Riddle finds a cosy ambience, friendly but unfussy service and – perhaps inevitably – stunning fare at Tom Kerridge’s new restaurant opening in Buckinghamshire
Article by Sophie Aghdami
If I were to ask for my perfect meal, it would be a hot bowl of ‘Kerridge’: a mixture of spicy kedgeree and porridge which has become the signature dish of the man who changed his surname by deed poll to reflect it – one Tom Kerridge. An absolute food hero who, following the continued roaring success of his flagship two Michelin starred pub, The Hand & Flowers, has opened a second pub called The Coach. Also located in Marlow, the pub was closed for a few months to refurbish it from what was a pretty dated, stale old boozer.
The service is the kind I like best: the staff are knowledgeable about everything without being patronising, warm, friendly and polite, conversational but not ‘in your face’. Up-selling is done subtly and in a way that suggests that staff actually want to enhance your experience instead of the service charge, and the team genuinely seem like they want to be there.
As you walk into the pub it feels really warm, cosy and inviting. Seating is unusual: as well as small tables dotted around the outside of the room, there are very comfy stools around the large L-shaped bar. The bar really is the main feature, stationed magnificently in the centre of the pub and made of a combination of beautiful dark wood and silver metal polished to perfection. In fact, everything in the pub looks near perfect yet, in true Tom Kerridge style, doesn’t exude any airs or graces and just feels really down to earth. The coach lamps on the walls are a nice touch and a nod to the pub’s name.
We sat at the bar because it gave us a glorious view of the enormous open plan kitchen and the chefs at work. Having always been excited by the thought of Tom’s genius brigade at work, this seemed like the only option to go for. We were greeted with a very friendly bartender who, upon hearing it was our first time there, happily proceeded to give us a few wine samples to try so that we could make a decision on our tipple. We chose a delicious and fairly priced Rioja – a fantastic start.
While we settled into the evening, glasses in hands, our bartender then talked us through the concept of the menu, which is made up of about 30 small plates (ranging from £2.50 – £12.50) listed under ‘meat’ and ‘no meat’ headings. The dishes are mainly old school classics but you just know they’ll have Tom’s playfulness, quality stamp and twist applied.
Apparently the signature dish is the mushroom ‘risotto’ Claude Bosi (£6), which is actually not made of rice at all but instead of mushrooms cooked with technical expertise to give a similar texture. Although intrigued, we decided to leave that for another visit and opted for chicken liver parfait, plum chutney and toasted brioche (£7). The parfait was sensational in every way it should be: creamy, light, buttery and delicate. Upon trying it my date went silent, put down his knife and quietly stated that it was the best parfait he had eaten for 30 years. Not bad coming from an executive chef who’s held his own star. The brioche was also faultless, while the plum chutney was delicious, if not a little overpowering so not much was needed.
The next dish we tried was chicken and ham terrine, girolles, apricots and pistachios (£6.50). It came wrapped in Savoy cabbage with toasted sourdough and butter. This was no ordinary butter, however: this was chicken butter and a delight to the palate. It tasted like an intense, rich buttery chicken stock and really lifted the terrine to new heights. I could have happily not had the apricot but it certainly wasn’t offensive.
Other dishes included the “demi” steak and ale pie (£11) that came perfectly formed and looking proud in its wonderfully browned suet pastry jacket; cauliflower cheese soup with fried ox (£4.50); moules marinière, warm stout and brown bread (£6.50); and rotisserie roast celeriac, honey and mustard glaze (£2.50). All were an absolute pleasure to eat and came presented beautifully on unique, heavy and stylish crockery.
Although tempted, we were too full to have pudding. The menu included banana custard, dates and honeycomb; whisky and rye pudding; and hot chocolate tart with hazelnut ice cream (all £6.50 each).
Only a 40-minute drive from West London, this pub is a must-try for anyone into food. A heads up: unlike its sister restaurant, which has a long waiting list for a table, The Coach doesn’t take bookings so try to arrive early to avoid missing out on this superb experience.
I’d put money on The Coach becoming one of the next pubs to gain a Michelin star, and I’ll be heading back soon to try their breakfast. How to avoid the temptation simply to default back to Kerridge?
Enquiries: The Coach, 3 West Street, Marlow, Buckinghamshire SL7 2LS/www.thecoachmarlow.co.uk