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The Compleat Angler – And A Story:
Set in the Deep South, the Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams is hardly a play you’d expect a thoroughly British belle to associate with. But, for me Amanda was a macabre caricature of my own mother, a beautiful and slightly eccentric woman, who moved to London in the early 1950s to train as a nurse.
“All of my gentlemen callers were sons of planters and so of course I assumed that I would be married to one and raise my family on a large piece of land with plenty of servants. But man proposes—and woman accepts the proposal!”
Of course, my mother never assumed she would marry a planter, or even a doctor (though that is probably what was expected and actually what she did). But, I wonder what she was thinking when she accepted two proposals on one day. Neither ended up as her husband…she told me that she just thought it was polite to accept and that to turn them down would have hurt their feelings.
Now, The Compleat Angler was one of the places she visited with her young gentlemen. She told me there was a fabulous restaurant and that if I was ever invited there, then it was a good sign (whatever that means). Rather like the unfortunate Laura in the Glass Menagerie, no gentleman caller has ever invited me there. Maybe it just went out of fashion?
I was delighted and rather amused to find that my recent trip around Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire with Visit England included lunch at The Compleat Angler. At last I had the chance to visit, albeit without a beau in tow. And I was fascinated to learn a little of the history of the hotel which takes it name from a book about angling in and around Marlow that was written in 1653. It originally started life as a small Inn owned by Wethereds Brewery and known as the ‘Riverside Inn’. Renamed ‘The Compleat Angler’ it grew in popularity during the 19th and 20th Century, with an idyllic setting on the banks of the river. In fact it is famous today for being the only place outside of London where Her Majesty the Queen has eating out in the UK, albeit at a private function. The Hotel is home to two restaurants, Aubergine which is owned and run by the London Fine Dining Group and Bowaters, the Hotel’s own fine dining restaurant. I suspect that the whole operation has had something of a turbulant past as it has changed hands several times since being sold by the family who owned and ran the hotel till 1980. But, what we experienced was a charming restaurant with excellent food and good service.
We started our meal with a Terrine of Foie Gras and Chicken or with a Goats Cheese Pannacotta. Both beautifully presented, the terrine was a delicate yet rich mixture of meats while the pannacotta had a perfect wobble!
Our main course was an immaculate seabass fillet served on parsley gnocchi with butternut squash puree and lemon cream. I did find the gnocchi a little heavy but the dish was otherwise well balanced.
A pear sorbet palate cleanser was followed by coffee and chocolates.
For me, the restaurant brought back memories. And, what I had imagined from my mother’s stories was brought to life. It is a very romantic setting, looking out over the Thames at the picturesque church and bridge into Marlow itself. If you don’t already have memories of the Compleat Angler and you get a chance to visit this quintessentially English Hostelry, then go!
The Compleat Angler
Marlow Bridge, Marlow,
Tel: 0844 879 9128