The Harwood Arms was transformed from a rather run-down local pub (dating back to 1866) into a culinary landmark in September 2008. by owners Mike Robinson (who also runs The Pot Kiln) and Brett Graham. It has had a sequence of capable head chefs, and was the first London pub to be awarded a Michelin star in 2014, a trophy that it has retained ever since. It is noted for its game, much of which Mike Robinson shoots himself. Jake Leach took over as the head chef of the Harwood Arms in October 2021, taking over from Sally Abe. Jake worked for five years at The Ledbury as head chef, and prior to that also worked at Claridges and Tristan in Sussex.
The menu offered three courses for £61, though you will probably want to add the iconic venison Scotch egg at £6.50. These days plenty of places serve fancy Scotch eggs with a liquid yolk centre, but this was the place that really popularised the idea of elevating the humble bar snack. I have written before about The Harwood Arms’ excellent and fairly priced wine list, and alternatively corkage is a fair £30 a bottle.
We began with a selection of nibbles. The venison Scotch egg with its liquid yolk was a lovely as ever, precisely seasoned and with a sharp brown sauce on the side to cut through the richness. Herring schnitzel was an interesting idea, though inevitably with herring it is hard to avoid some tiny bones. The star of the nibbles was beef tongue on dripping toast, accompanied by celeriac, beetroot and chives with a sharp vinaigrette dressing that was exactly what was needed to balance the meat (15/20 nibbles).
Chestnut soup and wild boar sausage roll with a toasted chestnut on the side was enjoyable. The pastry was light and crisp had a coating of spices on top. The soup was a light and fluffy velouté but perhaps could have had deeper chestnut flavour (14/20). Better was Berkswell cheese tart with celeriac and thyme. This had plenty of cheese flavour, very light pastry with what appeared to be a celeriac soubise (a cream sauce made by sautéeing onions and adding them to a béchamel) and little onion rings. This worked really well, with the sharpness of the onions balancing the cheese, and the celeriac bring an additional earthy flavour (16/20). I enjoyed muntjac pate en croute with endive and pickled vegetables. The deer had plenty of flavour, the pastry was carefully made and there was a little jelly of the meat too. The bitterness of the endive and the sourness of the pickled carrot and radish provided balance, though for me the vinegar could have been a touch sharper (15/20).
My main course was haunch of sika deer from Brett Graham’s farm at Aynhoe Park, served with a faggot of deer made using the neck meat. This came with an elderberry sauce and chicory, whose slight bitterness brought some balance. This was unusually good venison, the meat precisely cooked and having lovely flavour (16/20). On the side were some garlic potatoes. Separately, sirloin of belted Galloway beef with garlic and Jerusalem artichoke confit in beef fat had good flavour. This also came with a rich faggot that had deep flavour. It was a rich dish though, and although it tasted very good it could have done with something for balance e.g. an acidic or sour element, or even some greens (15/20).
We tried two desserts. Custard flan featured poached rhubarb and rose, a lovely dish with the perfect 'wobble' to the custard tart. This had light texture and good custard flavour with a lovely and sharp seasonal rhubarb ice cream on the side. I’m not sure what the rose really added but this was a very well-made dessert (15/20). This was rather better than pear trifle with hazelnuts, butterscotch and whisky ice cream. The pears were good but there was some smoky flavour, presumably from the whisky, that rather distracted from the pears (just about 14/20).
Coffee was basic Nespresso. Service was very friendly, and the bill came to £104 per person in total. This was a most enjoyable evening, and the Harwood Arms is clearly in safe hands with its new head chef. It remains the only Michelin starred pub in London, and has a very complete package of an appealing menu, high grade ingredients, technical skill and a welcoming atmosphere.