Q’s birthday was just a week after we got back from Japan so after a fortnight of big cities and jet lag I thought we’d enjoy some English country celebrations – and it doesn’t get more English and country than Marlow! We were keen to check out Tom Kerridge’s casual eatery, The Coach, so this is where we were headed.
But First, Breakfast
It’s not a birthday without booze and cake for breakfast! Q’s favourite cake is a classic Victoria Sponge so I made one with the help of BBC Good Food for the sponge, and filled with lashings of jam, fresh cream and strawberries. I topped the cake with M&S mini lemon meringues and dusted with icing sugar. My cakes will forever be rustic, not modern!
Breakfast was all butter croissants filled with tomato chutney, bacon, cheddar and caramelised onions (recipe here – sorry it’s from the archives but the recipe is what matters!) and grilled for 3 mins, finished with balsamic glaze. These are quick to make and so so delicious, absolutely perfect for a breakfast treat.
The Coach, Marlow
So a few years ago we had the incredible experience of dining at The Hand & Flowers, and Tom Kerridge remains a favourite celeb chef in our household. The Coach (website) is another of Tom’s restaurants in Marlow, but unlike The Hand & Flowers which requires booking way in advance, The Coach takes absolutely no reservations.
We had to book a year (!) in advance for The Hand & Flowers, but they have since changed the policy so that bookings are only taken 3 months in advance; so it’s not as ridiculous but still, it has hindered me going back (because I just don’t plan my life that far in advance.)
By contrast, the complete lack of bookings at The Coach was refreshing, albeit a little nerve wracking for a celebration. I pictured there being hordes of people queuing at opening for a table and really hoped that the experience wasn’t stressful. We arrived at 12:30pm for Saturday lunch and whilst the place was busy, it wasn’t packed.
As soon as we stepped through the door a member of staff greeted us and showed us through to a waiting area in the rear. So the restaurant itself is very long and narrow, with a chunky, silver, dine-at bar and small booths around the perimeter. It’s modern and masculine with green tiles and artwork of pigs heads and fish… think butcher’s chic!
The waiting area isn’t quite as slick; it’s dark and hasn’t been given the same amount of love and attention as the main dining space. We didn’t sit there for long though and within 10 minutes we were invited to sit at the bar, or we could wait another 30 minutes for a booth.
Booth or Bar?
I was a little unsure about sitting at the bar and worried that it wasn’t special enough, but Q was keen and once we were seated in our comfy leather bar stools (with backs – comfort an important note) and served a cocktail I hugely enjoyed our dining spot. Facing the bar was actually really nice because you didn’t see the hustle and bustle behind and had an excellent vantage point for people watching. Getting a drink is also, obviously, very quick and easy.
I wouldn’t choose the bar for any more than a party of two, booths are a must for bigger parties so you can actually all talk together. The booths are very cute and intimate, be sure not to bring big bags!
How The Menu Works
The menu is so much fun! And being a creation of Tom Kerridge, it really is proper lush. Think punchy, unapologetic British pub grub in miniature form. All the dishes are smaller than your average main, meaning you can graze the menu and fill your boots with all kinds of flavours and experiences.
They recommend about 3 dishes each. There are main dishes, sides and an impressive spread of desserts too. Meals arrive as and when; there’s no order or polite waiting for everyone to get their course you just get stuck in.
They do however pace the dishes do they don’t all arrive at once, and whilst I can’t confirm that it was deliberate, I noticed that they did an excellent job of pairing sides with the right dishes; chips came alongside the burger, the Rotisserie Pomme Boulangère arrived with the chicken kiev.
Our meal was absolutely stunning and I thoroughly enjoyed the lot. I’d rank the dishes we enjoyed in this order:
- Chicken kiev: the garlic sauce is unreal as is the rich, saucy cauliflower mash. A classic done to perfection.
- Crispy Pig’s Head: the prettiest dish we ordered and the pickled mustard leaf was the surprising star of the dish.
- Rotisserie Pomme Boulangère: this side was so rich and filling it may as well have been a main. Potatoes, meat and gravy with the most beautifully presented crispy topping. Joyful to eat!
- Mushroom risotto: it wasn’t the prettiest dish by a long shot but that concentrated mushroom flavour was a dream.
- The Coach Burger: I ordered this because I saw it go to another table and it had serious wow factor! It was nice but not amazing. Looked better than it tasted. The big fat chips that we ordered alongside it were great though.
To finish we shared a custard fool with rhubarb sorbet and gingerbread. All of the desserts sounded amazing but we were so full at this point that we had to share. It was such a light, refreshing dessert that we probably could have handled one each.
Prices and Value For Money
Again I found myself comparing The Hand & Flowers to The Coach. Two Michelin stars by a celebrity chef is understandably pretty damn pricey, and also 100% worth the money. Here I found the entire experience at The Coach worth it too; the place looks great and has a fun and lively atmosphere. The food is exciting and delicious, and the service is professional and timely. It’s an extremely solid all rounder.
The Coach however, seems great value for money.
- Dishes range from £8.50 to £26.50 (most of the dishes are below £14.50)
- Sides range from £4.50 to £8.50
- Desserts range from £8.50-£9.50