Wednesday, 18 February 2009

The Harwood Arms, Fulham

The Harwood Arms, a handsome Victorian pub a stone's throw away from Stanford Bridge in Fulham, is famous for its Scotch Eggs. Not many places are famous for their Scotch Eggs, because not many places do them very well. If all the Scotch Eggs you've ever eaten have been those processed rubber balls you buy in the multipacks at Iceland, I don't blame you if you're wondering what all the fuss is about. By way of an explanation, let me show you this:

Crispy, flaky breadcrumbs cover a whisper-thin layer of spiced Venison meat, which in turn surrounds a perfectly soft-boiled egg. It's a pleasure for all the senses, not to mention a marvel of engineering - how they manage to get the yolk so soft while the white remains firm and the meat not overcooked must be a result of many hours of trial and error. Topped with a light sprinkling of Maldon salt, the Harwood Arms Venison Scotch Egg is worth a trip to Fulham alone, but lucky for me I found the time to sample some of the rest of their menu as well.

My starter of pigs trotters and ears was a bit of a Curate's Scotch Egg. The strips of deep fried ears weren't overly flavoursome but were useful for dipping in the herby tarragon mustard. However the trotter meat on toast was excellent - sausagey and yummy, and ideal with the accompanying expertly-seasoned salad. A good, British starter and a sign of a confident and experimental kitchen. Highlights of the rest of the starters were some huge, meaty oysters and a perfectly decent onion quiche.

Main course was a generous - in fact, slightly overly generous as it turned out as I had to leave some - portion of grilled Ox tongue with a vegetable gratin. The gratin had a good, deep flavour but a rather odd texture - quite thick and gloopy. But the ox tongue was good, well seasoned with attractive grill marks on it and a rich beefy taste like hot pastrami. Again, a solid gastropub dish that had "inspired by St. John" written all over it, and was none the worse for that.

I also shouldn't go any further without mentioning the cute little bags of house bread that we were served. They contained a very nice white bread with a lovely crust, but a truly extraordinary soda bread which they bake in-house. Sweet and moist, with a perfect crust and lovely depth of flavour, it is the best bread I've tried all year and almost the highlight of my entire meal. Spread with the provided salted butter, it's a delicious reminder of the enormous advantage of having a kitchen confident and skilled enough to bake its own bread; it's baffling why even the very top restaurants (the 3-star Gordon Ramsay restaurant for one) sometimes don't bother when the results can be this good.

It was just as we were finishing our main courses that the evening's entertainment began. Tuesday night at the Harwood Arms is Quiz Night, and there was no escaping it even in the restaurant half of the building. Such goings-on probably wouldn't be for everyone, but I found it quite charming that despite the top-end food the atmosphere was still unselfconsciously that of a normal neighbourhood boozer. A normal neighbourhood boozer with homemade Scotch Eggs and the best bread in London. Now that's my kind of place.


Harwood Arms on Urbanspoon


Browners said...

Right. I am definitely going there for their scotch eggs. They both look and sound awesome.

Nice review.

Anonymous said...

I've heard about these eggs before - if only I could have got my egg yolks to stay like that, I would have died and gone to heaven! I'm going to try putting black pudding in them next time too. I see the ox tongue came with a vegetable gratin - that's a bit weird innit? I mean, that's not right with ox tongue. Soft tongue and then 'gloopy' gratin. No. Flavour wise it doesn't sound right either. I had a good oz tongue dish at Franklins (surprise) with chorizo and snails. Snails didn't add anything but chorizo and ox tongue was yum. There was some green cabbagey stuff holding everything together if I remember rightly.

Oliver Thring said...

Great review - it's an amazing little place. The Scotch eggs are a thing of wonder and show real technical skill, and even though Stephen Williams is ex-Ledbury, the place is totally unpretentious. You didn't tell us if you won the quiz!

Chris Pople said...

Oliver: I didn't mention the quiz for a very very good reason.

Alex Watts said...

Very interesting review. Will definitely go there and try the Scotch eggs - must be a nightmare cooking them enough on the outside while still making sure the yolks are soft.