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If it’s good enough for Jeremy Irons and Jay Kay…

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… then it’s good enough for me!

I tried a new restaurant the other night on the basis of roaring reviews from Jeremy and Jay – not regaled to me personally I’m afraid, just via the restaurant website, which wasn’t shy in coming forward with its celebrity endorsements.

So I trotted along to the Old Plow  to see what the fuss was about.

And the fuss is about… a picturesque 17th century inn hugging a country road in Speen, between High Wycombe and Princes Risborough, with low beams, roaring fire in the sitting area and a history that has seen both Charles II and Samuel Pepys draw up a seat in the bar (now they’re just showing off…).

The Old Plow, Flowers Bottom, Speen

A seafood restaurant with a strong French influence, you can eat in either the restaurant or bistro areas. In truth, not much difference menu-wise between the two on the night I ate – the main contrast seems to be the prices, with the bistro cheaper and a la carte, compared to the restaurant’s two or three course prix fixes. Also, the restaurant side, is as you’d expect, more intimate and elegant.

The sitting area – small but perfectly formed

Whichever side you choose, you can’t fault the food, with the produce fresh from Devon – I had seabass, prawns and mussels- but if you can’t stand anything fishy, there is also a substantial carnivore menu to choose from.

All the essentials were fine. Service was good, and the wine list offered  bubbles by the glass (our pre-dinner essential), good dessert wines (our post-dinner essential) and a decent French selection for in between.

So the verdict? Well, it’s true that Raymond Blanc won’t be weeping into his roux sauce over his Speen competitor- but then I suspect the Old Plow is aimed at fine dining guests anyway. The food at this cosy local inn is definitely superior to gastropub fare, and for evenings when you want spot-on seafood in friendly surroundings, it’s a charming option.

Best for… Fancy fish but without the ostentation. The little bar area has a comfy sofa and a lovely fire. There’s a pretty beer garden outside too, where you can keep an eye on the kids as they zip around.

Beware… The toilets could do with some TLC (they reminded me of my school ones – memories best not jogged!), and the carpet was a bit ‘pubby’. The restaurant is closed Sunday and Monday, and evening servings stop at 9pm. The beer garden isn’t fully enclosed on the road side, so it’s not suitable for tiny ones unless you’re watching them closely.

££: Mid-price. In the bistro, we spent roughly £100 on two glasses of champers, a good bottle of red, two starters, two mains and a shared dessert (I know, the control!). It didn’t feel like a rip-off.

Contact: The Old Plow Bistro and Restaurant at Speen, Flowers Bottom
Speen, Buckinghamshire, HP27 0PZ. Tel: 01494 488300. [email protected]

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