The Chequers pub, Marlow
So you’re in Marlow, you can’t get into The Ivy or The Hand & Flowers and the clock’s ticking down on your metered parking space. Where’s a gal to go? Directly opposite The Ivy itself, as it happens. Muddy’s Emily Kerrigan is dispatched to investigate.
Ah, Marlow. So many retail opps, so little parking. If you’re anything like me, it takes you at least a couple of drive-throughs up-and-down the high street to find somewhere to stick the car – and even then the clock is immediately ticking down on your hour-only parking bay, threatening to dampen the Muddy good fun you should be having. On the day I discovered The Chequers, I’d already dodged the traffic all the way to the bridge at the end and done a U-turn at the bakery (the oddly named Burgers: it’s a trick name! There are only sesame seed buns here, not a single all-beef patty!) before finally striking gold at the pay-and-display on Institute Road.
But this is where The Chequers is your friend – it’s almost on the corner of this road, allowing you ample time to meet a retail-ready pal on the high street, purr together over a pair of slingbacks before retiring for a bite to eat at The Chequer’s well stocked bar, all without a parking attendant calling early time on your fun. Plus, its location, slam-dunk opposite The Ivy, is going to leave it very much in-the-running to scoop up the inevitable overflow from Marlow’s latest hot ticket.
My day-to-day stomping ground is Thame – friendly, functional and photogenic, yes – but not exactly renowned for its cutting-edge cold-brew coffee houses, hipster beards and neon lights. Any little local nod towards contemporary decor is therefore always welcome, and looks-wise, The Chequers doesn’t disappoint. There’s plenty of good taste for starved eyes to feast on: booth dining among leather banquettes, industrial bare-bulb lighting, the obligatory white-brick wall tiles and a polished mahogany and brass bar at the front.
Providing theatre is the central butcher’s block (below) – a small but perfectly formed counter backed by a meat fridge, offering the opportunity to select your own cut of steak before it’s whisked off to the kitchen and cooked to preference. Service is cheerful and chatty.
That butcher’s block is at the heart of the dining room in every sense so we’re not handing out any Muddy awards for guessing that The Chequers centres on steak. There’s plenty to applaud on the provenance front: 100-day-aged beef is carefully sourced from Smithfield Market and we liked the option to choose any cut, from ribeye to rump, at the butcher’s counter itself.
I went for a 7oz wagyu cheese burger with all the Bs: a brioche bun, bacon jam, beef tomato, butter lettuce and burger sauce. It was good pal-food rather than date-food – most of it went down my chin for starters. My plus-one went for the steak but wasn’t quite sold on the kitchen’s secret marinade and would have preferred the sirloin to be the star of the show, but it was full marks for the gluten free crunchy sweet potato fries an option alongside triple-cooked chips.
If you’re not driving, there’s craft beer, bubbles and nibbles at the bar. Next time we visit, we’ve promised to try a bowl of halloumi chips with jalapeño ketchup for dunking, and a side order of Hendricks. Trust me, it will go together perfectly.
There’s a dedicated kids’ menu offering the usual f&c and sausage and mash. Full marks for upping the veg on offer – be it corn on the cob with the nuggets, or green beans with the bangers. We like seeing fresh strawbs and yoghurt for mini Muddies, too – and not just ice cream. There are various ‘zones’ in the pub too, so if your kids are playing up, there’s probably room to hide them in an alcove somewhere.
THE MUDDY VERDICT:
Good for: Carnivores. Bar snackers. Hangover burgers with a hair-of-the-dog. Girly shopping-trip lunches, after-work drinks. Frustrated, would-be Ivy-goers who can’t get a table across the road.
Not for: Vegans and non-red meat lovers. You *can* get a salad or a sweet potato curry at The Chequers but it’s Smithfield Meat Market that’s the star of the show here, not your favourite green grocers. There’s no outside space to speak of, so sun-seekers may want to look elsewhere.
The Damage: With no booze and two sides – buttered green beans and chilli and garlic broccoli – the bill weighed in over £50 so it’s on the more expensive side for a pub offering (but have you noticed, you’re in Marlow, plus ça change!). Steaks start at £6.80 per 100g, a Waygu burger with fries is £15.50. Pie, mash, greens and gravy £14. Nibbles at the bar from £4; bar sandwiches £7. Prosecco £6.50 a glass, £24.50 for a bottle of Marlborough Sauv Blanc.
The Chequers, 53 the High Street, Marlow, Bucks SL7 1BA. Tel: 01628 482 053. thechequersmarlow.co.uk