The Harwood Arms – London

Walham Grove

London SW6 1QP 


The Food: 

Venison Scotch egg

Muntjac pâté en croûte with pickles and walnut

Slow cooked beef cheek, crispy shallots with black winter truffles and spinach

Malted treacle slice with stout and crème fraiche ice cream, served with candle and a chorus of “Happy Birthday”

The Wines: 

2017 Domaine Coffinet-Duvernay Chassagne-Montrachet Les Fairendes 1er Cru     90
2007 Domaine Pierre Morey Meursault Les Perrières 1er Cru92
2010 Weingut Fritz Ekkehard Huff Riesling Rabenturm Trocken88
2009 Domaine Geantet-Pansiot Gevrey-Chambertin Les Poissenot 1er Cru90
2009 Domaine Jean-Marie Fourrier Chambolle-Musigny Vieilles Vignes91
1971 Paul Jaboulet Aîné Hermitage La Chapelle99
1998 Domaine A. Clape Cornas92
1971 La Lagune92
1971 Cos d’Estournel92
1971 La Fleur-Pétrus94
1961 Siran95
2010 Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo Tre Tine97
1971 Cordero di Montezemolo Barolo Monfalletto96
1971 Barone de Cles Teroldego Rotaliano Maso Scari 87
1971 Vietti Barolo89
1970 Bodegas Tradición Oloroso94

In the third part of my 50+1 birthday celebrations, I gathered some of my oldest pals at The Harwood Arms, clearly making up for last year’s cancellation of so much as a party popper going off. At first appearance, you might describe Harwood Arms as a gastropub. But let’s be very clear - this is a gastropub of the very highest order. Banish those images of pork scratchings, bangers ‘n mash and toad-in-the-hole (American readers are doubtless typing those dishes into a search engine and wondering exactly what kind of toads are considered a delicacy in this strange country). Consider that one of Harwood’s co-founders is no less than Brett Graham of Ledbury fame, and that it has well-deserved awards, and you immediately and correctly deduce that the standard of cooking is a notch higher than your Toby’s Carvery. 

The Harwood exterior

The Harwood Arms is located in deepest Fulham, about a 10-minute walk from West Brompton station, surrounded by residential houses that lend it a very local ambiance. I dined here soon after its opening in 2009, when chef Sally Abé was crafting wonderful dishes from the kitchen. Abé's'profile inevitably rose, and last year, she departed to helm “The Pem”, which I have earmarked for a future Vinous Table. Stepping into her shoes is Jake Leach, who has previously worked at Fera in Claridge’s (still one of best dinners I have ever eaten in London), Simon Rogan and The Ledbury. With a CV like that, you expect quality in every dish, and that is exactly what you get. 

Venison Scotch egg

The menu is not flashy or ostentatious. If you want fancy foams and ingredients jetted in from the Far East, go elsewhere. It is pub food taken to the highest level of execution and refinement, sourcing ingredients as good as any highfalutin restaurant. We started with a humble Scotch egg with a venison “twist”. Yet, this bastion of many a pub lunch was absolutely gorgeous and beautifully seasoned with a fabulous rich yolk.

Muntjac pâté en croûte with pickles and walnut

My starter was a discrete nod to The Ledbury’s menu, since Graham has a penchant for Muntjac deer. This Muntjac pâté en croûte with pickles and walnut wine was as delicious as it sounds. The walnuts lent the pâté a lovely texture and salinity, the meat subtle in flavour with a thinner pastry crust than you might find elsewhere. It was just very refined and set us up nicely for the main course. I chose slow-cooked beef cheek that came with crispy shallots, black winter truffles and spinach. My knife glided through beef cheek - it was that tender - whilst the shallot reduction brimmed with intensity and married beautifully with the generous shavings of truffle. It was rich, yet perfectly balanced.

Slow cooked beef cheek, crispy shallots with black winter truffles and spinach

Since I was celebrating my 50+1 birthday, a small but perfectly formed birthday cake followed: a malted treacle slice with stout and crème fraiche ice cream with an obligatory candle. (I did make a wish when I blew it out, yet it did not begin raining 1945 Mouton outside.)

With respect to the wines, we were graciously allowed to BYO on this occasion, though the wine list itself is excellent. Amongst eight attendees we managed to assemble quite a stupendous and diverse array of fermented grape juice.

