MARLOW has increasingly become the place to go for a great meal with a number of highly acclaimed restaurants.

But now there is a less well known but increasingly successful contender in the town, in the gastro pub bracket, for your culinary cash - The Clayton’s.

The Oxford Road eatery has been making a move into the pub meal market – since it was taken over two years ago despite the fact there is no shortage of venues to eat in the Marlow area these days, with some of the large chains, high class hotel restaurants and award winning gastro-pubs.

Based on the evidence presented to this publication The Clayton’s is making a strong case to be added to Marlow's top table for eating out.

Clearly, the Clayton’s is not attempting to compete in the same market as some of those eateries alluded to and nor should it.

It’s carving out it’s own niche.

In some ways its menu is fairly simple and straight forward, concentrating on the trusty burger at its core. But looking closer, the owners have not just gone for the bog standard. They’ve focused on the burger but there’s nine different varieties – including a veggie one.

And importantly, and it is stressed on the menu, the meat all comes from nearby Hambleden.

I went for one of the staple options – the cheese burger (priced £10.95) – while my dining companion opted for the vegetarian option (£9.95). This was a plump and weighty portobello mushroom, goats cheese and pepper burger. Thick and juicy, full of flavour and a very pleasant eat, I’m reliably informed.

It was obvious from the initial look at my own beef based meal that this was going to be a cut above the archetypal pub burger. I rarely buy burgers in pubs these days. Either they’re plasticy, lacking any flavour or texture and probably come straight from a pack in the freezer, or they’re thick and greasy and full of fat.

To my delight, the burger presented to me by the Clayton’s was substantial but not ridiculously thick and it was clearly home made. It had an almost crumbly texture, very soft and moist. It was meat to be savoured and not just wolfed down. I wanted to enjoy each mouthful. It was easy to imagine that this was locally sourced and fresh.

The chips, which played companion to the burger, were just as I like. Crispy, browned, and moreish. The side salad - red onion salsa, tomato and lettuce was lovingly prepared. The Clayton’s other main offering on the menu is a range of tapas.

We sampled a couple of these as a starter. A beautiful bowl of prawns pil pil (£6.50) and a dish of honey glazed chipolatas (£5.25).

Again, the meat was excellent. The sausages were extremely flavoursome and the portion was generous. The prawns, pan fried with garlic, chilli and lemon, were quickly consumed and well enjoyed.

The review would be incomplete without mentioning the décor and surroundings. The owners, Antosh Samek and Aaron Chandiram, have recently made a major investment to refit the inside. About £20,000 has been ploughed into it and it shows. (See the Marlow Free Press news section for more on this).

The seating, tables and walls have been delicately refurbished to the point that you would easily mistake the inside for a big national chain restaurant – in terms of its standard.

Unlike the chains I speak of, however, it retains a sense of identity and independence. There is a pleasant and welcoming atmosphere and the staff are quick and attentive.

Also worth mentioning is the high quality coffee on offer.

It’s easy to see how residents in Marlow would make the Clayton’s a regular haunt. The sizeable beer garden means you can also dine al fresco in the warmer, sunnier days.

If you’re not just a food fan but a cinema buff as well then there’s even more reason to check out the Clayton’s, which is in effect the only movie theatre in Marlow. Hosting its unique boutique cinema nights, showing classics and modern flicks, the bar, combined with its excellent dishes, music nights and array of guest Djs, which have included Norman Jay, is clearly creating a distinctive experience for pub goers in south Bucks.

It’s fair to say that one taste of the Clayton’s will leave you wanting more.