PUBLISHED: 13:35 19 May 2011 | UPDATED: 19:24 20 February 2013
Whether you seek a delicious snack or veritable feast, the riverside town will provide a memorable dining experience. Tom Fahey takes us on a tour of some restaurants and pubs well worth a visit
The Chequers (TM Steaks)
Taking over the Chequers pub in Marlow High Street, TM stands for Tailor Made which is exactly how steaks are served here. Choose from rump, sirloin, fillet and ribeye, with joints displayed under chilled glass cut to order, as big or small as you specify, then cooked to your liking along with a choice of rubs, sauces, sides and extras. For the less meatily-minded theres a selection of pub classics and well kept ale from Brakspear.
The Royal Oak
Part of the Salisbury Pubs mini-chain, youll find the Royal Oak surrounded by herb bushes in lush, green grounds about one minute outside Marlow in Bovingdon Green. Beer comes from minutes away at Rebellion and the extensive menu is a mix of crowd pleasing pub classics with innovative tweaks think pork belly, black pudding and apple, or mackerel, sweet potato chips, beetroot and horseradish.
Adam Simmonds Michelin star has been a long time coming but, according to other guides (The Good Food guide rate this cooking as Britains 13th best) it was long overdue. Expect modern cooking techniques executed with finesse in glamorous country house surrounds. Pork belly with langoustines, and lobster with sweetbreads are established as classics, but the highlight are mesmerising grape and celery sorbets that revolutionise the cheese course as we know it. A meal here is far from cheap but as adventurous special occasion dining goes, theres little that gets close.
A more recent addition to central Marlow, Maliks fame has spread thanks to celebrity adulation for his Cookham restaurant that culminated in Heston Blumenthals endorsement. Quality is a by-word, but variety not far behind with several dishes not seen in your average common or garden curry house including duck breast in coconut milk, lamb with lentils and ginger or masala monkfish. The chicken tikka masala of course, is famous as the inspiration for Hestons perfect version.
The Vanilla Pod
Sometimes overlooked for its more famous neighbours, locally, the case couldnt be more different with Marlow diners voting this delightful little restaurant The Good Food Guides best in the south east. A cosy dining room is intimate, its subtle, formal flourish tempered by the quaint, village-cottage building. Three course lunch is a 20 bargain and might include poached duck with seasonal vegetables and truffled lentils or coffee panna cotta with orange ice cream.
Open for 11 years in West Street and, with a recent award for the owner as outstanding restaurateur from the Federation of Bangladeshi Caterers, Tiger Garden is surely doing something right. Locals praise the curry recipes as best in class but, alongside familiar fare of chicken bhuna and tandoori lamb chops, expect luxury ingredients with quail cooked in a sealed pot with yogurt, or lobsters spiced and grilled on charcoal with fenugreek and coriander.
Marlow Bar & Grill
A smart, brasserie-style restaurant with relaxed ambiance and boating-themed interior, Marlow Bar and Grill offers an internationally themed, something-for-everyone selection of food from seared beef carpaccio with beetroot, to Thai Green curry or Malaysian chicken and sweet potato. If thats not enough, chuck in a steak selection, sharing boards to graze on at the bar, and value-orientated set menus.
Hand and Flowers
Tom Kerridges Great British Menu victory has resulted in tables at his acclaimed pub becoming tougher than ever to come by. Accomplished, refined cooking without the bluster and pomp often associated with Michelin star dining rooms; reasonable prices, also, dont reflect the accolades. As well as the famous duck and chips, highlights include a superb chicken liver parfait with orange, lamb bun, cod with artichokes, and the shockingly affordable lunch menu at 12.95 for two courses.
Enjoy neighbourhood Italian cooking in Chapel Street, where three generations of the same family have plied a stock in trade of romantic Italian dining for over 20 years. Expect an intimate ambiance and a roll call of recognisable favourites including penne arrabbiata, baked aubergine with mozzarella and tomato, beef sirloin with wild mushrooms, and, to round the meal off, a dessert trolley no doubt sporting a tiramisu.
Alongside the more renowned Aubergine, its easy to forget that The Compleat Anglers other restaurant is no afterthought. With river views and original wood panelling throughout, its a pretty dining room and, while less dainty than its neighbours offering, the two-rosette level food also stands out. Go for all out luxury with fillet beef, foie gras, new season asparagus and girolles, or take advantage of a 30 three course lunch including salmon and watercress gateaux or pork filled with faggots and curly kale.
The Bull at Bisham
Owned by The Lopez family since 1960 and now overseen by Andress son Ramon, The Bull has changed little in that time; exactly how regulars like it. Expect simple, well executed favourites served in an ornate dining room that feels oddly at home in its ancient pub wrapper. Fillet steak in peppercorn sauce, vegetables silver served, and produce displayed before dinner are all reminders of classic fine dining, but without the price tag. For dessert pick from the trolley or have Crepe Suzette flamed tableside.
(Marlows Little Secret)
Draped from roof to brick in roses its a wonder that this 16th century pub at the heart of Little Marlow manages to live up to its name, but it really does seem to be something of a secret. An adventurous and appealing menu doesnt lose touch with the pubby setting offering duck liver and pancetta on toast, grey mullet with red onion mash, cinnamon French toast with passion fruit and mascarpone, or sandwiches at around 6.
Sat lakeside at the edge of Marlow, Crown Plaza is home to Glaze,
a restaurant with floor to ceiling windows overlooking the hotels terrace and the lake beyond. With one AA Rosette the kitchen offers a mix of please-all favorites including fish and chips or mackerel parfait and soda bread, alongside chef Stuart Hiness more inspired creations, sea bream and crab risotto, or grey mullet, saffron potato and coconut milk.
Once sister restaurant to the Ramsay-founded Aubergine in Chelsea, this luxurious Marlow outpost, with views of Marlow weir and a glass-fronted kitchen, is now sole holder of the name. Some classics remain; tortellini of lobster is a real Ramsayism but generally Miles Nixon asserts himself while sticking to the refined, modern French premise with scallops in apple and ginger puree or sea bass with chicory tarte tatin. Service can be exceptional assistant manager Carlos is a true professional.