Malted treacle slice with stout and crème fraiche ice cream, served with candle and a chorus of “Happy Birthday”

We began with the 2017 Chassagne-Montrachet Les Fairendes 1er Cru from Domaine Coffinet-Duvernay. This has a very aromatic nose, pithy at first, nectarine and yellow plum, hints of elderflower emerging with time. The palate is texturally a little honeyed on the entry, but like many 2017 whites, it is underpinned by a fine bead of acidity that counterbalanced its weighty and waxy-textured finish. Drink this now or over the next decade as it has substance to last. The 2007 Meursault Les Perrières 1er Cru from Domaine Pierre Morey is a perplexing showing because I am a huge fan of Morey’s whites. Here, I just feel that the aromatics are masked by excessive SO2, though maybe if we had a chance to decant the bottle this would have been addressed. The palate has Morey’s trademark flintiness, though maybe compared to other vintages, such as the thrilling 1991, it is just a bit too lime-influenced on the finish at the expense of terroir expression. 

The 2010 Riesling Rabenturm Trocken from Weingut Fritz Ekkehard Huff is a completely new wine for me. The gentleman who bought the bottle told me that this Rheinhessen had been recommended no less by Klaus-Peter Keller. This has a straight-down-the-line petrol-tinged bouquet that might have missed a little complexity, yet one could not quibble about the intensity. The palate offers sour lemon, nectarine and light resinous notes, impressive in terms of weight. At 12 years of age, this is most likely in the mood to deliver another dozen years of pleasure without any melioration. 

On with the cavalcade of reds. We started with the magnum of 2009 Gevrey-Chambertin Le Poissenot 1er Cru from Domaine Geantet-Pansiot. This is a frustrating Burgundy producer whose excellent holdings have never quite translated into bottle. However, I thoroughly approved of this 2009. Bing cherries, punnets of freshly-picked strawberry and cassis on the nose, perhaps a bit blurred on the edges due to that summer’s warmth. The palate would have benefitted from more complexity, though Le Poissenot is not a premier league Premier Cru. There is impressive weight and an irresistible velvety texture, though it stumbles a little on the finish due to some lingering wood tannins. The 2009 Chambolle-Musigny Vieilles Vignes from Domaine Jean-Marie Fourrier is exuberant on the nose with red cherries, cranberry and incense aromas, again, with a little alcohol that blurs its delineation, though not to any worrisome degree. The palate is concentrated and grippy, opulent yet balanced with a sweet core of plush red/blue fruit. Velvety smooth towards the finish, I might actually afford this a couple more years in bottle. 

Two outstanding wines for the Northern Rhône followed. This was the second bottle of 1971 Hermitage La Chapelle from Paul Jaboulet Aîné that I had over a couple of months, and it was even better. Blessed with a spellbinding bouquet with pure red fruit, wilted rose petals, crushed stone and light undergrowth scents, it is almost Richebourg-like in style, this example a tad more opulent than others. The palate is perfectly balanced with a killer line of acidity, but it is those lace-like tannins, the poise of this Hermitage that leaves you grappling for superlatives. It just…glides. It prompted a discussion about whether the 1971 touches the legendary 1961. Based on this showing, it comes very close. The 1998 Cornas from August Clape was not to be completely outshone by the 1971 La Chapelle. Fully mature on the nose, it offers enticing melted red berry fruit aromas, leather and incense, light tertiary scents in the background. The palate is beautifully balanced with fine tannins, a dash of white pepper on the entry and then quite conspicuous eucalyptus notes towards rather a sustained finish. This is showing wonderfully, though I’d prefer to open bottles now instead of later.  

