The Harwood Arms, London
July 5, 2010
On May 27, 2010, Tony and I went for dinner at The Harwood Arms, the only pub in London to have a Michelin star. It is partially owned by Brett Graham, the excellent chef of The Ledbury, where I had dined with Felix three days before. They had called ahead to say we were coming; we received a warm welcome. The chef of The Harwood Arms, Stephen Williams, 27, came from The Ledbury. He says that he wants to keep the pub atmosphere and serve seasonal British food. “That’s what gets me excited, taking wierd old British classics of which there are as many as French classics. It is just history that has pushed French food ahead,”
We ordered glasses of white wine: 2008 Domaine Orpin, les Vignes d’Orpin Marsanne/Viognier Vin de Pays d’Oc for Tony and 2008 Monte Velho Branco, Heredade Do Esporao, Alentejo, Portugal (A blend of rabo de ovelha, roupeiro, and perrum grapes.) Mine was sufficiently fruitier so that we could quickly tell when they gave my glass to Tony and his to me, but they were both good of their type.
We then ordered a bottle of red wine from Tony’s native Western Australia: Rocky Gully Shiraz, Frankland Estate, Western Australia, 2006, lightheartedly described in the wine list as : “An organic vineyard hidden away in the depths of WA. A medium bodied wine with playful orange-sweet brambly fruit, minty overtones and a distinct succulence, aided by a judicious dose of Viognier.” We asked them to pour it right away so it could get some air. We enjoyed it and it went well with the meat.
A plate of appetizers arrived.
Hot watercress soup,
a rabbit terrine with a prune sauce
and a Scotch egg, a pub tradition, but also a house specialty; the carefully boiled egg is wrapped in a thin layer of venison before it is breaded and deep fried.
These were all very good.
Tony’s first course was
Grilled salted ox tongue, cauliflower cheese croquette, bread and butter pickles and bitter leaves
He said that they were perfectly cooked and matched.
My first course was
Warm smoked eel tart with rhubarb, marinated beetroot and horseradish.
This was very well done, but I was surprised and a bit disappointed by how mild the flavor of the eel was.
For our main course we shared a
Whole braised shoulder of Kirby estate Roe deer for 2 braised in cider with smoked bacon, white cabbage, celeriac puree and chicory salad.
This was excellent and totally showed off the culinary mission of The Harwood Arms. The chicory (endive) was needed to cut the richness of the well-matched traditional game dinner. Bravo.
Tony’s dessert was
Buttermilk pudding with the first of the season English raspberries, lemon verbena jelly and shortbread.
My dessert was
Bitter marmalade and honeycomb ice cream with Harwood Arms Hob nobs.
This ice cream was exquisite, bringing out the best not-too-sweet flavor of good British orange marmalade.
They then brought us two extra desserts
Yorkshire curd tart, maiden raisin ice cream, caramelized walnuts.
Bowl of warm rhubarb donut with sour cream and stem ginger.
Excellent and still within the theme. Tony was particularly fond of the rhubarb donuts.
We thoroughly enjoyed this meal. We were discovering what a committed young chef with modern training and high quality ingredients can do to make something special out of what were traditional, but probably quite dowdy, British dishes. We knew we were not in France, although underneath there was a lot of French kitchen technique. 1066 and all that. The ambience remained that of a friendly neighborhood London pub. What could be better. Cheers.