As an aged Sloan Ranger and her daughter loudly berate a Polish tradesman, for the crime of asking them to move down the tube carriage, I raise my eyebrows at Cockles. I sense we are both hoping that the schlep to Fulham is worth it. We are en route to meet Captain English and Meister for what could be the final Supper Club: A loose fixture in our diaries where we invariably end the night with tight waistbands and light wallets. Meister is heading back to Oz and is working through pubs and restaurants at a commendable rate. Our venue, the Harwood Arms, has a task ahead of it in the gastronomic stakes but as London's first Michelin starred pub the night is full of promise.
Set on a residential street the unsuspecting could wander in thinking it was your bog standard Gastro Pub, though here you will not find the standard fare. We find English and Meister at the bar and take it in turns to ponder the menu. Much scratching of heads and stroking of imaginery beards ensues. We are still deciding well after being seated.
Wine selection is Meister and Cockles area of expertise. With a considered debate and lots of questions of the staff we start with the Chateau Petit Val Grand Cru, St Emilion, Bordeaux, 2005. I will
confess that my question was less about the attributes of this particular choice but more a question of how much it would cost my pocket. They both have form for choosing wine by quality and not price which I am slowly coming to terms with. Straight faced Meister tells me it's £45. My eyebrows raise and I bite back my Northern urge to protest. Well in truth there may have been a little protest but then curiosity gets the better of me and we go with it. Now Oz Clarke has nothing on this Aussie in terms of the theatrics of wine tasting. First comes the long smell with nose fully in the glass, which I'm told should tell you most of what you need to know. Second the swirl, followed by the taste, with or without a slight slurp and then final consideration. A slight pause for dramatic effect. And the verdict. In this case it's the thumbs up. Some would view this spectacle as pretension but I see it more as Meister quality control. I'm not disappointed with the choice and have to admit its good though I feel I need some further education to fully appreciate it. A trip to a few wineries perhaps.
Grilled salted ox tongue with cauliflower cheese croquette, bread and butter pickles is first off. I can't say I've had Tongue in the last 20 years (snigger) but this was an excellent reintroducton. What I expected could be chewy was delicate and light. A great start which set me up for the main course. Shoulder of Roe deer follows, served with sauerkraut, mash and greens. For two on a wooden platter, my eyes widen as it is placed between English and myself. The bone slips away effortless as we dish up generous hunks and even more generous dollops of mash and sauerkraut. It's a bold, hearty dish which is what Supper Club is all about. It is faultless. I am at risk of drowning my keyboard as my mouth waters just thinking about this! Rounding off the meal I am torn between the English cheeses with toasted Bara Brith or the baked custard with Grasmere gingerbread. I'm told the Bara Brith and gingerbread are both made on the premises and on the basis that no one makes Bara Brith like Nan did I go for the custard. The top cracks satisfyingly but I could have probably done without the accompanying sorbet. The gingerbread is good but lacks the dustiness and snap I was expecting. That said it's a good end to a great meal. Where the country comes to town is the phrase that came to mind when I was trying to sum up the Harwood Arms and it's menu. They beat me to it I see as it's emblazoned on their website. Just when you thought you'd had an original thought!