… surrounded by other couples celebrating their birthdays or anniversaries. Come to think of it, the tables were almost too close for comfort for my liking actually. I could almost hear the heart palpitations of the couple next to us, who sat in silence for most of their dinner, bar the number of times the middle-aged tacky girl dressed in a foil-like gold flared skirt asked her whatever-he-is person to take photos of her on her phone kissing her wine glass. Poor guy. It was his birthday too.
Apparently it is impossible to make a reservation at this place.. some telling me they had to reserve a year in advance for a coveted seat at The Hand and Flowers. For my London people to understand this concept, it is basically the equivalent of trying to book yourself in for the 17:30 Barry’s Bootcamp session on a Monday night. Doable but impossible. No wonder this place is for special occasions… if only to celebrate and applaud yourselves for bloody being able to remember something you had planned a year ago. I am sure a lot has happened since that day when you racked up a £90 phone bill, being put on hold in the queue to reserve your table. Clap clap.
Okay, so onto the main bit. The food photos that you’ve all been waiting for!
So the food looks pretty great, right?
It LOOKED pretty neat and pretty darn delicious.
I really am sorry to be having to do this to you. But the food just all tasted terribly over seasoned to the point I really hoped we weren’t being charged for the still water we were guzzling, the portion size too small to justify the price, and the service was nothing more than what you would expect at a Harvester.
Did I eat everything that was put in front of me? Yes. Was it worth the two Michelin-stars? No.
For all the hype about this place, I wouldn’t suggest you make a massive effort and time out of your lives to make this visit the highlight of your year. Save the stress and go to your nice local making homemade food. Or go to Marlow and go to The Ivy. They would likely offer just as good food, nicer ambience, and better clientele with good fashion sense.
The Hand and Flowers. Been – check. Eaten and wined – check. Did I meet my food hero in person – cross. Would I return again – cross.
On the upside, I was able to celebrate my birthday early (I do love having ‘Happy Birthday’ written on my dessert platters, and if I had my way, this would happen every day during the month of April), and my boy did good in surprising me with just how well he knows me by taking our date night outside of the M25 to my bucket list of restaurants.
Bring on next weekend for my actual birthday!!
P.S I LOVE BIRTHDAYS. *does a little boogie dance in my princess dress*