The Hand & Flowers is the first and only pub in the world to have two Michelin stars.
That might sound amazing, but let’s be honest: the place is actually on trend because it appeared on Masterchef: The Professionals. Anton and Kerry, who both won in the end (not a cop out at *all*), were delivered to the pub for their ‘Cook in an Amazing Restaurant’ episode.
And we, the TV viewing people, got our first glimpse of The Hand & Flowers. Boy did it look GREAT.
There were things like huge chunks of meat served with massive onion rings on top, and chips that cracked louder than Russian meteorites. And chef/owner Tom Kerridge seemed like THE NICEST GUY ALIVE. And it had STARS. Two of them! So it had to be as delicious as it looked.
In a rare moment of divine clarity, I dived for the phone and booked a table as soon as the episode was over. Thank my little giblets I did: The Hand & Flowers is now fully booked until December. That, my friends, is the power of Masterchef: The Professionals. Never doubt it.
So, rather excitedly, we began our meal by sitting outside with gin and tonics in the sunshine. Mine was Bathtub Gin, and had a cute little bag of juniper berries floating in it. The boyfriend went for Tanqueray Rangpur with a kaffir lime leaf.
They were both insanely delicious yet completely different from one another. I’ve been inspired. My only goal in life now is to own a selection of gins and the knowledge of how to serve them correctly.
Inside and at our table, we weren’t entirely sure if The Hand & Flowers could be called a pub. There wasn’t a bar, which is a little weird, and the ambience was very ‘hush hush, oooooh’. The toilets didn’t even have a condom machine.
That said, some of the décor was gastro-pub hideous. I spent the meal leaning on a yellow-brownish cushion made of fuzzy quavers – a gross experience, in so many ways.
Our complimentary whitebait served in newspaper cone was crunchy and nostalgic; the sourdough bread was some of the best I’ve ever had. At this point I began whimpering with joy, although this may have been the 47% double shot of Bathtub Gin talking.
My starter, the Crispy Pig’s Head with Artichoke, Pancetta and Chickweed, had a full range of textures and pig flavours going on. It looked beautiful too. See?
The boyfriend’s Blowtorched Scottish Scallop with Warm Roast Chicken Bouillon was exactly that: juicy scallops sitting in jellied chicken stock.
Both were so good that we had to look at each other mid-chew and mouth the words ‘Oh. My. God.’ It was that kind of meal.
The mains were definitely more pub-like than our starters.
My duck – the dish from Masterchef, or “The Great British Menu” if you prefer (whatever) – was one of the best things I have ever put in my mouth. The skin was caramelised and crispy, the meat pink and deep, the gravy perfection.
And the chips. The chips were literally an ode to ‘ZOMG’. They were crunchy. They were fluffy. They tasted like duck fat. They made me happy.
The boyfriend’s Lancashire beef, above, was brilliant too. Our side of kale and ham hock was a great accompaniment. Basically, it all tasted so nice that I seriously considered excusing myself to the toilet, locking myself in a cubicle and having a good cry.
But I composed myself then, and I will now.
The Hand & Flowers Chocolate and Ale Cake with Salted Caramel and Muscovado Ice Cream turned out to be one of the meal’s highlights. Served with a little glass of punchy ale, it became more delicious with every mouthful (how do they do that?!).
We ate it so fast that we forgot to take a photo.
After macchiatos and espressos and a huge bill, which totally didn’t matter because this was a rare, life-affirming meal, we strolled back into beautiful Marlow, a little bit pissed, still mouthing ‘Oh. My. God.’
The Hand & Flowers can be found in Marlow, SL7 2BP. Good luck trying to get a table, suckers.