Experience at Hand & Flowers
Fri, Jun 22nd 2012
Hand and flowers experience
By Chris Harrison, Chef at The Star @ Sancton
The Hand and Flowers located in Marlow, approximately thirty minutes out of London, is the only two Michelin star pub in the world. A well deserved tittle I found out after my time there.
Tom Kerridge the chef proprietor, set up the pub seven years ago. Costing around thirty thousand to do so. Surprisingly to many the H&F is still owned by Greene King. Tom explained to me this made it affordable for him to start his own business. I guess they have no problems with what he has done with it!
The kitchen is now driven by a brigade of twelve to fifteen chefs, around nine at any one time. A team that has grown and developed over the years. I believe there was only four chefs when they were awarded their first star. An experienced and knowledgable front of house team adds to the magnificence of the place.
Tom Kerridge who you may know from great British menu, having won the main course in 2010 and 2011, has great passion for food.
The ideas and flavour combinations are exceptional. The menu reads simply but the food you get is a complex plate of balanced flavours and textures. The crispy pigs head with rhubarb being one of my highlights. A fantastic dish made using the head of a pig which is becoming more and more fashionable as people try to minimise wastage and use as much of an animal as they can. Another must have on a visit is the duck fat chips. Triple cooked hand cut chips finished in duck fat, they are phenomenal. I believe I was told they go through about six sacks of potatoes a day! But when they do around 140 covers a day you can imagine that is the case!
The philosophy is using good local ingredients combined with excellent technique and skill in the cooking. The chefs are worked hard but the reward of being the best pub in the world must be a great feeling.
At the H&F they do lead the way as to what a pub can be like. Ideas are fresh and new on a regular basis. One idea that I really liked was an accompaniment to the vanilla creme brûlée, a small measure of cask conditioned lager. I thought as a pub this was great, many would expect fine wines as its titled two Michelin star. This is available too but they are true to being a pub. When a lager is conditioned in whiskey oak barrels and flavour of vanilla and honey why not enjoy with your desert? Also they offer a full range of beers, four hand pulled ales, one of which is a H&F ale. Brewed especially for them.
Over the years dishes have staked their place on the menu. The canapé of whitebait with Marie rose sauce has been there for about four years. They work to make the perfect food and once achieved the dish accompaniments change seasonally but the idea behind the dish remains. This does mean the menu doesn't change regularly but there is so many good dishes to choose from it doesn't have to. I could go every week and not get bored!
The atmosphere when dining is relaxed, but you do know your not just in any pub. There's a certain feel of class. In comparison to other two Michelin star restaurants around the world the H&F is 'cheap.' it's certainly more expensive than probably every pub in the world but then it's classed as the best. This does give them the opportunity to use some of the finer ingredients and equipment that is out of most pubs budgets. Summer truffles at £230 a kg and some of the greatest scallops I've seen. Equipment is also some of the best, the kitchen boasts a smart central cooking range, there is plenty of water baths, a Rational oven and a couple of Paco jets. Which they use to make there ice creams and parfaits. They have another two separate prep kitchens and store rooms. All is needed as they are constantly busy and striving for the best.
If you don't go and work there you must go and eat there. It was a truly great experience.
week I learnt so much. New innovative ideas and attitudes towards food. I hope
to offer added knowledge to Ben, Lindsey and all the team at the Star at