Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Harwood Arms

Walham Grove
London SW6 1QR

020 7386 1847

This gastro pub has quite a pedigree. Bett Graham chef of the Ledbury and Mike Robinson owner of the Pot Kiln in Berkshire along with the publican Edwin Vaux are behind a venture which opened in 2008 (see here); it has since become the only gastro pub in London to boast a Michelin star. Graham and Robinson don't actually cook at the Harwood Arms but ex Ledbury chef Stephen Williams does.

"You look so English" said the German TV producer to my lunch guest "With your newspaper...(he had a copy of the Daily Telegraph); Would you mind if we filmed you?". "As long as you don't interview me, that's fine" he said. Oh (still) the power of old meedja. He actually looked rather pleased. German television were filming at lunch time in the Harwood Arms. No doubt this is the impact of the recent Michelin star. Our waitress also acknowledged it has had a major impact on bookings. You can get a table for lunch but type in 8pm in the evening into toptable on the HA website and the next available slot is Sunday March 21st!

The Harwood Arms since its 2008 refurbishment has become a very upmarket gastro pub. It is really more of a restaurant. You don't order your food at the bar, pay and sit down. It is all brought to your table; and most choices (only one dish of the day is on a blackboard) are on the printed menu. There are simple pub tables and framed modern black and white 'sporting' photographs. There is though a dog in the pub. You wouldn't get that in a restaurant.

I have smoked ham hock and crispy pig's ear on toast with bread and butter pickles £6.50 to start. This comes on a slab of wood and is very difficult to eat without the accompanying green salad bits going onto the table. The bits of ham hock I find a bit stringy dry and eating them on toast with a knife and fork is a bit of a battle and I certainly wouldn't have been able to identify the crispy bits as 'pig's ears'. Englishman liked his winter root vegetables with grated duck egg. He had ordered an interesting bottle of redcurrant flavoured Spanish red wine, Celler Cal Pla, a Garnacha/Carinena blend which can be bought in the shops for about £11 and was priced at £27. I found my second course alogether much more successful. This was pheasant thigh stewed in red wine with smoked bacon and champ £15.75. It was flaky, moist, soft; not altogether easy to achieve with pheasant which dries out so easily. The accompanying red wine stock and vegetables were excellent. Impressively it also managed somehow to be delicate and not overwhelming as a lunch main course (see photo). The main courses came in strange bowls which reminded me of optrex eye baths only much bigger and not blue but white. Englishman had beef cheeks braised in ale with clotted cream and mashed potatoes, roast carrots and pickled walnuts £15.50. "Delicious", he said. German television were right. He is English and was not about to go all rhapsodic on me. By now we had had enough. We both had double espressos which were rather beautifully presented in little glasses. Altogether pretty good and once again demonstrated to me how great the difference in quality can be in London in what is available for £70-100 for two including a bottle of wine (which is hardly cheap by international standards); you can (as here) eat pretty well at this price level but very often you don't. I don't want to encourage anyone but in a way the differentiation between the very average and the very good is not fully reflected in what you end up paying.

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