Fulham’s Favourite – The Harwood Arms:
A ten year anniversary for The Harwood Arms in its current guise doesn’t stop the odd regular from coming in to prop up the bar and enjoy a pint, as we noticed on our recent visit. But, for the most part, what was a local pub on the back streets of Fulham is definitely something more now. And for me, that’s no bad thing.
Living in the area at the time, it was my local. I remember popping in just after Brett Graham, Mike Robinson and Edwin Vaux had taken over and being quite astonished by the wealth of fine game dishes, mostly served on wooden boards, by the excellent seafood and by a wine list that rivalled nearby South Kensington’s finest. Gone were the greasy fries and gastro-burgers, replaced with amazing dishes that left me wanting more. I took all my friends along – and until they got their Michelin star, we could walk in any lunchtime and enjoy some of the finest food I’d ever eaten in a ‘pub’. At the time I knew little of the heritage of the new owners – from the Ledbury in Notting Hill.
Ten years on The Harwood looks much the same (although we understand it’s about to undergo a refurbishment). The menu is an evolution rather than revolution from what was offered then and there are still some of the original bar snacks (Venison Scotch Eggs anyone?) together with homemade soda bread and whipped butter to start. But, the pub quiz has gone and I get the feeling it’s really moved closer to ‘restaurant’ than gastropub now. Despite being in the heart of Fulham, The Harwood has a rustic feel, with pretty jars of flowers on each table and a few shooting trophies on the walls. And, it’s somehow comfortable, a home from home for a country girl brought up in rural Norfolk.
I was tempted by a glass of Gusbourne Brut Reserve to start the meal off and we managed to eat most of the soda bread while we checked the menu. The set menu, with five options at each course, is £49.95 for three or £37.50 for two courses and there’s a blackboard daily menu at just £32.50 for three courses to complement the a la carte.
In some effort on my part to eat more fish, we shared starters of cured Cornish mackerel from the blackboard and Crab Royale.
I’d anticipated a stronger, acidic taste to the stunningly dressed plate of Cornish mackerel garnished with borage flowers and nasturtium leaves, but despite horseradish cream, pickled cucumber and fresh gooseberries, the overall effect was delicate with barely cooked fish contrasting with the blackened torched skin.
Crab Royale with peas and lovage was another winner with a creamy light custard made from the brown crab meat topped with fresh white crab meat, sprigs of lovage, little shards of melba toast, peas and pea shoots. It sounds complicated, but the flavours paired so well that it was an easy mouthful. My companion thought it reminded him of the dishes served at Lyles, another Michelin starred London restaurant, but one which I sadly haven’t tried.
To drink we enjoyed a 2018 Grüner Veltliner, Terrassen’ from Ehmoser, Austria, a clean elegant light coloured wine with just a slight fizz and mild acidity.
For anyone other than a pescatarian, I’d urge trying whatever game is on the menu at The Harwood. I don’t need much encouragement and was delighted to see roast muntjac on the menu. Small, stocky deer that were brought to Woburn Park in the UK from China in the early 20th century. They’ve spread rapidly across the country now. There’s no closed season for hunting muntjac and the venison from muntjac is fine and firm. Roasted and served rare with turned celeriac, pickled walnut and Swiss chard, this was a deliciously moreish dish where I was actually pleased to have a pescatarian companion so I didn’t need to share. There was a tiny venison rissole too laced with a sweet chutney of some sort. My accompanying wine was a 2017 Langhe Nebbiolo, Gillardi from Piedmont in Italy a big tannin wine with rich berry and liquorice notes.
The pescatarian in question, meanwhile, was demonstrating his fish filleting skills with a whole baked lemon sole served with radishes and green sauce. Another beautifully presented dish, the fish was obviously perfectly cooked, firm and flakey, while he enjoyed the deliciously vegetal green sauce and gentle flavours of roast radish.
His pairing of a 2017 Chablis 1iere Cru ‘Les Fourneaux’ Domaine Perchaud from France was, so he told me, delicious with caramel notes.
We picked two of the desserts from the menu thinking that we’d both actually eaten quite enough already but keen to sample more. My choice of burnt cream of Richmond Park honey with fresh madeleines was a rather delicately executed version of a creme brûlée, served in a shallow dish so that the balance of caramel to cream was perfect while still fine and crisp. I thought the madeleines verged on being undercooked; moist and soft, my companion’s opinion was that they were spot on
His choice of dessert was what looked to me like a rather substantial dish of lemon verbena meringue with lemon verbena ice-cream. Even he described it as robust, though delicately perfumed.
And, the kitchen had discovered that it was his birthday the day before, so we managed a plateful of doughnuts too with lemon thyme cream, complete with birthday wishes. I have a sneaking suspicion that 2 of the 3 doughnuts came my way…the proof, as they say, is in the eating. This is one of the Harwood signature dishes and something I remember from 10 years earlier!To accompany, a glass of 2017 Beerenauslese from Austria, a honeyed, sweet wine that was the perfect end to a perfect meal.
We caught up with Sally Abé, the Head Chef at the Harwood since 2017 to learn more about her own ethos and how she sees things moving forward. We’d noticed a distinctive style – plating has moved away from the wooden boards of the original restaurant and each of the dishes we tried, was delicate and perfectly balanced while still retaining an intensity of flavour and honesty that marked the Harwood out in the early days. The focus on British produce, game, wild food and excellent wines is still there too. I was intrigued to learn that Sally, like every Head Chef at The Harwood, cut her teeth working with Brett Graham at the Ledbury for five years before a stint with another of my food heroes, Phil Howard, at Elystan Street.
What’s certain in my head is that The Harwood Arms is just as I remember it and better too. Until 4 years ago I lived a stone’s throw away. Now, the journey takes me about 40 minutes and while it’s a worthy destination restaurant, The Harwood as my local is one of the few things I regret about moving.
The Harwood Arms
London SW6 1QP
Tuesday – Friday 12.00pm – 2.15pm
Saturday – Sunday 12.00pm – 2.45pm
Monday – Saturday 6.15pm – 9.15pm
Sunday 6pm- 9.15pm
Disclosure: We dined as guests of The Harwood Arms. All content is editorially given.
Looking for something different in Fulham? We are big fans of Pure Kitchen for healthy Indian Food. There’s an excellent branch of Thai Square in Fulham that we love. And for a classic gastropub, we recommend The Imperial Arms