Monday, June 22, 2009

The Harwood Arms , Fulham , London

I have been to The Harwood Arms three times since it opened its doors in a little corner of gentrified Fulham between Seagrave Road and North End Road. After every meal I conclude that this extraordinary “gastro pub “ seems to get better.

The Harwood Arms is a joint venture between Brett Graham of the excellent Ledbury, Mike Robinson of the superb Pot Kiln in Berkshire and top publican Edwin Vaux .

The décor is classic fine gastropub with stripped woods, bare tables and pale pastel coloured walls. There are some points of difference namely the wonderful Sophie Conran crockery and rustic Hessian napkins.

Chef Stephen Williams is a true artist with fresh, seasonal British produce much of it from the same suppliers to the Pot Kiln. Stephen has worked not only at The Ledbury but also Coach & Horses and my favourite gastropub Anchor & Hope. At The Harwood Arms he has the opportunity to work with superb game, seafood and fruit and vegetables.

The cooking here is truly outstanding with very British, bar snacks, weekday and week end menus that usually include five starters, five man courses and five deserts supplemented by some blackboard specials.

My only real quibble is the very poorly selected wine list that has too many average New World wines and is generally unimaginative. Food this good deserves a much better wine list.

On Sunday 21st, Father’s Day whilst Mrs Gastro was completing the London to Brighton charity bike ride I took my mother and two sons for a late Sunday Lunch to The Harwood Arms.

The food was superb and we received excellent service from Charlotte Levi whilst Stephen and Alistair worked their magic in the kitchen.

We ate (* what I had):

To start

*Salad of Warwickshire Asparagus with roasted hazelnuts, radishes and salad cream.
Chilled courgette and basil soup with warm cheddar cheese straws.
Soft boiled pheasant eggs with field mushrooms and coarse celery salt.
Poached salmon with broken eggs, wild herbs and toast.

To follow

*Slow roast old spot pork belly with celeriac puree, marjoram and gooseberry chutney.
Braised shoulder of lamb with lovage, peas and grain mustard crumbs x2
Stuffed leg of chicken glazed in mead with pink fur apple potatoes, broad beans and bread sauce.
Crisp potatoes with garlic butter for the table.
To Finish

Bowl of warm lemon curd and sherbet doughnuts with whipped cream and heather honey
Rhubarb bakewell tart with vanilla ice cream
English strawberries with elderflower jelly and sour cream sorbet
Eaton Mess made with gooseberries and gooseberry jelly.

Everything was truly outstanding and beautifully presented and executed. Flavour combinations were subtle and worked very well and the quality of the ingredients was obvious.

I thought both the courgette soup and pheasant egg/field mushroom starters were outstanding as were the lamb and pork mains.

My Rhubarb bakewell tart even surpassed my (previous) favourite version at the Anchor and Hope and the homemade ice vanilla ice cream served with it was sublime. My seven-year-old son is still talking about his mini sherbet doughnuts 24 hours after the meal.

With starters and puds below £7 and main courses rarely above £16 The Harwood Arms is not only producing great food but amazing value too.

Harwood Arms on Urbanspoon

Monday, June 15, 2009

Sammach , Dubai

Sammach is a Lebanese fish restaurant with three branches in Dubai . It is one of my favourite places to go to when I'm in town and want really fresh fish from the Arabian Gulf.

My three friends and I picked a nice 2kg Hammour , 2kg of Red Mullett and 1kg of large shrimp. Hammour is the generic name given to a type Grouper found in the Arabian Gulf , Indian Ocean and parts of the Red Sea.

I am particularly fond of Hammour especially when it is simply grilled over charcoal and dressed with olive oil and lemon juice. Hammour is enjoyed by nationals of Kuwait , Bahrain , Saudi Arabia , Qatar ,Oman, UAE and Yemen whilst many of the expatriates use it in dishes ranging from Fish & Chips , steamed with ginger , garlic , chili and coriander , Tagine to curries.

After some delightful Lebanese Mezza the fish was brought to the table.

After a long hot day very few things can beat a good simple meal, with good friends where fish that has been landed a few hours before cooking is the star.

Jumeirah Beach Centre

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

La Trompette

I have been eating at La Trompette since it opened it's doors about 7 years ago and have always found it to be superior to it's sibblings Chez Bruce and The Glasshouse.

Even though I live nearer to Chez Bruce and enjoy it very much I have never thought it has reached the heights of Harvey's a previous occupier of the premises, when Marco Pierre White was on the stoves assisted by a young whipper snapper, a certain, Gordon Ramsay.

My lunch today confirmed my views. I don't think there is a better price quality ratio Lunch avaialble in the whole of London £23.95 for 3 courses and £19.95 for 2. I guess my companion and I are ideal customers as we spent over 3 times our combined 3 course food spend on excellent wine from the inspired wine list put together by the Sommelier Matthieu Longeure. Each country/region seems to contain one of my favourite winemakers be it Bernard Morey , Paul Draper or Livio Felluga.

We drank :

Chassagne Montrachet 2002, 1er Cru Les Baudines , Bernard Morey
Vosne Romanée 1999 , 1er Cru Les Brûlée , Domaine René Engel
Geweutztraminer 2004 Vendages Tardives , Caves de Turkheim

We both started with a truly wonderful Ravioli of Crab and Scallop with crushed peas and Asparagus with a Shellfish Velouté . This dish was executed perfectly and every ingredient blended in perfectly.

I followed with New Season Roasted Shoulder of Lamb served with mouseline mash, caramelised carrots and a thick reduced jus. Again this was a perfectly executed dish.

My companion had Grilled Calves Liver , Pancetta ,Onion Rings , Potato Gnocchi with a Rosemary and Madeira reduction.

I ended the meal with my old favourite Valrohna Chocolate Marquise with Milk Sorbet , Macademia Nut Praline and Chicory Crème whilst my companion thoroughly enjoyed the (large) Crème Brûlée with Dates and Vanilla.

James Bennington is a truly great Chef and like Bruce Poole has the ability to produce great dishes with the right balance of ingredients . With a great Sommelier and front of house team La Trompette remains one of the best places to eat in London.

La Trompette on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Mrs Gastro's delights from the allotment

Mrs. Gastro has been producing amazing things for the last three years from her allotment located in Putney Vale. The familgia are extremely lucky to be able to get outstanding fruit and vegetables out of the ground and into their bellies sometimes in less tan an hour.

We have had wonderful Blackberries, Loganberries, Raspberries, French Beans, Broad Beans, Artichokes, Shallots, Cavalo Nero, Radicchio de Treviso as well as Carrots, Potatoes, Leeks to name just a few of the wonderful produce from our allotment.

Our friends are amazed at how well our kids eat and especially their consumption of all fruits and vegetables. The education aside I'm sure food related travel and their involvement in growing a lot of their own food has certainly helped them become little epicureans.

It should be no surprise that my eldest boy now 9 ate foie gras at La Tupina in Bordeaux aged 18 months an act that caused most of the kitchen brigade to pop out and see who this child was. My youngest boy exclaimed one day aged 4 at The Chelsea Fishmonger , Rex Goldsmith that he thought the Red Mullet was exceptionally fresh and he wanted some. One of the ladies waiting beside me asked me " how do you do it" my children will only eat fish fingers".

Today as you can see we had some wonderful young broad beans served raw with some smoked back bacon lightly dressed in virgin olive oil followed by a superb Gooseberry and Rhubarb crumble. Before the aforementioned the Shepherds Pie we had featured potatoes that had been in the ground less than 2 hours before we ate this hearty dish.

We are looking forward to a bumper crop of Rocket and Berries this summer which will form the basis of more Gastro delights.