Marlow has some truly exceptional eateries up its sleeve. For starters, it’s home to two Tom Kerridge pubs with three Michelin Stars between them. There’s also a fine dining restaurant in T.S. Eliot’s old home. You can munch your way through the world famous shepherd’s pie at The Ivy, head to an industrial estate for the best cup of coffee of your life, or better yet, go out into the countryside and demolish a salt beef bagel that’ll bring tears to your eyes.
Places to eat in Marlow
The Hand and Flowers is the first and only gastropub in the UK to earn two Michelin stars. Naturally, there’s nowhere better for us to begin our culinary adventure around Marlow. The pub is the pride and joy of celebrity chef Tom Kerridge. Of all Michelin-star chefs you can think of, he is probably the most down to earth. You can book a table and know you’re not going to have a mouthful of some frozen, or floating, or on-fire nonsense put in front of you in place of a proper meal.
That’s what The Hand and Flowers is all about – proper food, with primo ingredients, cooked to perfection. The atmosphere is warm and welcoming, like a country pub should be, the service is exceptional, and there’s a rather lovely selection of beers and wines to wash it all down. Our top tip would be to visit on Sunday, because when else are you going to be able to chow down on a double Michelin-starred roast? My god, it’s good!
As you’d expect, if you want to enjoy a weekend meal at The Hand and Flowers, you’re going to have to book months in advance. Alternatively, you can visit Tom Kerridge’s other restaurant. It’s in the heart of Marlow in more ways than one. The Coach also has a Michelin star to its name, so the food is similarly stellar. However, the difference is The Coach cannot be booked. It’s open from early breakfast right the way through to the late evening, and only operates on a first-come-first-serve policy.
In principle, we think it’s a good idea. In practice, it’s torture watching people tuck into their delicious meals while you wait in the wings. Nevertheless, it’s a necessary evil to sample some of the finest eating in Buckinghamshire from one of the country’s favourite chefs.
If you want to dine in style, you’ll struggle to find anywhere better to fit the bill than The Ivy Marlow Garden on the High Street. The Ivy, ever since the original Covent Garden restaurant opened its doors in 1917, has become world famous for its Art Deco fine dining. It’s the height of sophistication with simple and tasty food, service that can’t help but put a smile on your face, and prices that – all things considered – are very reasonable. The whole restaurant is a work of art, so much so that the dishes – while delicious – don’t always reach the same lofty heights. However, The Ivy is all about the experience; there’s arguably nowhere better, especially as it’s just a couple of minute’s walk away from our Marlow hotel.
To round off our restaurant recommendations, we have an Italian trattoria, French fine dining, and a Thai tapas tour-de-force. Let us begin with Da Luca. It’s the kind of place you wouldn’t find on your own. It’s out of town and you’d need a local to recommend it to you, but at the same time, the locals won’t want to tell you about it in case they let the cat out of the bag and they can’t get a table at their favourite neighbourhood restaurant anymore. It’s an authentic Italian restaurant tucked away in sleepy Marlow Bottom. Everything is freshly made and packed full of flavour. The pizzas are exceptionally good, the tiramisu is the best in Buckinghamshire, and you will never go wrong with anything from the specials board.
Back in Marlow town centre, there is much more to the Vanilla Pod than meets the eye. Behind the black door on West Street, you’ll find the finest of European dining in a restaurant with a lot of history. This building was once the home of literary legend T.S. Eliot, who lived in Marlow during WWI. If you’re enjoying the most special of occasions, you can book the private T.S. Eliot Dining Room upstairs. The rest of the time, the small, stylish main restaurant will have to do.
Chef owner Michael Macdonald has worked in Michelin starred eateries in France and London, and certainly knows his way around a kitchen. He’s cooking up some of the best food you’ll ever sample. The set lunch menu changes every day and offers the best value, while the À la carte menu and the Gourmand menu change with the seasons.
Last but not least, there’s the Giggling Squid. It’s one of the most stylish Thai restaurants you’ll ever visit. The menu is extensive, to say the least, but it’s also wonderfully varied; you can take your pick from full-size main courses, or selections of taste bud tingling tapas. In terms of spice, dishes range from korma-equivalents to tear-inducing scorchers like the Pad Gra Prao. It’s conveniently located on West Street, and a good option if you fancy a taste of the Orient.
If you’re looking for the best cup of coffee in Marlow, head and shoulders above the rest is Coopers Roastery & Coffee Bar. It’s a bit out of the way, on an industrial estate east of Marlow Station. However, it’s still no more than a 15-minute walk from our Marlow hotel and well worth hunting down. It’s a large converted warehouse with their own roasters onsite, as well as a kitchen concocting some of the best breakfasts, brunches and lunches in Buckinghamshire. It might look and sound like a hipster hangout, but it’s dog- and family-friendly, and there’s live music on Fridays.
The Strawberry Grove café is four or five miles out of town in Lane End, but it’s worth making the trip just to try their salt beef bagels. We’d wager you won’t eat better anywhere this side of the Atlantic. They are phenomenal. On top of that, the café is lovely, light and airy, and service comes with a smile.
You’ll find our final two recommendations back on Marlow High Street. Fego Caffe is an absolute corker if you’re looking for a posh brunch and a great brew. We’d recommend the stuff that comes in skillets – the ranchero is poached eggs, saute potatoes, chorizo, mushrooms, peppers, avo, onions, a few other bits and bobs and tastes good. Alternatively, veggie or not, try the shakshuka – it’s eggs, tomato sauce, peppers, aubergine, sourdough toast and delicious.
Last up is Satollo, which is hidden away amidst the boutiques of Liston Court. It’s like a little piece of Italy that got lost in Marlow. The coffee is fantastic, the café is beautiful, the courtyard is a suntrap, the deli is full of delicious options, and they stock and sell some of the finest wines you’ll ever have the pleasure of guzzling.