LivingTravelThe Hand and Flowers Restaurant Review

The Hand and Flowers Restaurant Review

There are 20 restaurants in the UK with two coveted Michelin stars. Only one of them is a pub. Tom Kerridge’s Marlow, Buckinghamshire hand and flowers have that honor.

With a high-profile TV chef as your patron and a star rating that puts you in the same class as Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir aux Quat ‘Saisons and Michel Roux Jr’s Le Gavroche, waiting for a confirmed table reservation can be older than one year. Fortunately, we had heard of the four comfortable leather seats at the bar (not much publicized and available on short notice at lunch). So we were able to get in with less than two weeks notice to give it a try.

Still, if you want a guaranteed reservation on a specific date, you have to wait for the calendar.

Setting the scene

The Hand and Flowers occupies a 17th century pub on Marlow to Henley Road, just west of the pretty and wealthy town of Marlow. You can see the part with its whitewashed brick exterior, red tile roof, hanging baskets overflowing with geraniums, and mullioned windows. Inside, the pub atmosphere continues with dark beamed ceilings that finish off three white rooms with hardwood and whitewashed floors, lined with bare wood tables. An addition on the side houses the bar, with its four not-so-secret bar seats, as well as several more tables.

Only the table setting, with its squads of glassware and chandeliers, hints that this is a pub in name only.

The service and the fee

We were concerned that sitting at the bar would be uncomfortable, but the soft, antique leather-padded seats with armrests and backs were quite comfortable. The only downside, it is not a convenient place to store a tote bag. Maybe some hanging hooks under the bar would help. An added bonus of sitting at the bar is that the bartender is nearby to answer questions and provide whatever you need, so the level of service is practically personal. This, of course, means that we cannot comment on the table service elsewhere other than to say that all the staff seemed friendly and welcoming.

Extra bits and pieces

There is a relatively long wait for food to arrive, but that’s understandable given that everything is made to order. A variety of little pub-inspired treats arrive to help pass the time. On the day we visited, these included:

  • a glass of Poiré Granit, a beautifully scented pear cider from France,
  • a newspaper cone of whitebait
  • several slices of sweet buttered chewy sourdough bread
  • a small bowl of pickled vegetables with lemon
  • And the highlight: Kerridge’s take on the pub’s favorite nibble, pork scratches. These, chosen by The Guardian as one of their top ten British recipes in 2014, are incredibly light and bubbly with a melted texture more like prawn crackers than the usual hard and crunchy pub sandwich.

Just don’t get carried away as the best is yet to come.

The food

The cooking style is described as modern British and is generally quite meaty with dishes like slow cooked duck breast with peas, duck fat fries and gravy (winner of the ‘Great British Menu’ contest at 2010), Cotswold Venison Tenderloin with Boudin Noir (Blood Sausage) Puree, Pork Tenderloin with Pickled Mustard Leaf, Malt Glazed Pork Cheek, Garlic Chorizo ​​and Potato, Beef, Chicken, Lamb , cod and sea bass. Many of the dishes are highly refined riffs on classic pub food.

UK Travel Tip : Unless you plan ahead, the vegetarians in your group can get dry and high. If you inform the restaurant well in advance of your arrival, they will prepare a vegetarian option for you. But, unless you’re the only vegetarian in your group, this restaurant is probably not a good choice for you.

A starter of vegetable flower fritters with pork sham and quail egg was actually a high-class version of a Scottish egg. The pork sham, wrapped in a pumpkin flower and deep fried, contained the hidden surprise of a perfectly cooked and still soft quail egg. We also got a summer zucchini tart with chevre cheese, pesto, and cured pork. It arrived pretty as a picture and wrapped in an unidentified clear coat. That, apparently, was “cured pork,” an Italian specialty known as lardo.

The main course, described as the “Herb Crusted” stone bass with a crab pancake, came with a thick herb “blanket.” It was a well cooked and generous fish that was wrapped in a pancake filled with crabmeat and scented by herbs.

