If a meal is eaten in a restaurant and nobody tweets a picture of it, did it have any taste? I don't know what the fascination with taking pictures of food comes from and, whilst the shoulder of deer at the Harwood was a delight to behold, I'm afraid I just don't get why, when it arrived at the next door table, everyone got out their cameras and iPhones to take pictures of it.
I know some restaurants ban photographs (after all, the food porn shots taken for a restaurant's website take an age to line up and a fortune to get right, so who wants a badly lit snap going viral?), but you shouldn't have to. What makes people think that an evening of eating, drinking and good conversation can be made even better by taking pictures of the food? Sure, capture the fun by taking pictures of each other (I find that this often helps fill in gaps in the evening), but the food?
Some septic friends of ours were in town, and wanted a gastropub experience. In fact, it seems that most of our fellow diners were from across the Pond. The Harwood is a pub. It serves beer and scotch eggs (more of which later). It also has a Michelin star. On balance, I think that this is a good thing; Michelin moving with the times, and the tastes, where gastropubs are doing what inns of old used to do, by serving good quality food with which to accompany an ale or two.
Ok, so the wine list is good here too, but the idea of a less formal setting than a restaurant to get great nosh is one innovation going the other way across to the US.
The Harwood is a real pub too; along with the diners there are the drinkers, equally as welcome. It is stuck on a back road off Fulham Broadway, around the corner from the home of the worst team to win the Champions League since Porto. So cheap it is not.
We started with some of those scotch eggs. A scotch egg used to be a slab of sausage meat wrapped around a solid hen's egg coated in orange breadcrumbs, served straight from the fridge. Now you find them on every trendy menu. Here it is served warm, with venison replacing pork, and the egg soft and giving. The soup and terrine both went down well too. The former a lovely concoction of jersey royals and wild garlic, the latter a good country pate, with toasted brioche.
Continuing the deer theme, three of us moved on to the shoulder of venison. Wrapped in bacon, served with a huge dollop of mash, much photographed by the next table, was gorgeous. Slow cooked, melting and beautifully seasoned. It tasted as good as it looked, although, unlike the neighbouring table, we still didn't take a picture of it. The cod favoured by the fourth of our party, whilst not as photogenic as Bambi, went down well too.
Wines too were nice: a cheeky Voortrekker chenin blanc followed by a solid old world red. Not cheap, but both excellent.
Service is cheery and efficient. In fact relaxed and pub like, rather than restaurant stiff.
At this point I must confess that our dining companions did show us a picture of a dish they'd had in NY the week before. (I did say that they were American). It was glorious: a whole sheep's head, smote in two, tongue, brains, everything ready to be picked over. I'm not ready to take pictures (let alone tweet anything) yet, but when I'm next in the Big Apple, I'm going to find a sheep's head to tuck into.