The Hand & Flowers….the Michelin downfall?

I don’t even know where to start, seriously. Hand and flowers is this kind of places – not being their fault – but trapped into the endlessness vicious circle of Michelin establishment and early stage rating and granted 2 stars by the Michelin guide in the 2012 edition. OK this is nice, this friendly, this is overwhelming…but STOP with young staff, waiting for you (as we were 36 min late – our fault, I’ve to say).

This is a fact, after 7 years being living in the UK I’ve always been easy with the rating of restaurants in the country, trying to identify the difference and understand. When we go back to France, I do feel the rating is more serious and professional than in the British country one. However I’ve so say it’s sometime difficult to even understand, within the UK itself. From the lovely Sporstman in Whistable with 1 star, where despite being served the classical tasting menu, at least they had the decency of showing a certain hospitality to Alain Ducasse in London, there is a huge gap (of price as well).

From most starred restaurant in the world, to the best places in France and the UK, I’ve to say, that in this particular occasion we reached the level of the ridicule. Certainly supported by an unexperienced staff, lovely crew of people, but young.

Not for the respect of the chef, certainly not. After a full meal I think I had quite a decent experience for 3 hours. But come on, this is not acceptable to compare some places in the UK to the Hand and Flowers. How can this be marked 2 stars. This is illogical and can’t be reproduced.

This is not acceptable to compare the Green House (two stars) in London to this pub, or the Maison Lassere in Paris, all those teams in the world suffering every day to bring an experience, a moment in the life for you and me. This is not simply acceptable to compare the Gavroche or Joel Robuchon to the H/S. Even the Mid-Summer which I detailed over a full post was to be applauded in this particular day. Something is going wrong in the Michelin rating establishment and we will have to understand what is happening.

Is it a kind of mafia surrounding the French established born guide ….. carrying what they did for the some recently recognized Chef in the world, and almost being creating a subsidiaries of connection with some grown up chef.

I’m seriously fed up with this outrageous way of the Michelin guide to establish new scales, new benchmarking where there is definitely none. This is a real downfall and this is bad from a guide which has established a reputation of regularity and impartiality in their judgment. I will take the example of some Tailevent in Paris. How dare would you rate Taillevent the same level as the Hand and Flowers? How rude is that.

Am I missing the point here? Are we saying the UK Michelin got a different rating as the rest of the world? Then if the anwer to that question is a Yes, then I’m giving up. I though Michelin was establishing a global and standard level of rating all cross the world and this is what we’re paying for? This would be my mistake.

Here Tom Tom Kerridge, with all the best respect I got for his talent since I’ve seen him in Great British Menu, I can’t understand how you could have the respect to be part of the group of established Michel Roux or Joel Robuchon and not being ashamed of been awarded the same level on a simple pub in the middle of Marlow. I would be you, I would write to the Michelin headquarter telling that there must be a misunderstanding.

The first minute of this moment, when we arrived, I think we all been chocked almost.………was close to nothing….I think I almost thought for two seconds that we must have made a mistake and this is not the place we were suppose to open the door….maybe it’s was 200 meters away…no IT WAS THERE.

on top of that, like Matthew Norman for the telegraph said here, “It’s the absolutely generic Home Counties gastropub,” with a referenced Classic Posh Pub Décor No 4 (B).

We arrive, we see a nice pub, a team chatting, an usual hesitation on taking your clothes and then the noisy dining room, then the waitress telling that you’re late (which of course, you aplologies and I suggested we could take the dessert/coffee in another room to aarange, we’re flexible…..but no other option I’m told)….are you sure this is the place you’re coming to have a Sunday roast?? Almost surreal.

Two Stars? This is a joke!!

My god….Michelin Guide UK is driving the people nuts by doing this kind of analogy. This is really bad, and this is not even the fault of mister Kerridge. Seriously.

The Michelin star in the UK is not on the first time proceeding to this kind of operation. They did it recently in 2011 for Arbutus in London. Same scenario, as the good (or bad) surprise was random and unexpected from the staff (I’ve been told by an established 1 star chef – friend of mine).

Come on Michelin team, you can do better and be realistically independent. Stop trying to ruin the level you established in other countries by just rushing and creating stars where there is none. This is a competition, but a real high level one. You’re destroying the credibility of your own establishment by acting as such.

I’ve been recently to the Elephant in Torquay*and this was a far better experience than the Hand and Flowers….how weird.

Worse than that, something happen which never happen to me before, and which was even worse for this poor chef…..a hair….seriously I’m not joking….this is a first time I had a hair in a dish. This was a joke. I’m not even doing any fuss of it ….expect that my friend had to wait 20 minutes to get another dish ready to replace, and that has not even change the attitude regarding the timing.

