It was meant to be an expedition beyond the safe confines of the M25. Yes, I know it is rather embarrassing that between K and I, we had over two decades of living in the UK, but we had barely ventured outside Greater London. So K’s 30th birthday provided us a perfect excuse to venture out. Not to mention the fact that Hand and Flowers is the only pub with two Michelin stars.
The day started well, at least for K who met me at Paddington Station, clutching a Cornish pasty to cure his after-after-party-induced hangover. Then it was a rather pleasant train ride through beautiful English countryside, with the Thames weaving in and out of the background.
I’d organized for us to be greeted with champagne upon arrival, which on hindsight, was not a great idea. Once K saw that I was taking him down with champagne, he decided that we would go all the way and order wine with every course. I really loved it that they offered carafe options for a few pretty good wines, which meant we could have white with our starters and red with our mains.
Which brings me on to the food. Although the descriptions sounded like relatively familiar gastropub items, the devil was in the exquisite execution. This included a parsley soup with so much body that it’s difficult to believe the only ingredients were parsley, stock and parsley oil. And perfectly cooked peas (just al dente) that packed a punch from the flavour of duck fat.
Great British Dish winner: slow-cooked duck with peas and duck fat chips as well as a side of sprouting broccoli with anchovies and garlic
There are no challenging flavour combinations, no fancy bacon ice-cream, no molecular gastronomy tricks, nothing that smacks of a chef who is trying to show off his cleverness. Instead, the cleverness is all in how sophisticated yet rustic the cooking and flavours were.
We took a slow walk back to the station after lunch, not that we could have walked any faster given the amount of food we consumed. Walking past some lovely cottages, K and I started fantasizing about our future country homes…perhaps maybe one day… It was such a lovely day overall, to get away from the hustle and bustle of London, breathe fresh air and yet only a short hour-ish ride away from Paddington.
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Good for: Special occasions, daytrips outside London, dining with friends