The Oarsman is a new pub in Marlow which was awarded “Newcomer of the Year” at the 2023 Top 50 Gastropub Awards. It’s right in the heart of town, just around the corner from Tom Kerridge’s The Crown, and not far from his two Michelin-starred Hand & Flowers. Safe to say Marlow has got its pub game on lockdown.
The Oarsman is a more casual spot than either of Kerridge’s, with a large pub/drinking area at the front and a very chilled dining room and open kitchen at the back. The place has been revamped by business partners Nigel Sutcliffe and James Mclean, who run the restaurant consultancy Truffle Hunting together, and the pair have bought in Scott Smith to head up the kitchen. Smith has worked at places like Arbutus and Wild Honey, and most recently at the Sugar Boat in Scotland, which had a great reputation.
The menu starts with a dangerous selection of snacks that you’ll want to get stuck into, but just take care not to go overboard like we did. Still, you’d be a fool to miss out on the fried oysters served with a chive emulsion and slices of pickled fennel which we absolutely loved. The salted fried capers were a great one too, and would be a perfect high-end snack with a pint. We also had tempura kampachi fish which was great, but quite big for a snack and with hindsight, probably a step too far given everything else we ordered too.
From the starters came mortadella and taleggio on toast; a simple but highly effective combination of three excellent ingredients that marry together very well. Chicken pressé, was more refined, with tender shreds of chicken served in three neat piles with tarragon and oil and slices of leek.
For mains we had two fish dishes: a fillet of grilled bass served with potted shrimp and fresh white asparagus, which worked very nicely; and perfectly-cooked roast cod with a langoustine bisque and braised fennel. Don’t miss the side of crispy potatoes served with an ‘nduja aioli to go with the mains.
The drinks menu is a highlight at the Oarsman, with a big list of very interesting natural wines. They also have a great selection of locally-made ciders and perries which was a nice touch. We got a bottle of the Woodfine Rosé cider, which is made nearby in Seer Green and we absolutely loved it. At only 6.5% it’s a great choice if you’re looking something lower-alcohol too.
With a solid food menu and one of the most interesting wine lists you’re likely to see in a pub, The Oarsman makes for a great lunch stop if you’re in the area.
46 Spittal St, Marlow SL7 1DB