The vintage theme continued with a trio of Bordeaux. The 1971 La Lagune is one of the hidden gems of this growing season that never favoured Médoc. This bottle, close on the heels of another tasted in December, has a lovely, quite marine-influenced bouquet neatly interwoven into the tertiary black fruit. Touches of tobacco emerge with time. The palate exerting gentle grip, finely balanced, rather conservative yet with fine length, and hints of cedar towards the finish. Classy and understated. The 1971 Cos d’Estournel requires two-hours decant. Smudged strawberry jam on the nose, leather and tobacco surface with time. The palate is well balanced with molasses infusing the red fruit, suggesting a bit of chaptalization at the time (common in this growing season.) Having drunk this wine four or five times now, this one might be the best bottle I have encountered. The 1971 La Fleur-Pétrus cannot quite match the ethereal bottle that I opened last August, yet this is a very fine example. Black truffle and autumn leaves infuse the open and beautifully defined red fruit on the nose. The palate is elegant and refined, not a deep or powerful Pomerol yet effortless and harmonious at half-a-century. Whilst there is a little bottle variation, good examples of this will entrance. Having depleted my cache of 1971s, I proffered a 1961 Siran that had come directly from the château. This is an outstanding and perhaps overlooked example from this haloed vintage. It replicated my previous note tasted at the property at a vertical a couple of years ago. Deep in colour, the bouquet gushes from the glass with those signature mint and white pepper scents, showing less of the briny note that one often finds in this vintage. The palate has immense concentration, saturated tannins and a killer line of acidity, yet after 60 years it has attained a magnificent level of refinement and exquisite delineation. It’s just a wonderful mature Margaux.

Then, we were blessed with a quartet of fascinating wines from Italy. The 2010 Barolo Tre Tine from Giuseppe Rinaldi is stunning whatever way you look at it. This is everything you could wish for in a Barolo. It offers a cornucopia of aromas: an alluring mixture of red and black fruit, cedar, liquorice and a very subtle medicinal scent, all delivered with ethereal delineation. The palate is perfectly balanced, the tannins having melted a touch to render it perfectly drinkable, even if it constantly reminds you that it will continue to improve with bottle age. It is a long-term Barolo that is destined to give immense pleasure. The 1971 Barolo Monfalletto from Cordero di Montezemolo evidences why this was a great season down in Piedmont. Vivid and disarmingly pure red fruit on the nose, that was undimmed by age, this is a doppelgänger for a fine Côte de Nuits, just a touch of VA gives its origin away perhaps. The palate is beautifully balanced with maraschino cherries, strawberry and minerals. It has retained such energy and precision that you could only stand back and applaud. Bon vin.

The third bottle was a bit of Italian esoterica. The 1971 Maso Scari Teroldego Rotaliano from Az. Agr. Barone de Cles was a real one-off. It has a clean, but perhaps one-dimensional nose, youthful with blackcurrant and leather. It feels a little “blocky” on the palate, as if it had declined to evolve over the years, yet is still determined to please the palate, albeit modestly, with a stoic, almost Médoc-like finish. A testament to a humble Italian wine that amazes by surviving, instead of evolving into something profound. The 1971 Barolo from Vietti was fascinating – I had never tasted a bottle this old. If I am being brutally honest, I found it a little fatigued on the nose, the fruit having ebbed away some years ago. Surprisingly, the palate shows more vitality with brown sugar, tinged red fruit, a touch of wild mushroom and a slightly acetic finish.

We finished with a spot of sherry. The 1970 Oloroso from Bodegas Tradición was perfect denouement to the evening’s libation. This bodega is the oldest in Jerez. Its origins date from the establishment of Bodegas CZ way back in 1650 and is now owned and run by the Rivero family. Orange rind, Thai fish oil and light muscat scents burst from the glass. Incredibly fresh and well-defined considering its age. The palate is cut from a similar cloth with a keen line of acidity, tangy marmalade mixed with potent saline notes, tensile with a punchy finish. This leaves me wondering why I do not drink more Oloroso sherry. Fantastic!

Some of my oldest pals gathered at The Harwood Arms

It had been a wild and at times, raucous evening, serving by as an appropriate way to celebrate a birthday and reuniting a couple of old mates together. I sympathised with the couple behind us who must have barely been able to hear each other above the clamour. The service at The Harwood Arms was exemplary, the cooking top-notch (as expected) and unlike the previous evening at La Trompette, my Uber did not take five attempts to materialize. This occasion proved how a restaurant can operate at a high gastronomic level with the minimum of pretention. If you happen to be in West London, then you know where to go…and I will apologize in advance if our party just happens to be at the adjacent table.

© 2022, Vinous. No portion of this article may be copied, shared or re-distributed without prior consent from Vinous. Doing so is not only a violation of our copyright, but also threatens the survival of independent wine criticism.