The Harwood Arms looks like a pub (albeit an upmarket one) with its large windows, cream walls and green panelling, widely spaced scrubbed tables and bar counter proffering a couple of real ales on tap – but, really, it’s a restaurant. And a much sought-after one at that, so expect to book, provide credit card details and be given a two-hour time slot.
Prime British produce is key, with a mounted deer’s head reminding diners that game is a speciality (vegetarians, take note: there’s nothing for you here). A main course of grilled haunch of Berkshire roe deer was indeed special: deep-flavoured, tender, pinkish meat, accompanied by beetroot, slivers of roast onion, pickled mushrooms and a rich jus. Halibut (from the specials board) was also masterfully cooked, but in size smacked of fine dining rather than pub, with a mere smear of brown shrimp sauce and a few strands of samphire: not enough to make a complete dish.
A starter of Cornish sardine ‘tart’ with heritage tomatoes failed to elevate the humble fish, but fig leaf and honey pudding with blood nectarine (fresh, and as ice-cream) was a fabulous mix of subtle, summery flavours. Our waiter (in a dressed-down uniform of pale blue shirt, skinny jeans and Converse) provided gauche but efficient service. The brown-paper wine list is a serious affair, worth splashing out on.