Offal occasionally appears on the menu here and our partner had a beatific expression on her face as she ate her Essex lamb “bun” with sweetbreads and green sauce. Looking more like a candied apple on a stick than a bun, the dish is a tender cutlet cooked to melting point and wrapped in sweetbreads, the batch topped with an ultra-thin polenta crust and a golden-colored glaze. The accompanying salsa verde, a mix of fresh herbs, garlic, and lemon zest really lights up your mouth with unexpected flavor.

We ordered broccoli sides in hazelnut mayo and hispi slaw. The broccoli, like the zucchini that accompanied the entree, was so undercooked that it was difficult to actually prick it with a fork. Cabbage, a small, sweet and pointed variety, perfect.

For the pudding, we had a rich, sweet caramel tart with roasted grapefruit sorbet. The cake, by itself, could have been cloyingly sweet; the bitter brow sorbet. But together what a perfect combination. Magical.

El Nitty-Gritty

Is dining here expensive? Well the chef is a celebrity, there are two Michelin stars and four AA rosettes on the sign and the wait for a table has been at least a year, what do you think? But actually, for the quality of the food, the £ 119 spent for lunch for two (including tip but no wine) is adequate for a restaurant of this class.

The a la carte menu is the same for lunch and dinner. You can save a bit by choosing the set menu, available at lunch from Monday to Saturday. There is no other option on the set menu and while I’m sure Tom Kerridge’s way of adapting to homemade pie is fabulous, it seems a shame to wait to dine here for such a simple menu. Why not spend time saving instead?


  • interesting and well-executed takes on British pub classics and rustic French dishes
  • comfortable and informal atmosphere
  • surprising extras
  • A massive, reasonably priced, well-curated wine list that includes separate organic and biodynamic wine lists, at least 20 house wines by the bottle or glass, an extensive champagne list, and a striking vintage wine collection for those who I really want to splash
  • You can bring your own wine. There is a corkage fee for that.


  • very difficult to get a table when you want it
  • food occasionally disappointed by too much salt and undercooking (vegetables)
  • the tables are a bit crowded
  • If your idea of a special occasion meal includes tablecloths and flower arrangements, you will be disappointed. Prices and anticipation may make this a special occasion restaurant for most people, but the atmosphere is very similar to that of a nice country pub.
  • Tom Kerridge is often absent.

Is there really a year of waiting for a table?

In the past, the wait was more than a year. The reservations page on The Hand and Flowers website has a list of the following available table reservations.

The advantage of this is that since people have to book so far in advance, there are likely to be cancellations. So there are also waiting lists. Get yourself on the waiting list for the specific lunch or dinner you want and see what happens. And, if you’re happy to sit at the bar, you might arrive on short notice. It is always worth asking.

UK Travel Tips: There are two seats for lunch. If you have a choice, take the latter of the two. That way, you can keep your food for as long as you want.

Try the trainer instead. Kerridge and his wife have opened a second pub just up the street that works without reservation. Get there early because it is small and fills up quickly.

The essential

  • Where: The Hand and Flowers, 126 West Street, Marlow SL7 2BP
  • Contact: Tel: +44 (0) 1628 482 277, email : [email protected]
  • How to get there:
    • By Train : Marlow Train Station is a 10 minute walk away.
    • By car : Marlow is about 20 miles from central London. Take the M4 west towards Windsor and Maidenhead, then the A404 towards Marlow. At the end of Main Street, turn left at the T-junction onto West Street. The Hand and Flowers is approximately a quarter mile from the intersection.
    • UK Travel Tip: The M4 is often clogged with traffic, so give yourself plenty of extra time to get there. Marlow is a very pretty town with a panoramic bridge over the Thames, historic buildings from the 17th and 18th centuries, and many retail therapy shops. There is an inexpensive parking lot behind the supermarket. If you arrive early there is a lot to do.
  • Visit their website for hours, prices, menus, and more.

Check out the best hotel deals on TripAdvisor in Marlow

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