The Harwood Arms has been operating in its current form since 2009, and gained a Michelin star in the 2010 guide that it has retained ever since. Co-owner Mike Robinson enjoys hunting, and delivers two fallow deer each week for use at the restaurant. The menu features British classics but with game at its beating heart. The head chef these days is Sally Abe, who happens to be married to Matt Abe, head chef at Gordon Ramsay. Sally trained at Gordon Ramsay at Claridges, and then worked for five years at The Ledbury, followed by a stint with Phil Howard before heading up the kitchens at The Harwood Arms. Three courses were priced at £49.95.
The wine list had 147 full bottles and ranged in price from £28 to £1,200, with a median price of £77 and an average markup to retail price of 2.9 times, which is a touch lower than the norm these days in London. Sample references were Cortese Amonte 2017 from Piedmont at £28 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for £10, an unusual Georgian wine Saperavi Vita Vinea Dakishvili Family Vineyard Kakhetiat 2015 at £57 compared to its retail price of £23, and Gran Corte Pulenta Estate 2014 at £97 for a wine that will set you back £40 in the high street. For those with the means there was Ridge Vineyards Montebello Chardonnay 2003 at £180 compared to its retail price of £89, and Domaine Jean-Louis Chave Hermitage 2004 at £450 for a wine whose current market value is £238.
Tonight our meal started with salmon cured with gin and citrus and garnished with caviar, sour cream and dill, served on warm buckwheat blinis. The salmon had good flavour but I was particularly taken by the blinis, which had superb texture (15/20). The venison Scotch egg has long been the signature dish of the restaurant. It uses minced venison in place of most of the traditional sausage meat, though a little Cumberland sausage meat is retained. This meat mix is combined with rosemary and black pepper, then wrapped around an egg that has been dusted in flour. The result is covered with beaten egg and twice deep-fried with panko breadcrumbs. The result is a Scotch egg lighter in style than one made with sausage meat, but the venison bringing much deeper flavour, the coating beautifully crisp, the soft egg yolk oozing out when cut. This is the absolute pinnacle of Scotch eggs (17/20). Crab royale had a base combining brown and white crab meat, topped with white meat along with diced cucumber, apple and crisp sourdough croutons. This was a simple but enjoyable dish (14/20).
Fallow deer loin was precisely cooked and had lovely flavour. It was served with pumpkin, pickled walnuts and leaves of Brussels sprouts. The sweetness of the pumpkin was nicely balanced by the sourness of the pickled walnuts. For me, a few more sprouts would have been nice, but this was a well balanced dish, the rich venison combining well with the vegetables (16/20). Cod was roasted and very accurately cooked, served with Jerusalem artichoke, hazelnut and a little Wiltshire truffle. The hazelnut added a pleasant texture contrast and the artichoke was lovely, the truffle having rather limited aroma (15/20).
Cornice pear tarte tatin had well caramelised fruit and a good pastry base. This was served with an enjoyable raisin caramel and buttermilk sorbet, the subtle buttermilk flavour working well with the natural acidity of the pear (15/20). Rhubarb and sherry trifle had excellent rhubarb, its sharpness nicely balanced by the cream. For me a little more sherry would not have gone amiss, but this was an excellent trifle (15/20). Coffee was Nespresso.
Service was very good, and the bill came to £84 per person including some wine. The Harwood Arms delivers hearty yet classy British food with a high level of skill. There is a good reason why it is the only Michelin starred pub in London.