the Hand & Flowers, Marlow – King of Flavour

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The Hand and Flowers
126 West Street
Marlow SL7 2BP
Tel. 01628 482 277

Food type: British Gastropub

Nearest train station: Marlow

Website: The Hand and Flowers

The meals out for my birthday week continued thick and fast, with a visit to Tom Kerridge’s Hand & Flower’s pub in Marlow my next destination. Booking a table here has become a complete nightmare ever since they got their 2nd star, with tables booked up as far as 9 months in advance. The problem with my job is that I actually do not know what my rota will be like in 6 months and hence, for a while I had just completely given up on ever dining here. Thankfully, the restaurant saw some sense, scrapping the old reservation policy for one where you book 3 months in advance, much like you would at Gordon Ramsay or Fat Duck. In addition, they frequently advertise any late table availability (last minute cancellations) online and that was how I managed to snag a table here for a weekday lunch. For this visit, I would be joined by one of the ‘Pies’ who had also been wanting to dine here for ages.

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Table Setting

The menu here is a simple 3 course a la carte affair. No tasting menus although one is available if you dine in their private dining room called ‘the Shed’.  Items are individually priced with Starters £9.50 – £16, Mains £28.50 – £39.50 and Desserts £10.50. The set lunch menu is a bargain, 3 courses for £19.50. It is actually nice to see the restaurant still offer a set lunch menu as I am sure they could easily do away with it given how fully booked they are. From what I have been told, by a fellow chef, the Hand & Flowers do a solid 150 covers every day. That they are able to produce such consistent food for that many covers is remarkable.

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Medlar, London – Another Year Older

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Medlar
438 King’s Road,
Chelsea,
London, SW10 OLJ
Tel. 020 7349 1900

Food type: Modern French

Nearest tube: Sloane Square/ Fulham Broadway (a bit of a walk from both)

Website: Medlar

For my birthday dinner, I decided to go back to the old faithful Medlar. This would be my 12th meal (I probably only write about 1/3rd of the meals I eat out) here this year and I could not think of a better way than to spend an evening eating unpretentious food with some nice wine. A few weeks beforehand, I had asked David if he would be the kitchen would be kind enough to cook me a roast chicken dinner. But not any roast chicken dinner of course. A poulet de bresse dinner which would require a bit of pre-ordering and planning. When he answered in the affirmative, I was palpably excited. I would be joined by the ‘Pies’ for this dinner.

With the main course sorted, all we had to do was pick our starters. Having had a pretty substantial lunch earlier in the day, I went for the not-so-light option of burrata with caponata.

“What is burrata?” I heard the senior gentleman on the next table ask his wife.

“Oh it is salted cod roe” his wife very quickly and confidently replied.

“Well that doesn’t sound nice does it” the man replied. He proceeded to order the crab raviolo later.

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A. Wong, London – Close But No Cigar

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A. Wong
70 Wilton Road,
Victoria, London
SW1V 1DE
Tel. 0207 828 8931

Food type: Modern Chinese

Nearest tube: Victoria

Website: A. Wong

Plenty of posts will be coming up in the next couple of days as I try to catch up with all the eating that I have been doing. As part of my birthday celebrations, the ‘Pies’ were kind enough to take me for lunch at a restaurant of my choosing in London. After much discussion, the consensus was to go to a Chinese restaurant, so we could partake in some noodles. It is Chinese custom to eat noodles on a birthday as it represents ‘long life’. This is when we then decided on A. Wong, a restaurant I have been meaning to go to, and have heard plenty of good things about from Felix and Kang. Chef Andrew Wong actually read Chemistry at Oxford University and Social Anthropology at LSE before setting out to cook in a kitchen. He subsequently went to Westminster Kingsway Catering College, and after a 6 month tour around China, took over the family business presenting his own style of modern Chinese cuisine.

