Hand and Flowers★★ // Marlow // England

So much has been written about Tom Kerridge’s Hand and Flowers. How exciting to think that there is a new two star restaurant just outside of London.  With so many challengers at this level, from Le Gavroche to Midsummer, expectations are set high.

And how did it go?  Dreadfully….  Or perhaps to express it in a different way; it was potentially one of the best pub meals in the world, but certainly not worthy of two stars overall.

The welcoming was exactly what you would expect in a pub, though certainly not the most professional greeting.  You might not be entirely sure that you’ve arrived at the right place, given the pokey little entrance.

Once seated, as we were, crammed-into the small and noisy dining room, the disappointment began.  Awkward, unnatural service from untrained staff really made the whole meal feel uneasy and disconnected.  Unceremoniously reaching across diners and handing plates, rather than delivering them is hardly two star service.

To start with, we choose a casserole of pan fried foie-gras on a pearl barley and wild hare with orange oil stew. The combination was somehow too sweet and over powered the delicacy of the foie-gras; why did it need to be so orangey?  In the end, the best starter was the eel and parsley velouté, which was light and thin.  Interesting – but not exactly earth shattering.

Onto the mains, and one meal looked particularly good.  The Suffolk chicken with pistachio crumble and poached lovage.  Though enjoying this gastronomic experience was cut short by the discovery of a large black hair.  This caused total panic among the waiting staff, who had no idea of how to manage the situation.

After the ‘hairy’ main, a replacement braised shin appeared (some time after the other diners had finished their meals), which was nicely executed, but nothing exceptional.  Though, worthy of praise was the sous-vide carrot, cooked in some unknown essences, which was very good.  The shin itself, wrapped in beef caul was too shredded and mushy.  Overall the dish was too heavy, but it had a nice flavour.  It should have been served a side, not a full main.

The overall the impression that you get at the end of the meal is that the service team is very young and not ready for this level.  If you’re expecting to see two star amenities, do not go to the toilets, it will be blindingly clear that this is just a pub.

It is a shame that rising talent is pushed so quickly, it certainly doesn’t deliver the desired results.

Square Meal

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