Also I’ve to say, on top of that, we’ve been commended to leave the table for a certain time….what the hell is that…if you’re a 2 stars…you deal with that, aren’t you? I can’t wait to see serious people coming to your restaurant (pub), some people who are filling up the places like Gavroche or Robuchon un Tokyo….there will be an issue…I’m telling you.

Stop it Michelin……

In essence…..forget about this place, as a 2 stars this is simply NOT ACCEPTABLE… a good pub…yes, certainly one of the best …. but in this case I would put 1 star to the Great-house in Lavenham then.

This is stupid, as if the food can be nice….and the fact than such a bad start can ruin the full experience.

But about the food, I’ll not even comment about it as I use to do usually….as I’ve been so much disgusted by the treatment and the rudeness of the management and staff.

Enjoy the photos below and I’ll make short comments….rude as they could have been….but still fair.

Braised Pearl Barley, pan fried foie gras with Orange Oil and Sommerset Hare

Interesting one, with the crackling effect of the pearl. Overall interesting, nice try on the combo of orange and foie gras (maybe a variation of the Heston classic). But I’m afraid the orange flavour is too subtle, the hare totally disappear in the sauce. Over all feeling a richness more than flavour. Nice but not fantastic.

Salt Cod Scotch Egg with Chorizo, red pepper sauce

Quite nice flavour, I’ve to say, but you’ll tell me it’s a big bacalao with a chorizo base. Good point for the red pepper purée….superb to balance the chorizo.

Parsley soup with smoked Eel, Bacon and Parmesan Tortelini.

The winner without any doubt. Amazing parley potage (not velouté in this case). the eel was supberly balancing the herb effect.

Breast of Suffolk chicken with Pistachio crumble, lovage poached turnips, Soft Polenta and Winter Truffle

I was my first attempt, what a shame. I’ll not reveal the location of the intruder. However the flavour of the truffle was sublimed by the richness of the creamy polenta. I’m afraid the turnips didn’t turn up (ahahaha) as being the most flavoury vegetable to go with this dish. However the chicken was super moist and the creamy polenta was adding so much value to the overall combo. The pistachio crust was just sumptuous. Well done. Shame I didn’t finish it.

Red Wine Braised Shin of Beef, with Hand and Flowers carrot and Shin sauce. (Replacement)

My second main course, I have to say has totally rebalanced the overall drama. The carrot slow cooked in somewhat an essence of flower I guess, was just the best carrot I had ever. The sous vide technique is bringing here a sweet carrot, glazed at the last minute. Stunning.

And the beef shin, covered with a layer of simple potatoe purée, all wrapped in caul fat. The beef was superb, maybe a little bit rich again. But this is a very good traditional dish. Almost a boeuf Bourguignon, revisited.

Cornish Day boat Skate, with bacon roast parsnips, trompette, cockles and lardo.

I’ve tried also this one. I’m afraid we all agree the skate was dry. On this kind of variation around a Classical Grenobloise Skate dish, I would have expected a kind of noisette butter on the side.

Essex Lamb “bun” with sweetbreads and salsa verde.(closed)

Essex Lamb “bun” with sweetbreads and salsa verde (open)

This one was of course the most impressive. Just by the look. However, seem like the expectation was again too high. When you open it you’ll find a nicely wrapped in caul fat lamb minced meat. Surprisingly no sweetbreads as they’ve been mixed up in the meat.

I would cook this same dish, I would separate the 2 elements, do one big for the lamb, one for the sweetbreads, as the client can enjoy the combo like a game. This would have been more ludic and the  client would have enjoyed the flavour separately.

Amazing good point here for the Salsa Verde, the best one I’ve ever tried. Purée of Parsley, Garlic and Olive oil…..simple but done to PERFECTION.

Tonka Bean Panacotta, poached Rhubarb, ginger wine jelly and rhubarb sorbet.

I’ve to say this one, despite a really non glamorous presetnation was from far the best dish on that day. Light but creamy. Full of flavor and I’ve to confess I’m not the biggest fan of rubarhb as well. The sorbet was stunning, the jelly tasteless…unfortunately. But overall a WINNER

Warm Pistachio Sponge cake, melon sorbet and marzipan

This one was defo my favourite, as I LOVE melon. Very surprising to have melon in the middle of Jan, but who cares. I was essentially tempted by the pistachio sponge cake. I have to say my pistachio financier are stronger in flavour than this one. I like the chequers of melon. Nice one also.

Hand and Flowers Chocolate Cake, salted caramel and Muscovado Ice Cream

Maybe the boring one. Chocolate…….again!! and certainly not the the WOW you’ll expect. Nice ganache made of good quality chocolate, but the texture was somewhat too creamy. The Salted caramel and muscovado Ice cream was low in flavor and I’ve to say, this version of this dessert a the Elephant in Torquay was far more better….no futher comments.


