Find and book great restaurantsFind a Restaurant
|Address:||Walham Grove, London SW6 1QP|
|Tel:||020 7386 1847|
|Price: £49.00||Wine: £16.50||Champagne: £50.00|
|Opening Hours:||Tues-Sun 12N-4pm Mon-Sat 6.30-9.30pm Sun 7-9pm|
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It’s Friday evening and I haven’t booked. My date Alicia is tugging at my sleeve in complaint, making her irritation known. The Fulham restaurants of stature are glowing with busy diners and those I wouldn’t be seen dead in are not worth my consideration; however at this rate Chicken Go Go may be our evening setting?
We walk towards the Broadway and Alicia suggests we try the Harwood Arms. “Without a reservation?” I reply. “Harwood Arms in Fulham? With the Michelin star? Who serve the venison Scotch egg?” So, with no other plan we threw caution to the wind and turned into the quiet suburban road where the famed gastrobub sits (depressingly coloured) and entered, praying for a tray and seat in the toilets at the most.
As expected, the sparsely decorated room (“painted pale Farrow & Ball shades” said Giles Coren) was full of romantic couples, with upscale French families and the odd pick of neighbourhood natives, no doubt surprised to find their local wrapped in euphoria and out-of-towners since January walking on their patch, sitting on their stalls and drinking their ales.
The Michelin-starred gastrobub is one of a kind in London. It was a new entry for the prestigious award in 2010 along with The Pipe & Glass Inn in Beverley, Yorkshire and Michael Parkinson’s The Royal Oak in Paley Street, Berkshire.
The food is good rural pub grub, served cleanly and simply. My deer and walnut terrine (£6.50) was served with a salad of chicory and pickled prunes and warm crunchy toast. Presented on a tree trunk – okay, modernist wooden plate – it was a decent size for a starter. The terrine was powerful in flavour and soft to cut but there was a clear outweigh between pâté and toast, as there always is, it must be impossible to achieve – there is never enough bread, pita, chapatti, naan, damper or bagel to accompany and spread-on or mop up with.
Air-dried Cumbrian ham (£4.50) from the Bar Menu was again served on a tree trunk (a littler flatter and lighter wood this time) and there was plenty of it for two people. The thin slices had a fraction of smokiness and importantly, weren’t over-salted. There were a few pathetic lettuce leaves nipped and thrown on top that appeared pointless and added nothing, but some hearty apple slices were a nice sweet addition.
On a separate blackboard from the Bar Menu was written “Pigeon legs £3”. So what the heck, we ordered some of them as Alicia had never tried them before. I’m not even sure I have? Pigeon breast certainly, but their scraggy little legs…? They arrived snapped and caramelised on a small white plate. Easy to pick up and finger but bony little buggers, and not much meat. Still, what they did carry was good and a well-priced delicacy at £3.00.
A lovely blonde waitress named Sophie reintroduced the wine list after we decided that we did need something to wash this feast down with, and we ordered a bottle of Albariño at £29.00. It’s expensive but one of the cheapest in their wine list and it’s one of the freshest whites I’ve had, with notes of soft peaches, and I believe a much nicer choice over Chardonnay. It was Sophie’s birthday on our visit and she found an Aussie sister in Alicia and they hit it off. Fine for me, while they nattered about yearning for home luxuries (Vegemite and Tim Tams), I covertly finished the last few pigeon legs. Everyone’s a winner… except the pigeon.
And so to the Scotch egg. The venison Scotch egg to be precise, priced at £2.50. I’ll be writing more about this (and others) at a later date, but to continue with the review of this celebrated one. I’d asked Jay Rayner where he thought the best Scotch egg in London could be found, “Harwood Arms,” he replied, “no contest”. This is how I had known about the accolade when Alicia suggested the Harwood Arms. She suggests a pub and all I’m aware of is that they produce a spankingly ace Scotch egg!
The first thing you notice is that it’s deep-fried and crispy and has a sprinkling of Maldon salt on top. It sits proud and spherical on a square of grease-proof paper, just wooing me to sink in and release its runny yolk. ‘Egging’ me on, if you will.
The breadcrumbs are warm and light and the venison meat holds perfectly the inner-casing of comfy white and fluent yellow yolk. Surprisingly, it isn’t overcooked and the centre is not a rubbery texture of gooey compound. Like a Dime bar it’s ‘smooth on the inside, crunchy on the out’. There’s a warming crunch before the meat and then you’re layered into the egg. For a product which appears almost inconspicuous on the Bar Menu it’s a real gem and the Harwood Arms have rightly become famous for such a thing.