I have been coming to The Harwood Arms since it changed ownership in September 2008. Brett Graham of The Ledbury and Mike Robinson are the owners, and the restaurant has seen a steady stream of talented young head chefs, the latest being Alex Harper., who had previously worked at Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons and The Ledbury, and had been head chef of Texture. Mike Robinson owns The Pot Kiln in Berkshire, and is a keen hunter. Many of the game dishes in which The Harwood Arms specialises involve animals shot by Mike himself. Three courses were priced at £42.50.
Roast breast of quail from Norfolk came with confit quail leg, black pudding Scotch egg, carrots and mushroom ketchup. This was a lovely dish, the bird having unusually good flavour and the Scotch egg a revelation: an unusual and interesting way to present the black pudding. The carrots provided an earthy contrast to the richness of the meat (16/20).
Charred Cornish mackerel was served on a bed of fennel, with grapefruit and elderflower pickle. The fruit was a clever way to cut through the inherent oiliness of the mackerel, which was palpably fresh, and the fennel brought its distinctive anise-like flavour to the party (15/20).
Fallow deer from Berkshire was served with damson, girolles, Swiss chard, and smoked bone marrow tart. The venison was excellent, cooked pink and having plenty of flavour. The damson introduced a pleasing hint of acidity to balance the richness of the meat and bone marrow, and the Swiss chard also brought balance (15/20).
Raspberry soufflé was superb, cooked evenly with fluffy texture and a light outside, served with lemon curd ice cream. This could easily have come from a multi-starred restaurant (17/20). Coffee, from the Gentlemen Barista’s near Borough Market, was very good.
Service was friendly and the welcome genuine. The bill came to £94 a head including copious amounts of good wine. If you shared a modest bottle then a typical cost per head might be more like £70. The Harwood Arms is a lovely place to eat, with food that is seemingly simple but based on top ingredients and with fine technique. For the price this is a steal, especially when compared with so many recent over-hyped London openings that cannot hold a candle to the food here.