The Harwood Arms continues to be the only pub in London to hold a Michelin star. Jake Leach is the current head chef, the latest in a string of high-quality chefs that have led the kitchen team here. Jake had previously been head chef at The Ledbury and had also worked at Fera and Restaurant Tristan. The dining room has a relaxed feel, with reasonably well spaced tables, and three courses were priced at £65. I have written previously about the very good wine list here, so see earlier reviews for more on that.
The Harwood Arms was instrumental in revitalising the humble Scotch egg on restaurant menus, with its venison Scotch egg being a thing of beauty, with deep flavour, liquid egg yolk centre and precise seasoning. It was accompanied by Oxford sauce, a piquant sauce involving mustard, vinegar and pepper. Other snacks that we sampled were home-made potato crisps with cod roe, and slices of Iberico ham raised for The Ledbury in Herefordshire, with gherkins and pickled onions (15/20 snacks). On the side was some home-made soda bread that was perhaps a little dense compared to some.
Green bean salad with nectarine and almonds had tender beans and a good dressing, the acidity of the fruit a good balance to the beans, and the excellent almonds providing an additional texture and flavour (14/20). Devon smoked eel was served with Jersey Royal potatoes, apple and pickled onions, the combination added to by parsley sauce poured at the table. The pickles were a nice touch, the sourness of their vinegar balancing the richness of the eel, while the parsley sauce was just a touch dominant for me (14/20).
Haunch and faggot of venison was served with pickled red leaves, endive, purple carrots, beetroot and pickled cranberry sauce. The venison had lovely flavour and the balance of the dish was excellent, with the bitterness of the endive, the sharpness from the pickled leaves and the earthy flavour of the beetroot working harmoniously with the rich flavour of the venison (16/20). Cornish cod came with sugar snaps, brown shrimp and citrus hollandaise. The cod was carefully cooked and the hollandaise was excellent, while the sugar snaps were suitably crunchy. There was also a touch of dill, and a crisp cylinder of cod, essentially cod tempura (15/20).
For dessert, summer berry trifle with blackcurrant granita and yoghurt ice cream was enjoyable and had a few shards of meringue as a textural contrast, though I am not sure what the shiso leaf scattered on the top really added (14/20). Burnt meringue and almonds was enjoyable, the textural contrast of the meringue with the parfaits a nice touch (15/20). Cambridge burnt cream (essentially crème brulee) was served with a delicate shortbread and honey from Richmond Park. The main element had a light, crisp caramelised topping and the shortbread was lovely, topped with kumquats and some rather superfluous micro leaves (15/20). I enjoyed custard flan with white peach, lemon thyme and a blood peach sorbet. The flan was light and airy and the peach sorbet complemented it really well (15/20).
Service was excellent, and the bill came to £84 per person. If you skipped the snacks (though you do not want to miss the Scotch egg) and shared a modest bottle of wine then a typical cost per person might be around £90 or so. The Harwood Arms serves just the kind of food that a great many people actually want to eat, rather than dishes that show off how clever the chef is, and this helps to explain its ongoing popularity. Tables were being turned even on a Monday evening in August. Long may it continue.