We enjoyed our last time at the Hand And Flowers so much (and you can read about that here) that we decided to come back for a birthday eve meal for me. There were no spaces available at the early sitting so we were here for 2115 (so close to being Prog o’clock), which would be something different for us as we generally eat out at earlier times. We had also made a deliberate decision to not order the same dishes we had last time, so there would be no steak for Debbie. Just to recap, The Hand And Flowers is a pub which was opened in March 2005 by Tom and Beth Kerridge and has two Michelin Stars.
We arrived right on time and were taken straight to our table, but not before we were reminded just how very welcoming and friendly the staff are. We had walked in and Debbie was speaking to someone at the bar about our reservation when one of the waiters came in from the garden and looked around us. I presumed he wanted to get past so I moved to the side, at which point he then said there was no need for me to move and he had just been checking that we were being looked after. Little touches like that go a long way with me. We were seated across from where we had been last time, still at the far end, with that feeling of seclusion and privacy. Debbie ordered a glass of Prosecco, and we very quickly made our food choices. Not long after that we were brought complimentary whitebait with a Marie Rose sauce, together with some sourdough and soda bread, and we were very quick again in eating it all. And then it was time for our starters.
I had ordered the Lovage Soup with Bramley Apple, Smoked Eel and Blue Cheese Tortellini,
which looked stunning, and the flavours did not disappoint after that immediate visual treat. The soup had a lovely consistency, the light flavour worked so well with the smokiness of the wonderfully tender eel and the sharpness of the Bramley apple, and the blue cheese tortellini added a whole different aspect once I allowed myself to get to it. I had chosen the dish because I wanted to try something different, and I was very pleased with my choice. Debbie had ordered the Glazed Omelette of Smoked Haddock and Parmesan,
and it looked very attractive, presented in its little saucepan. It had a very rich taste, as she expected with the mixture of haddock, parmesan and egg, and as a starter it was very filling, so personally she would have preferred slightly less haddock inside it to make it slightly lighter. I also tried some of this and it was perfect for me with big chunks of fish and a rich cheesy taste.
For my main course, I could not resist choosing the dish from the Great British Menu 2010, the Slow Cooked Duck Breast with Peas, Duck Fat Chips and Gravy.
We also ordered a side of Broccoli with Hollandaise Sauce and Toasted Hazlenuts to share because we enjoyed it so much last time. The broccoli has a real crunch to it, which is just the way I like it. My duck was delicious, cooked to medium which made it very easy to cut (although I got the impression that knife would cut anything !) and it almost dissolved in the mouth. The peas were very light, which was a lovely contrast with the rich gravy, which itself almost had a bbq edge to it, and the chips were far too good. I am supposed to be watching what I eat, but those chips would always be impossible to resist. Especially with the gravy. There was also a wonderful ball of stuffing, which also went very well with the gravy. Debbie was banned from ordering the steak, so instead she chose the Tenderloin of Wiltshire Pork with Pickled Mustard Leaf, Malt Glazed Cheek, Garlic Sausage and Potato Dauphine.
The pork was soft and very well cooked, she really enjoyed the potato Dauphine, and although the cheek and the garlic sausage were very nice, she was not convinced they went together as a whole with the rest of the dish. We did not finish the broccoli, because we had more than enough with both of our main courses anyway.
Although clearly not enough to stop us having a look at the dessert menu. I must have forgotten our rules for the evening because I chose the souffle again, and this time it was Raspberry and Rosewater Souffle with Caramelised White Chocolate Ice Cream and Basil Sauce.
Words can hardly describe the souffle, it was so scrumptious. The raspberry taste was absolutely divine, and just what I needed after the previous two courses because it was incredibly light. I did not need the basil sauce, and while it did change the complexion of the dish, it did not change it for the better for me. The caramelised white chocolate ice cream had a remarkably good flavour and texture to it, but it should almost have been standing alone rather than being simply a part of this dessert. The souffle did not need it, and it did not need the souffle. The flavour of the ice cream was so rich and heavy, in contrast to the souffle, that I almost could not finish it. Almost. Debbie chose the Glazed Apple Tart with Burnt Milk Ice Cream.
The tart was crispy and perhaps a little too cooked through for her taste, but it was a nice end to the meal.
It did feel strange to be finishing eating at around half past 11 at night, and I am not convinced it is something we will be repeating on a regular basis, although our return to The Hand And Flowers had been as enjoyable as we had expected after our first time. The staff were just as friendly and helpful, even at the end of what must be a long day for them, and the food remained delicious. We would still both recommend The Hand And Flowers.
You can see more photographs from our evening here.