You don’t get a much better dining spot in Marlow, Buckinghamshire, than on the banks of the Thames next to the iconic suspension bridge and overlooking All Saints Church. The Macdonald Compleat Angler has become somewhat of a Marlow landmark in its own right, but while it’s long been popular with visitors to the area, it hasn’t always been a first choice dining location for locals.
With its Michelin-starred neighbour just up the road, The Compleat Angler’s Riverside Restaurant has sometimes struggled to compete, but all that started to change when Michael Lloyd joined as head chef just over a year ago. In that time he has transformed the menu, overhauled the kitchen and put it firmly back on the culinary map with his exceptionally tasty, beautifully presented modern British dishes.
The best way to sample Michael’s talent is by ordering the nine-course tasting menu, very reasonably priced at £50 per person (and £40 wine flight per person). Trust me, you won’t be going home hungry!
I have to start by mentioning the bread as I was lucky enough to meet the supplier, Dan of DeGustibus artisan bakery, and I can vouch for the fact that this man knows his stuff – and it was quite simply delicious. Served with butter whipped into almost a mousse-like consistency scooped onto a smooth black stone, this impressive attention to detail was a sign of what was to come.
After the amuse bouche came ham hock and foie gras terrine with pea mousse and raisin puree, then honey-whipped brie and goat’s cheese with port jelly and ginger bread crumbs. Both of which were elegant and delicious.
The main courses were even better. First came the fish course; a medley of seafood, fennel and a curiously named Marlow rarebit crisp with the most wonderful crab and vanilla bisque poured over the top. Then the meat course; tenderloin of pork with bubble n squeak and generous shavings of black truffle served with an amazing rich foamy ‘gravy’. This, I could have drunk on its own, from a mug, and been more than happy!
Dessert is done the French way – so cheese, biscuits and apple and ale chutney first, followed by a sweet pre-dessert and then lemon brioche treacle slice with blackcurrent and clotted cream ice cream. My automatic reaction to any pudding with the word treacle in the title is that it will be heavy and stodgy. This light, tasty and extremely moreish little dish proved me wrong. It was delightful. In fact I barely had room for the pretty little petit fours that followed, which is very unlike me!
The restaurant has recently secured a third coveted AA rosette and if chef Michael continues getting it so right, I’m confident there will soon be more Michelin stars heading to Marlow.