Anyone who follows me on Twitter will know I love coming here and it seemed like ages since we’d been, in fact it had only been three months since our last visit. As we entered we were greeted by Claire, who showed us to our seats. Anthony bought us some fizz to start off, the beautiful pear cider produced by Eric Bordelet, this has become one of my favourite drinks and there is now always a bottle chilling in our fridge.
We’ve been very fortunate to come here numerous times, at first glance looks like the menu hasn’t changed but it has, it’s still evolving, subtle little changes to the dishes either because of seasonal availability or improvement. Whilst we made our mind up, some appetisers arrived – Whitebait with Marie Rose sauce and Pork Puffs along with some warm bread and butter. I was never a fan of Whitebait, I’m guessing my younger experiences involved overcooked examples but these are delicious and you just keep going back for one more. The Pork Puffs are one of my favourite appetisers, just imagine a cross between a Chinese Prawn Cracker and a Pork Scratching but better. If Tom could find a way of bagging them and selling them in Supermarkets for you to eat at home, they would be a smash hit.
Starters, we both went for the soup on the set menu, White Onion and Herb Veloute with Chestnut Tortellini and Toasted Lemon. It was full of little surprises from the little pieces of soft chestnut to the beautiful explosion of taste from the pasta and its filling to the tang of the toasted lemon. It may have just been a soup but it was arguably the best soup I’ve ever had.
Aaron the Head Chef sent us out another course, I must have looked hungry!! Salt Cod Scotch Egg with pepper sauce and chorizo. I’ve had this before and it’s not one of my favourites. There’s nothing wrong with it, the yolk inside was runny, the sauce had punch, you could taste the cod behind the salt although it’s perhaps a bit salty for some, but it’s not something I would order as one of the few things I struggle to eat is egg white whether it’s in a boiled or fried egg. Despite that I still ate it all and thoroughly enjoyed it.
Mains, Beverley went for her usual, Fish and Chips, proper Pub food. I went for something I’d not had before, Essex Lamb “Bun” with Sweetbreads and Salsa Verde. Where do I start. This is the best thing I’ve ever had at the Hand and Flowers, it’s so good I regret not having it before. When it is first placed in front of you it’s not dissimilar visually to an old fashioned toffee apple. Obviously that’s coated in toffee and this is a polenta crust with the lamb cutlet bone sticking out but I think you’ll get my drift. All that accompanies it is the incredibly vibrant green salsa verde and a pot of gravy (I say gravy, it’s so good if you told me I could have a bowl of it and a spoon I would have). I asked Alex who was looking after us if anything else was accompanying it as I thought I might need something else to which he said no and in his experience I wouldn’t need anything else as it’s quite filling. Good advice. I cut the beautifully glazed crust in half and separated them. I can best liken this to a pie, packed with filling. The beautiful cutlet is surrounded by a mix of lamb breast and sweetbreads then wrapped in this light and crisp polenta pastry.
My problem now for future visits here is I will now probably always order this dish in the same way that when it comes to dessert they just ask if I want my usual – the Apple and Custard Slice with Bramley Sorbet. When this came off the menu in the summer to be replaced by a Strawberry Slice I was gutted but thankfully for me, it was short lived. It’s a dessert that reminds me of childhood and buying a cream slice from the bakers but it’s better than that, the slice is light and crisp and the sorbet is tangy and refreshing but without being overly sharp. Bev didn’t go for a dessert on this visit as she was too busy cuddling Acey, Tom and Beth Kerridge’s newborn son as they had popped in to say hello.
We’ve been trying to find a way to finish this post. All we can say is it’s one of our favorite restaurants we’ve ever been to, faultless service, food, drink and atmosphere. I can only think of one Pub I’d rather be in on a Saturday night…
…and that’s our next blog post.
Adam & Beverley xx