The only two-Michelin-starred pub in the world, Tom and Beth Kerridge's Hand & Flowers in Marlow last month played host to a special Chef Eats Out event in association with CHEF. Amanda Afiya and Kerstin Kühn report
Tom and Beth Kerridge have had an incredible journey since opening the Hand & Flowers in the beautiful town of Marlow in Buckinghamshire in early 2005. Within one year of launching, they were awarded a Michelin star, and Buckinghamshire Newcomer of the Year in the Good Food Guide, three AA rosettes and one Egon Ronay star.
A Newcomer Award Catey followed in 2007, and in October last year, in the publication of the 2012 Michelin Guide for Great Britain and Ireland, the Hand & Flowers became the first pub to have been awarded two Michelin stars. Only 17 restaurants in the UK and Ireland currently hold two Michelin stars, and just 10 of them are outside London.
Of course, when you look at Tom Kerridge's career, his accolades shouldn't come as any surprise. The former head chef of the one-Michelin-starred restaurant Adlard's in Norwich (now called Roger Hickman's) also worked as senior sous chef at Monsieur Max in Hampton and spent periods at London restaurants Odette's, Rhodes in the Square, Stephen Bull and the Capital.
But it's in Marlow where he has really made his mark and to celebrate his success, Caterer and Hotelkeeper teamed up with the chef to give 50 industry professionals the chance to exclusively sample his award-winning cuisine.
"Chef Eats Out is a wonderful event that I've been reading about in Caterer and Hotelkeeper for years and it's always great restaurants taking part, so it meant a great deal for me to be involved and I'm very proud," Kerridge says.
"Having industry people there meant that they all understood how a kitchen works and what's going on - seeing 50 industry faces was a bit like a family event and it had a lovely feel to it."
It was a glorious spring day and after a sunny Champagne reception outside, which saw a cookery demonstration by Nestlé Professional development chef Huw Griffiths, diners sat down to inspired pubby canapés of deep-fried whitebait with Marie Rose sauce.
The menu kicked off with crispy pig's head with artichokes, crackling and pancetta, which was matched by a Spanish wine, Navaherreros Blanco de Bernabeleva 2009. (Bibendum Wine account manager Annabel Virtue, who had supplied the Champagne and wines for the event, talked diners through how the wines complemented each course.)
"This is a dish that's a constant on the menu and goes through different guises as the seasons change," Kerridge says. "In the autumn we serve it with apple and blackberry and in the summer with rhubarb."
Inspired by a trip to fellow two-Michelin-starred chef Sat Bains' Restaurant in Nottingham, the spring version is served with artichokes, crackling and pancetta as well as a garnish of chickweed.
"This dish represents us so well," adds Kerridge. "I love British pork and the chickweed adds a flavour of the outdoors."
Next up was a glorious spring dish, bursting with colour - parsley soup with smoked eel, bacon and Cheddar tortellini.
"I'm not really into foraging but I love using fresh, simple herbs and parsley is the most English herb of them all," explains Kerridge.
"I had a really simple parsley soup at Le Chateaubriand in Paris, which inspired this dish, but the smoked eel and Cheddar tortellini make it very British."
On to the main course - loin of Cotswold venison with ox tongue, barigoule mushroom, English asparagus and prickly ash.
"I love using venison - it's a great meat and very low in fat," enthuses Kerridge. "The barigoule mushroom has a similar texture to ceps but a more intense flavour. We top it off with salami, crispy pig's skin and cured foie gras, which adds richness. And we used the first of the English asparagus, which is lovely."
The dish was beautifully matched with a 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon from Journeys End in Stellenbosch, South Africa.
Last but certainly not least came dessert: Hand & Flowers chocolate cake with salted caramel and Muscovado ice-cream. It's a dish that takes Kerridge three days to make but the result - a rich, intensely flavoured and delicious dessert - makes it worth the wait.
"It's simple, but it's a very intense end to the meal, a bit like a double espresso," says Kerridge. Indeed it was a perfect end to a fantastic meal on a glorious day in Marlow.
Navaherreros Blanco de Bernabeleva 2009 Vinos de Madrid, Spain
â- Parsley soup with smoked eel, bacon and Cheddar tortellini Pinot Bianco Haberle Vineyard 2009 Alois Lageder, Alto Adige, Italy
â- Loin of Cotswold venison with ox tongue, barigoule mushroom, English asparagus and prickly ash Journeys End Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 Stellenbosch, South Africa
â- Hand & Flowers chocolate cake with salted caramel and Muscovado ice-cream Maury Grenat 2009 Els Pirineus, Languedoc-Roussillon, France
With additional thanks to the Hand & Flowers butcher Walter Rose and Son (01380 722335) and Bibendum Wine (0845 2636924) for their support in the event.
COMMENTS FROM THE GUESTS
My highlight of the day was probably the whole day - from the interesting demonstration in the morning to our meal, wine and the company. These events are a great opportunity to experience excellent cuisine, and to chat to our colleagues and peers. With the emergence of the social media thing, which we all use as a tool to network, it's actually nice just to get down and talk shop with like-minded people working hard in the same industry.
Nick Galer, head chef, the Crown at Bray
It's a tough call but my favourite dish was the venison with ox tongue - it was beautifully constructed and all the components worked together really well. The wines were very good and the pairings carefully chosen to enhance the flavours of each dish - I would happily order any one of them. The highlight of the day for me was Tom introducing each dish, like an artist showing his paintings - truly memorable.
Barry Bevan, retired publican The best dish for me was the crispy pig's head with artichokes - there was a great balance of earthy flavours and textures and the dish was seasoned beautifully. It was a real chef's dish. I also really enjoyed the wines that accompanied the dishes. The descriptions of the wines were particularly helpful, giving a brief history and explanation of the wine itself.
Matthew Worswick, sous chef, Le Champignon Sauvage
My favourite dish was the venison - it was light and full of flavour and you could taste every component in the dish. If you asked me what my favourite ingredient in the dish was I would have to say the asparagus - it was out of this world. It could not have been a better day. It was nice and warm and the area was perfect for the occasion. I'll definitely go back for a meal in the pub as it was a wonderful experience.
Patrick Piscopo, senior sous chef, Thistle Marble Arch
Prior to the lunch at the Hand & Flowers, Nestlé Professional Development Chef Huw Griffiths showed guests how to prepare red gurnard, tempura squid with lobster risotto and pickled sea vegetables using CHEF Les Fonds Premium Fumet de Homard.
Griffiths filleted the gurnard before vacuum-packing it with thyme and lemon and poaching it in a water bath. The fish, which Griffiths would normally then grill prior to service, was served with a lobster risotto using Cornish Yarg and Fumet de Homard stock. The dish was dressed with fried tempura squid and pickled sea vegetables (wakame, marsh samphire, hair vegetable, duse and arame), which had been soaked in cider vinegar and sugar and squeezed to remove excess moisture. Finally, the sea vegetables were mixed with samphire. The plate was then dressed with a lobster reduction and lobster oil (both made using CHEF Fumet de Homard).
CHEF is thrilled to have sponsored Chef Eats Out hosted by Tom Kerridge at the Hand & Flowers, which was awarded its second Michelin star in 2011. With his passion for the very best of British food and seasonal ingredients, Tom was the ideal host for this exciting event.
Dedicated to supporting culinary ambition, CHEF is proud to be part of this event. For more information on how CHEF can support your culinary ambition, visit the CHEF Club for exclusive offers and invitations.