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Open Kitchen

Unlike many Chinese restaurants and takeaways in England which focus mainly on Cantonese cooking with a few smattering of dishes from other regions, A. Wong tries to showcase the 8 main Chinese cuisines. The menu is relatively short with a Dim Sum menu available during lunch and a more formal Tasting menu (Taste of China) available for dinner. There is also a Peking Duck menu available although they do require you to pre-order 48 hours in advance. For good reason too as Wong’s version requires 14 intricate steps. Being lunch, we ordered dim sum, many of which has been given Wong’s unique twist. A small bonus is that dim sum items can be ordered individually, so if you are dining alone you can try a wider variety of items.

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Tim Raue, Berlin – From China With Love

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Tim Raue
Rudi-Dutschke-Straße 26,
10969 Berlin, Germany
Tel. +49 30 2593 7930

Food type: Fusion Chinese

Website: Tim Raue

When it came to planning my trip to Berlin, the one restaurant on my ‘Must go’ list was Tim Raue. I have heard many good things about the restaurant from Felix and the restaurant is currently the highest ranking German restaurant in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants guide. He is probably Berlin’s hottest chef with two other restaurants in the city – Sra Bua at the Adlon Kempinski Hotel and La Soupe Populaire which is currently closed for renovation. He opened flagship restaurant in 2010 and gained a star that same year, with the second arriving in 2012. Raue’s cooking is unique, focusing on flavours from Asia, and in particular China combining them with his Modern European technique. The entrance to the restaurant is off the main road, via a small courtyard. Guarding the entrance to the restaurant are two stone lions which are meant to ward off evil spirits and bad luck.

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Table Setting

We dined at Restaurant Tim Raue for lunch. There were a few menus available. The a la carte menu has items individually priced with starters €46 – 56, mains €46 – 66 and desserts €24. On average you will spend about €130 for a 3 course meal. The lunch menu starts at €48 for 3 courses up to €78 for 6 courses. It does include a few of Raue’s signature dishes although they come with a supplement. In addition, there are two tasting menus available. The ‘Signature’ tasting menu (6 courses for €168) features all his classic dishes while a more contemporary tasting menu simply called ‘8’ (the number 8 being considered auspicious in Chinese cuisine) is priced at €198. Note how all the pricing also ends with an 8! We opted for the larger tasting menu and also incorporating his signature Peking Duck dish for an additional €24.

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the Elephant, Torquay – Farm to Table

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the Elephant Restaurant & Brasserie
3-4 Beacon Terrace,
Torquay, Devon, TQ1 2BH
Tel. 01803 200 044

Food type: Modern British

Website: the Elephant

We had to head to Salcombe for a friend’s wedding. Salcombe being a fair trek from where we live, we planned to drive down the day before instead of having to wake up at stupid O’Clock on the day of the wedding. That gave us a great opportunity to seek out some restaurants in the nearby vicinity. Using the ViaMichelin website, two notable restaurants popped up on the search – Treby Arms run by Anton Piotrowski of Masterchef Professional fame (and as of writing the only chef from Masterchef Professional who has actually won a Michelin star) and the Elephant run by Simon Hulstone. I have come across Hulstone’s food once. On a BA Flight to Singapore. Hulstone was tasked with designing the menu to celebrate the Summer Olympics in London. The food would be served to passengers on First and Business Class (Club World). As far as airplane dining goes, it was very impressive and I have been meaning to visit his actual restaurant in Torquay.

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Restaurant Exterior

So why this long? Well, one of the reason is that the Elephant used to be run over two floors. There was the casual brasserie downstairs and the fine dining ’the Room’ with a Michelin star. All fine and dandy except that because of the lack of traffic during the off-peak season (i.e. when it is cold and grey and no one wants to visit the seaside), the Room would be shut. And for the love of my life, I absolutely hate going to English seaside towns during peak seasons with notoriously bad traffic and overpriced hotels galore. Given the choice, I’d rather spend my money travelling abroad. So, because of a combination of factors, I never visited ‘The Room’. This all changed this year as Hulstone decided to shut ‘the Room’ moving his cooking downstairs, moving towards a casual fine-dining format. They retained their Michelin Star for the 12th consecutive year running.

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