Top notch dining at the Hand & Flowers.

I've thought about starting a food blog for ages. I usually get excited by an idea and forget it just as quickly, but this time my husband Mark has called my bluff by building me this great website so I have no excuse not to write.

I love trying out Middle Eastern recipes but I'll write about anything that inspires me, Middle East or South East. 

Opening with a bang and the mighty Hand & FlowersTom Kerridge's two Michelin-starred restaurant. 

Yesterday 16 of us shlepped to Marlow for my joint 40th birthday celebrations with my oldest friend Rachel. We met at school at the age of nine. We share lots of interests, and eating and drinking is most definitely one of them.

The Hand & Flowers is so popular that you need to book a year ahead to be in with a sniff of a table. This extra long build-up made me wonder whether we'd ooh and aah at the food even if it's delivered from Wimpy down the road (yes, Marlow still has a Wimpy).

Obviously that didn't happen. It was bloody marvellous.

The sun shone all day so we started the only way we knew how - with huge G&Ts in the garden. The gin menu was long and tempting. I went for something orange and cinnamon based. Dee chose Tom Kerridge's own gin, which seemed to be a collection of everything growing in his allotment.

Once inside and seated at the long awaited table, they served fat whitebait with Marie Rose sauce and warm sourdough bread. Forgetting the three courses to follow we polished it off in seconds. And I don't even like whitebait.

Tom's vegetable gin with celery and dill

Tom's vegetable gin with celery and dill

Pre-meal whitebait and sourdough

Pre-meal whitebait and sourdough

The starters were little works of art, and I managed to get a taste of everyones to satisfy my menu envy. Prerogative of the birthday girl.

Crispy pig's head with rhubarb, pancetta & chickweed

Crispy pig's head with rhubarb, pancetta & chickweed

Lovage soup with smoked eel, bramley apple, ham and cheese tortellini

Lovage soup with smoked eel, bramley apple, ham and cheese tortellini

The main courses were proper pub fare on a whole new level. Most of us went for the Stokes Marsh Farm beef with Hand & Flowers chips. My side of garlic bread merits a mention, if only for the fiendish cleverness of it - how did they fit whole wild garlic leaves in a crisp bread? I'll leave you to ponder that one.

Wild garlic crisp bread

Wild garlic crisp bread

Stokes Marsh Farm beef with Hand & Flowers chips

Stokes Marsh Farm beef with Hand & Flowers chips

It would have been rude to leave without trying the puddings. I broke the habit of a lifetime by ordering the only 'made to order' option. It's my birthday and I'll make you all wait if I want to.

Bitter orange soufflé with sweet toast crumb, cardamom ice cream and citrus syrup

Bitter orange soufflé with sweet toast crumb, cardamom ice cream and citrus syrup

Vanilla crème brûlée

Vanilla crème brûlée

After a few wines it seemed like a good idea for the Sowerby family to entrap Tom Kerridge in the car park and usher me out to meet him. Thanks for obliging me Tom! It seems turning 40 might not be so bad after all.

Terrified Tom with his stalker

Terrified Tom with his stalker