London: Harwood ArmsMay 5, 2015
Walham Grove, Fulham, London SW6 1QP
So much of London’s newly found status as a city of good food has been due to migrant cuisines – Indian, Middle Eastern, Chinese, Spanish, Japanese, and so on. A new influx of quality restaurants from overseas cuisines has suddenly made London a destination for foodies. What was previously a bit of a grey spot in now buzzing with great restaurants, cafes, and even good coffee (thanks to Aussie and New Zealand baristas setting up shop!)
In our time there, we’d eaten Italian, Spanish tapas, Australian-style brunch and the all American favourite, burgers. But I was hankering to find a really good authentic British restaurant. I knew they were out there, I knew British cuisine had more to give than just mushy peas and mutton. Eventually I figured a good old gastropub was the proper way to do it. Three friends independently recommending the Harwood Arms in Fulham was enough for me to make a booking.
Walking in, the place is cosy, warm and homely. Worn wooden tables with mismatched chairs, candles and small vases of garden flowers dot the room. There’s a roaring fire in one corner, a big bar with all the usual suspects, and blackboards on the walls with the night’s specials. The menu reads like the best of British food – salmon in beetroot, wood pigeon, loin of Berkshire fallow deer with plum, and Cornish pollock with leeks. Just the ingredients on the dessert menu alone has me salivating – eggy bread, rhubarb and sherry trifle, marmalade, buttermilk pudding, brown bread ice cream. Delish.
To start, I had a ruby red piece of salmon slow cooked in beetroot juices with smoked sour cream, and some beautifully striped Chioggia beets. The striped beetroot was surprisingly mellow and not overwhelmingly sweet, and the sour cream cut through the oiliness of the fish. Overall, a fantastic starter.
As good as my salmon was, I think Alex picked the winning entree, a small but delicious dish of wood pigeon faggots with parsnip, pear and wild mushrooms. Faggots are a very traditional dish from the English Midlands, and are basically meatballs (usually offal) wrapped in an intestine lining. These were a slightly modified version, with gamey wood pigeon, and wrapped in a fatty lard wrapping. They were incredible – gamey, rich meatballs nestled in a sweet parsnip puree. Perfect cold weather food.
It’s pretty normal for me to look around at what other tables are eating, to suss out what looks good and what might look a little underwhelming. Casting my eye over nearby tables, everything looked pretty delicious, but there was one table that caught my eye. In the centre of a family of four sat this enormous wooden board, replete with what looked like a roast dinner – meat, potatoes, greens, a couple of little gravy jugs, the whole kit and caboodle.
Reading over the menu again, I could see something about a pork roast for two with mashed potato, cabbage and carrots… but no, that couldn’t be it… the other table’s dish looked different. The specials menu had something scribbled onto it, barely decipherable in the dim candle light, with ‘beef’ being the only word I could pick out. Our question to the waiter was met with a wry little smile, ‘ahh, the beef for two. Fantastic choice’.
‘The beef for two’ turned out to be the grossest understatement of the century. What arrived was a veritable FEAST. Roast rib eye of belted Galloway beef with a couple of pieces of braised beef cheek as an extra treat, duck fat roasted potatoes, Yorkshire puddings, sprouting broccoli, cauliflower croquettes, horseradish cream and a bone marrow jus. Absolutely f-cking phenomenal.
I mean, shit, life just doesn’t get any better than this, am I right? This was hands down my favourite meal in London, even though it wasn’t the fanciest or the most hyped, but because it was darn delicious and a stellar version of one of England’s best contributions to gastronomy – the roast dinner. The Harwood Arms is a gastro-pub with some serious pedigree, have no doubt. Turns out nothing can beat a good roast after all.
For dessert (after a prolonged break), Alex enjoyed a little bowl of warm cranberry jam doughnuts coated in a spiced sugar and orange cream. Traditionally English and bloody delicious, like the rest of our dinner.
I couldn’t pass over the prospect of Mrs Gooderson’s rhubarb and sherry trifle. I love rhubarb, I love trifle, and if Mrs Gooderson is anything like her trifle, I’m sure I’d love her too! Perfect end to our meal – slightly sweet, slightly sour, with small cubes of poached rhubarb, rhubarb jelly, sponge, vanilla cream and ice-cream. Simply superb.
I cannot recommend the Harwood Arms enough to anyone visiting London. The service was relaxed, knowledgeable and friendly, and the food was absolutely brilliant. Fulham may be a little far out of central London, but it is well worth the trip on the tube. Did I also mention it’s the lovechild of Brett Graham from the Ledbury and Mike Robinson from the Pot Kiln, and is Michelin starred? Classic British cuisine done well, there’s nothing like it.
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