The Harwood Arms in Fulham: World-class Scotch eggs, delicious game and a relaxed atmosphere
Far from the buzzing centre of London, the Harwood Arms is a destination pub in the south of Fulham. Squinting to see the lights of the ground floor on an unremarkable road, one wonders whether the journey will be worth it, but contrary to its semi-hidden location, the pub is preceded by its reputation.
Leather chairs and solid wooden tables, a feather-covered chandelier and dim lighting: the atmosphere is rustic, relaxed and soft.
The Sunday roasts and Beef Wellington have long been highly praised, but on the evening of our visit we are keen to sample a broader range. The completely new menu for the restaurant’s reopening retains some classics and has set prices for two and three-course meals.
First we dig into a compact Guinness soda bread, spread with an airy sour cream butter. The moreish Scotch Eggs are incredible – an adjective used without reserve, especially for a food that’s arguably an acquired taste and left me with a heart full of love. The classic meat version is made here with venison, served with Oxford sauce. Recently, they have also introduced an interesting vegetarian option, the Glamorgan, served with red onion jam, with vegan bacon rendering smokiness to the pulpy filling.
The first starter, Cornish Crab Royale is a smooth parfait, topped with courgette and croutons. The next, Porthilly Oyster and English Sparkling Soup, is astounding: a double component, at either end of a wooden slab, of a delicately battered oyster beignet, and a clear cup of thick elixir. It is not a dish that can sit on the table for long, as it risks getting cold quickly, but every spoonful is a delight. It pairs well with the suggested English sparkling wine, the Gusbourne Brut Reserve, which is also used in the soup. The crab is better matched with a Burgundian chardonnay, the fresh Saint-Aubin 1er Cru Champlots.
Game is the pub’s trump card, and the rich entrees are testament to the fact. The perfectly cooked Haunch of Aynhoe Park Fallow Deer melts in the mouth, accompanied by crispy green turnip, and hen of the woods on the other half of the plate. The Berkshire Pork Chop is best savoured slowly, the crunchy skin complemented with pease pudding and a side of garlic potatoes. The paired red wines match the tastes for intensity: a Barbaresco Cru Albesani, by Franco Rocca, which is marked by a warm lingering on the palate, and a fruit-forward Pinot Noir, Tupari, from Awatere Valley, New Zealand.
Despite clean plates, one doesn’t feel as heavy as expected – the sequence of dishes has so far been filled with character but not greasiness – so the evening has to finish with pudding. The simple Raspberry Marshmallow Teacake is a pretty bubble, spongy inside and delicately coated with chocolate (though it might have been better enjoyed mid-afternoon). A decadent Blackcurrant and Apple Oat Crumble Pie is more fitting, the crust and syrupy jam oozing sweetness and fulfillment. With hints of honey, the Beerenauslese Umathum, from Burgenland, goes nicely with both.
Head chef Sally Abé and the predominantly female team – both behind the scenes and front of the house, which we hope surprises less and less – must be immensely proud of their London pub, which enjoys rare acclaim. More than that, the true mastery here is in the ability to exceed diners’ expectations without any extraneous trimmings or convoluted ideas. The journey is without a doubt worth it.
★★★★★Food ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Drinks ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Service ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮
Photos: Filippo L’Astorina
To book a table at The Harwood Arms, Walham Grove Fulham London SW6 1QP, call 020 7386 1847 or visit their website here. Sally Abé will be in charge of the menu of the Blue Boar Pub, which opens in December at Hotel Conrad London St James.