Muddy eats: The Coach, Marlow
Do you like your pubs with celebrity chefs attached? There seem to be loads of them around here these days: Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir of course, but also Anthony Worral Thompson’s The Greyhound Inn, Marco Pierre White’s Italian newly opened in Oxford, and The Coach, the latest project of the now ubiquitous Tom Kerridge, chef supreme of the double-Michelin starred Hand and Flowers a few minutes down the road.
While the pre-hype gossip was all about The Coach being a ‘normal’ pub, the kind of place Tom Kerridge would have some beers and banter with the boys, with TVs for football and a no-booking policy, I had a bit of a shock when I reviewed it for the radio to discover that it was slick, stylish in a very thought-through faux Victorian way (think bottle green tiles, lamps on the bar, gentleman’s red leather barstools). There are a handful of banquets and booths that are squeezed around a massive aluminium bar, which is the real focal point of The Coach and feels almost oyster-bar-ish in that perch-on-stool-and-have-a-glass-of-wine and-a-nibble style.
To be blunt, I loved it. It was packed on the midweek lunchtime that I popped in, and I was lucky to grab the last seat at the bar – prime position as it happened to watch the chefs at work in the open plan kitchen about two metres away from me.
As you can see from my meal pictured below, the portions are not going to satisfy a lad’s appetite and it’s true I’ve heard some dissent about meal sizes. BUT my rotisserie lamb shoulder with cabbage and smooth salsa verde (a delight – and also served at the Hand and Flowers) was absolutely fantastic, soft and velvety and just the right amount for a Muddy solo lunch. Particularly foxy was the fact that, being at the bar, I was served my meal by the chef himself (not Mr Kerridge, but Nick Beardshaw who runs the ship here) – a warm touch that underlined its fresh approach.
Servings are kept simple – the lunch and dinner menus are one and the same and around 10-12 meals on offer, but it’s superior to basic pub fare as you’d expect – the likes of venison chilli with toasted rice cream, red wine and chocolate (£10), whole stuffed rotisserie quail (£14.50) and black olive glazed Neck of Lamb and Honey Roast Parsnip (£12) to go with the crowd-pleaser Coach burger and steak and ale pies. Be aware that lunch is only served between 12.30 – 2.30, and service doesn’t start again until 6pm, though they do serve cakes and little snacks between those times like this to-die-for lemon cake.
They also serve breakfast (a clever move – apparently they’re massively popular) between 8am-10.30am every day and you can also catch a moreish Sunday dinner until 9pm.
If The Coach was a bit bigger, I’d definitely bring a big bunch of friends and have a night of it, but given that it’s a bit snug inside, when I go back (and that’s a dead cert) it will be dinner a deux with Mr Muddy or champers and snacks with the girls. It has a lovely relaxed ‘local’ vibe to it that I’m attracted to, and it’s one of the few places out here that I can imagine having a buzzy drop-in-after-work vibe going on. Lucky you, if you’re within 15 minutes of this place.
THE MUDDY VERDICT:
Good for: foodies wanting an urbane, modern experience in stylish surrounds. Casual get togethers, girly drinkers-and-pickers. Anyone who finds having to book months in advance for a restaurant irritating – The Coach is resolutely non-bookable, so just turn up and take your chance.
Not for: Large groups (you’ll be shuffling around the tight space), anyone with young kids – there’s not enough space for them to let off steam as there’s no garden. Anyone with mobility problems – the nnearest parking is Sainsbury’s, a couple of minutes walk away.
£££: Above average gastropub prices – a burger is £9.50 but the chips with bearnaise sauce are £4, so overall mains prices are between £10-15 but please be aware that these are billed as starter portions, so you could rack up a hefty bill if you you have a big hole to fill.
The Coach, 3 West Street, Marlow , SL7 2LS. thecoachmarlow.co.uk