Harwood Arms has been around for years, seeing off competition from newer, trendier bars. It’s little surprise, as it was the first London pub to ever receive a Michelin Star… and with good reason.
Harwood Arms is as close to a country pub as you’re likely to get in London. Located in a remote part of Fulham, it stands a large, impressive building that is traditional in design, carefully maintaining its period features.
Inside, the Harwood Arms is divided into two areas; one reserved mainly for drinking, the other serving as the dining room (although you can eat wherever you please). This venue has an upmarket yet traditional pub aesthetic with huge arching windows flooding the room with light, simple but shiny wooden tables and matching chairs, and a huge bar. Overhead the light fittings are fancy, sitting somewhere between granny lamp and chandelier. In terms of the colour scheme, a swathe of white is broken up by a pretty duck egg blue, which lends a certain sophistication to the design. If you’re just after a casual drink then you can forego the heavy dining tables in favour of a bar stool or one of the leather sofas, edged neatly against a roaring fire. It’s cleverly done, so as to appeal to those people who like gastro pubs to feel like a restaurant and those drinkers fed up with the gentrification of their boozers.
Although the Harwood Arms is a pub at heart, it has veered into the restaurant arena with a focus on award-winning food. As such, a large number of hungry diners visit and it’s worth booking ahead as it’s very popular. This is a place that attracts more than just locals, with a fantastic reputation for well-priced, top-quality grub. It may not be trendy anymore - remaining largely ignored by the foodie bloggers who have long-since moved on to the latest pub opening - but word of mouth keeps on spreading and those awards keep rolling in. As such, this is an example of a pub that is thriving at a time when many are closing their doors for good. The staff are incredibly friendly and welcoming and this may have something to do with the pub’s ongoing success.
The food at the Harwood Arms is excellent, and it’s little surprise given it’s part-run by the chef at the much-acclaimed Ledbury restaurant. The food focusses on fantastic British produce, including seasonal game. Best of all, you are looking at non-Michelin prices to enjoy a good meal here, with starters coming in at £8-£9 a dish and main courses hovering under £20.
For real reverence of deer, try the haunch of Berkshire roe with tarragon mustard and crispy garlic potatoes (£18.50). The venison has been lovingly prepared so it’s moist, tender and delicately pink, retaining all of those rich, borderline-sweet flavours that British roe is so known for. The tarragon mustard is a smart bit of prep, herbs giving a real lift to the tangy mustard, which marries well with the deer. It’s rounded off with strongly garlic-flavoured potatoes with a delightful golden colour. You won’t need to worry about puny portions or racking up a bill on side dishes as this is more than adequate for a main meal. Alternatively, the Middlewhite pork belly (£19.50) is delicious. It’s soft, fatty and perfectly cooked and seasoned, served with celeriac, white cabbage and apple. A traditional dish, the refined cooking showcases why this pub won a Michelin star.
Although there is a large draught selection on offer at the Harwood Arms, including a selection of real ale, the star of the show is the wine menu. It’s been devised to complement the bold cooking on show with a huge range of bottles priced to suit most budgets. It’s also good to see a large choice available by the glass for those who want to choose a wine for each course or don’t fancy overindulging.
The list is very heavily focussed on French bottles, mainly chosen for their full, bold flavours, given the complexity of the food. However, there are some interesting German varieties including some great Rieslings, which tend to offer better value for money. It’s just a shame that the pub hasn’t branched out to include some of the more unusual wine-producing regions.
The Last Word
The Harwood Arms puts London pubs on the Michelin map. It may be more restaurant than boozer these days but it’s still worth pencilling in on your must-visit pub list.