To put an end to this bad story, I even had to claim to cancel the price of counted replacement dish???? …….in a history of good food and Michelin star, this is a pure disappointment, leaving me with hanger against my favourite guide and the fact that some people are currently committing into the selling of the quite old and established guide. We’re losing in quality and independence. This is a shame.

I hope this is not the start or even continuity of a downfall. I’m working to make people understand the real rating established a long time ago by people with passion. Recently the Michelin guide has committed a self-suicide by promoting too many places ….and not really looking to their own rating benchmark or policy guide. I would recommend to those people currently working at Michelin to travel more. To experience more places in the world. To come back to the root of the rating and system they implemented. Also to the Management to introduce some level of double checking (I can’t possibly conceve that the H/F has been double checked in this case).

You should go to Tokyo messieurs. You should go to Paris or Spain messieurs.

How can you rate Noma, Robuchon, Gavroche, Carré de Feuillants, …..or even Mid-Summer with a 2 stars when you are rating 2 star at Hand and Flower.

Let’s enjoy also this picture of the toilets taken by my friend. Notice the lovely plastic flowers. The apparent plumbing is adding to the global experience as well. Hopefully the towels were ready and some moisturiser for hands…. at least.

lovely plastic flowers.....a must to have in a 2 Michelin Star rated place.


I would recommend you to extend your bib gourmand to different level…..this would be wiser.

As a lover of food and quality…….I’m sorry Hand and Flowers is a nice pub…maybe the best….but this is a PUB. Don’t get me wrong, this must be the best food I’ve had in a PUB, indeed…..but if you establish a rating with Hibiscus in London, or Taillevent in Paris as challenger….the Hand and Flowers can’t compete….and this is the issue with the rating here.

Please do try to enjoy the food…….unfortunately on shade by the silliness of an international rating established by the Michelin currently falling regulators.

It seems that we’ve got here some similarities with the big financial rating agencies… seems that some food rating agencies are currently diverting from the core established policy to please a maximum of people and maybe to create virtually some stars where there is none…..this could be their downfall soon….the scale you established mister Michelin is not a race, it’s a recognition, and this need to be given fairly. Some people, clearly strong in this industrie will soon dislike your judgment. And I’m starting to be one of the people, and I’m not the only one… that space.

The Hand and Flowers, 126 West Street, Marlow SL7 2BP
Contact 01628 482277;

FOOD = 6/10
SERVICE = 5/10
NOISE = 5/10

Hand & Flowers on Urbanspoon

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  1. #1 by Rapael Protti on 16/01/2012 - 21:55


    I’ve know you for a long time and know your foodie pedigree… You know better than to look to Michelin for an opinion, at least in these days. Forge your own path and set the record straight, as you are doing here. From the look of the pictures, the food is fine, actually looks excellent. But your review of the service and experience makes its clear its not two star worthy. It must have been one of those magical days for the Michelin reviewer, who came when everyone was feeling particularly kind and perhaps he (she) had been properly laid the night before, and somehow the focus was narrowed to the mouth; all other emotions already feeling quite satisfied…

    It’s a mystery you will not solve today.

  2. #2 by Sue G on 06/01/2013 - 17:41

    As a member of the public with no experience of rating class restaurants, Michelin Stars suggest to me very good wholesome food with ‘blow your mind’ flavours. I understand that surroundings and service can also be important components but to me, a mere pleb, the food is of the utmost importance. I have been to high class restaurants, some in London, and had top rated dishes. Some have been served in very plush, well run establishments with service and presentation to perfection. However, in some cases, that’s where the experience stops, because tastes and flavours are not comparable in any way I’m sorry to say. Of course, some have been good, but at that level, to be served good looking food that is bland, dull and uninteresting is unforgivable. I therefore rest my case until I have visited the Hand and Flowers Pub and I will be judging purely on the quality and tastes and flavours of my selected dishes. Anything else provided such as good service etc will purely be a bonus.

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    • #5 by vince75016 on 24/03/2013 - 10:29


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  5. #7 by vince75016 on 26/05/2013 - 11:05

    I don’t spend more time with HF
    If you have poor standards, good for u

    I don’t do the apology of a hair in a main course and a bad management for a pretentious two star.

    Pathetic poor place


  6. #8 by vince75016 on 26/05/2013 - 11:13

    Oh and by the way
    If you have been to any two star other than there….lol
    The food is not even interesting
    The products are dull and cooked with no creativity
    Travel, please….travel

    Then argue
    Tom kerridge is just the anti normal and he is not deserving the michelin stars at all.

    Really bad from michelinuk and they’re paying their decision badly since two years.

    If we were the only one thinking like this….at least we’re not

    Leaving you to your expectations, apparently not the same level


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