The Harwood Arms

Finally, after all the hype had died down, I was reminded that I had been trying to get a table at The Harwood Arms. Ms L and I had tried so many times, but finally managed to get a table for a Sunday night.It was very quite when Ms L and I arrived at 730pm, it didn’t last long. Refurbished in September 2008, the pubs interior is of simple decor, mismatched chairs and coarse linen napkins tied with raffia. I liked it.  Although we were the only the second seated table, the other table having already ordered, we seemed to wait quite a while to be served. I know you need to give people a chance to peruse a menu but I’m impatient once I have decided. I was also ravenous after being out late the night before. Their absolutely delicious soda bread kept me at bay.A lovely bottle of red was recommended to us and we were settling into Sunday night. A soft French Pinot Noir, was a good overall choice for the dishes we had chosen.I chose the Kennet River Crayfish and saffron soup with crayfish cocktail toast from the specials board. Sounded good to me, but it was a disappointment.

On first sight, it looked good and I liked the presentation on the rustic timber board. The soup was lovely but the crayfish cocktail toast tasted like bad coleslaw. It spoilt the whole dish for me.

Ms L chose the Crisp brawn with tarragon mustard and broad beans stewed with smoked bacon and gem lettuce. The colours of the crispy fried brawn against the bright green of the tarragon mustard and broad bean stew, brought comfort to my eyes. Judging from the noises coming from the other side of the table it was good… nom, nom, nom. Crisp brawn, fantastic.

The main, whole butterflied and stuffed mackerel with a sour dough crust, Isle of Wight tomatoes, wild rocket and horseradish, was also a bit disappointing. The fish was well cooked but the sough dough crust didn’t bring anything to the dish and the stuffing….what stuffing???A few herbs maybe, for £14.50.

Ms L chose off the specials board, the grilled steak of Bershire Roe deer and Douglas Fir sausage. A dish of tender meat she enjoyed but it was served on a timber board with a dinner plate for you to transfer the dish onto, so that you could manage to eat it without it all falling off the board. A smallish portion for £16.75, I thought.

We both chose the peaches poached in lemon verbena syrup with raspberry ripple ice cream for a light dessert. The peaches were beautifully cooked, and softly scented by the lemon verbena. Raspberry ripple ice cream, what’s not to like. It was a lovely end to the meal.

If I didn’t know this place had rave reviews and had recently been the first pub in London to be awarded a Michelin star, I would have thought it was pretty good pub grub. Unfortuntately I did come knowing all this, so I expected something worthy of  all the praise. It’s great that they source alot of produce from small British suppliers, but that’s not unique anymore. I actually think it’s expected now, more and more, especially if they have been granted a star.

It was good, I’m glad I went, and even though I live relatively close, I think I will stick to my local pub which serves good reasonably priced food. I can walk in and always find a table. It’s still a pub for the locals.

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15 thoughts on “The Harwood Arms

  1. I am closeish to them too, have been for lunch ages ago and again recently.

    The food is very nice, but not good value for money IMO.

    That steak and sausage combo does look tiny, and at those prices I do think that they should include some sides / veggies in the dish.

    I would go again for a pint and a scotch egg (which was fantastic) but not for an entire meal.

  2. That coleslaw /crayfish cocktail hybrid on toast looks all sorts of wrong and the rest seem rather uninspired. I’ve been twice and although the meals weren’t mind-blowing as such, they were very pleasant indeed. To be honest, it’s that venison scotch egg that really makes it for me – that by itself is worth a visit!

  3. We were there for lunch recently and was underwhelmed. I was wondering if it was an off day and how did they get the michelin star. The food was not good, so many things wrong with it which I am yet to blog about. Glad I am not the only one.

  4. You don’t seem to have been very impressed – I have been meaning to go there for ages and I am finally booked for the 13th Nov with Jill of Cucina Cinzia. Will report then.

    Luiz @ The London Foodie

  5. I have to say, some of my local ‘gastro’ pubs are cheeky enough to be charging around the same for some of their dishes without even a *whiff* of a star… but it’s interesting that so many people seem to be saying the same thing about the Harwood Arms. Thanks for taking one for the team 🙂

  6. I had a good meal there – although I didn’t think it necessarily stood head and shoulders above other good gastropubs, despite some highlights. The scotch egg is great. I’m sure the Michelin star has it’s drawbacks in terms of raising expectations for what is essentially a local pub providing good, well sourced food. Glad you liked the gorgeous soda bread.

  7. I went when it first opened before all the hype quite a few times and loved it. Amazing value for money and I was always happy to recommend it (even to doubting Italian friends who were not convinced that the English could cook and were thrilled).
    I went a couple of weeks ago having not been for well over a year and since before they got their star. The service was painfully slow both in ordering and in being served, no one was thrilled with their food, the fish was deathly dull. I had the venison you also had and I too thought it wasn’t value for money.
    In all honesty I much prefer the Draper’s Arms, albeit their menu isn’t so fancy.

    • Thanks for commenting Rachel. Claire Roberson has been telling me I have to get myself to the Draper’s Arms too. Unfortunately it’s on the other side of town for me and it’s taking some time to get there.

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