Londons most casual one star restaurant?
A and I met almost eight years ago at a mutual best friends boyfriend’s birthday in London. For us it’s was love at first sight and we’ve been best friends ever since, he is one of the absolute loves of my life.
In May he turned 40 and in the spirit that life is not about material things but about sharing experiences and creating memories together, my gift was a lunch for the two at the Michelin starred restaurant of his choice from a pretty big list.
After much googling and what’s apping, he settled on the Harwood Arms and we set a date, the 13th August. After booking I mailed them to let them know it was a special occasion and they were great at responding quickly and being very accommodating.
We arrived early for our table and were offered a choice of three, I was surprised how quiet it was. The venue is split about 50/50 bar and restaurant and despite its star the atmosphere is very relaxed. I loved looking up to see that they have a roof top garden that supplies them with some of their fruit and veg, keeping it very local.
The menu changes frequently and we had already looked at several samples online. I had also been told that whatever happened we had to order the black pudding scotch egg. We decided to start with a Bloody Mary, I love these at breakfast or lunch, this was good but not great.
The menu is well thought out and they have a couple of specials, there is, for me the right amount of choice, it’s not overwhelming. However there was no Scotch egg, so we asked about this and discovered it to be on the bar menu, which we then had a look at too, just in case we were missing out on something.
Despite the concise menu we were struggling, it’s the starters, always the starters here I can’t decide. We had agreed we were sharing everything and we could get down to three starters but we just couldn’t agree on what to drop. What we really wanted were three starters, two mains and one dessert, a slight deviation from the traditional three course set menu. A quick chat to our lovely waiter and they were happy to accommodate our request, I was pretty impressed by this.
And so we starter edged with smoked cod’s roe with crisp pigs head, cauliflower and seaweed. The pigs head came breadcrumbed like a croquet and was succulent and tender it sat on a bed of the sweet roe and pickled cauliflower and seaweed. I would have liked to have tasted a little bit more tartness in the cauliflower but the texture was perfect, I liked that it was served I slices and chunks, it made a perfect contrast to the pork and the roe.
Norfolk quail (which seems to be everywhere just now): roast breast, confit leg, black pudding Scotch egg, celeriac and mushroom ketchup was next. The quail was perfectly cooked, which is not easy with such a little bird to keep it moist and juicy. The Scotch egg was also quail and soft and runny inside. Celeriac was served as a remoulade and cut beautifully through the rest of the plate.
Our final starter, was nothing less than sensational and yet when we ordered it, it was to my mind the least exciting of our choices. Whipped chicken liver with crispy skin, balsamic onions and thyme hobnobs. A messages me every few days to tell me he wants to eat this, I would go back, often, just to eat this. The whipped chicken liver are like eating clouds, so soft and light, yet so incredibly delicious, topped with the crispy skins crumbled over, its salty flavour alongside the crispy thyme. And the biscuits, sweet and oaty and incredibly moreish, especially when covered it the chicken livers. I love any form of onion marmalade and this was good and a nice accompaniment but the other bits on this plate were superb.
At some point in between all this eating we took a recommendation and tried a new wine, Cote de Brouilly, a fruit packed red that made me think of what a cider would be like if it were a red.
With starters this good our mains faced a big challenge. Roast haunch of Berkshire red deer with girolles, Swiss chard and smoked bone marrow tart. The Venison was beautifully cooked, pink, tender and melt in the mouth. It came on bed of well flavoured mushroom purée. This dish presented us with our only disappointment, we had partly ordered it for the bone marrow tart, and while the little pasty and onion puff was nice it seemingly had not been crowned with a disc of marrow. We wondered if it was us but when we asked where it should have been it was clear it hadn’t been put on the plate. They did offer to bring another tart to us but by this point we had finished our mains and were pretty stuffed.
Our second main was Cumbrian veal osso busso with violet artichoke, wild mushrooms and potatoes galette. I loved the little galette, it was like home made crisps my grandad used to make, crispy and so thin. The artichoke was also served as a purée which was rich and creamy, on this sat a huge veal shin, tender and flavourful.
We had a rest before our final dish, a long rest where we enjoyed our wine.
The mousse was creamy, light and fragrant. The apricot purée was tart and unsweetened. The apricot sorbet clean and refreshing, the bee pollen is made there, it’s flavour lingers in your mouth. The balance of this plate is a real triumph.
At this point we thought we were done and I thought they might bring a plate with happy birthday on it but they went so beyond this and presented A with a miniature Black Forest cake. I was stunned at how much trouble they went to as this wasn’t something that was on the menu.
We had a really lovely afternoon, at £42.50 the set lunch is a great price, the service was friendly and very relaxed, staff were helpful and knowledgeable about the menu. At times it could be hard to catch their attention but they were so brilliant and accommodating it pales in comparison.