Archive | April, 2011

The Hand & Flowers

18 Apr

March 13th marked a very special day for Mark and I. A first anniversary. It was hard to believe that it was just a year ago that we went to The Fat Duck. Now that is an anniversary worth celebrating, and how better to celebrate this special occasion by consuming good food? This day would also mark the start of an anticipatory week of delicious dining (Alain Ducasse on the Wednesday and lunch at Apsleys on the following Sunday). And before you ask, no, I don’t seem to spend my money on anything else and lunch menus are the only means for me to get by.

As the 13th fell on a Sunday this year we decided we needed to eat at a Sunday Lunch kind of place and The Hand & Flowers fell neatly into that category. Ever since watching Great British Menu I have been salivating over the idea of Tom Kerridge’s roast duck with duck fat chips and their website has the most enticing picture slide show of various dishes that would lure anybody through their front doors.

The Hand & Flowers is all chunky wooden tables and low ceilings but well-lit with natural light. As I had furiously studied their online menu for weeks beforehand, I was pleasantly surprised at a couple of additions, particularly the salt cod scotch egg with red pepper sauce as a starter. Embracing the exhilaration of the risk that comes with spontaneity I went for the scotch egg over my previous decision of veal sweetbread with pearl barley. Mark decided to play it safe and went with his original choices.

Canapés were in the form of deep-fried whitebait with marie rose sauce. I liked these a lot. Sure, they were a bit cold, but they were the most substantial canapés I have ever had and probably the most original. Nothing can beat the taramasalata at Marcus Wareing for sheer incredible tastiness in the canapé league table, but these newspaper wrapped fishy morsels came in at a close second.

Our starters were brought to us by the greatest waitress of all time. She joked and smiled and was completely genuine. We listened in to her chat with the couple next to us who appeared to be as ardently enamoured with her as we were and we discovered that this was just her weekend job and she was currently studying for her A Levels. I don’t know why but that made me love her a little more, probably because some like Bybrook’s nasty little man could learn a thing or twenty from her and no doubt his experience by far exceeds hers.

I seem to have become a little distracted, we were here for the food after all. My scotch egg was nice but Mark definitely won with his veal sweetbread. I tried the sweetbread with closed eyes and I was momentarily confused as I thought I had taken a bite of my egg. It had the consistency and taste of a very rich egg yolk. Uh-mazing.

I was a little worried that I wouldn’t be full when my main course arrived. At a first glance the slice of duck breast looked alarmingly small so I was slightly relieved when my chips arrived shortly afterwards.

However, once I had finished thanking the waitress profusely and my gaze was fully concentrated on my plank of food I noticed lots of extra bits hiding. Like a deep-fried ball of rich ground up duck bits. And pieces of duck lurking in the mini pot of creamy cabbage. It was a duck fest! The actual duck breast was really wonderful and it was covered in a delicious sweet sticky glaze. The skin was so so great. As were the chips, especially when dipped in the gravy. And I think my favourite thing about it was how greasy it all was – greasy in the most positive sense of the word in that it just dripped flavour. I felt my arteries clog with every bite, but they understood and they cheered me on when I began to lag: ‘FINISH IT FINISH IT FINISH IT’. I did. Just.

Mark had a venison and beetroot tart. The pastry tasted purely of butter. Marvellous.

My eyes were obviously distracted by the word ‘soufflé’ on the dessert menu so every other option was irrelevant. The lovely waitress confirmed it was a good choice but do be careful of the hot copper pans so I felt doubly pleased with myself.

Apricot in flavour, heaven on the lips. My greed got the better of me and I took a bite before I took a photo. Both Mark and I managed to severely burn ourselves on the copper pans but it was worth it. Mark showed the lovely waitress his burn, looking for sympathy and she made a joke about how men always do exactly what they are told not to do. I didn’t share with her my burn in case she thought less of me.

Petit fours were not included with the tea, we spent an extra £2.50 on those. They were very nice but not as nice as if they had been free. There was a tea list which was great. When confronted with a wine list I always feel intimidated as I know absolutely nothing about wine, but with a tea list I feel at ease even though my knowledge about tea really begins and ends with a builders brew –  incidentally a builders brew was included, to be served in a mug for a mere £1.50. Brilliant.

Highlights of the rest of the meal was witnessing a lady accidentally pour her bowl of soup on to her lap.

The 13th March 2011 was not as exciting or adventurous as the 13th March 2010. But it was really very nice. And hearty, as a good Sunday meal should be. It was certainly a good enough meal for the 13th March to be kept as a special day of culinary delight.

The Hand & Flowers
126 West Street, Marlow, Buckinghamshire, SL7 2BP