One lonely, yet shining star in deepest Wiltshire
Author: Guest Blogger
As the early evening mist rolled over the sleepy hamlet of little Bedwyn, we drove over the crest of a small stone bridge and arrived at the dimly lit exterior of the Harrow Inn with only the few terraced cottages illuminating our way. With the distant sound of a solitary owl penetrating the dusky quietness that surrounded us, we almost felt as though we had entered what could easily have been a scene from a Bram Stoker or Bronte sisters novel. Hard to imagine that contained in such a small enclave of the English countryside there could exist a 1 Michelin starred restaurant, The Harrow Inn – very unassuming and certainly a “destination” restaurant. The fact that it has been running for so long is testament to its success and its ability to attract business despite its remote location.
The atmosphere in the Harrow is very welcoming and warm, the décor is simple, clean, fresh and all cosily warmed up by the centrally placed wood burning stove. The owners , Roger and Sue Jones, run the business professionally yet there is no pomposity or pretentiousness, service is efficient and there is an air of colloquialism and wiliness to chat about the wine and food that is actively encouraged.
After much deliberation on the menu, the choice seemed simple – go for the “Gourmet tasting menu served with iconic wines” – Well why not, it would be rude not to!
Amuse Bouche: “Beetroot”
As a sharpener for the rest of the meal, the amuse bouche of pureed Beetroot was beautifully seasoned with a distinct heat from the black pepper and a small dollop of soft blue cheese. The Intense flavour from the beetroot with the coolness of the soft cheese was washed down with a glass of Krug Grande Cuvee NV – “Sparkling white Burgundy!”
The tasting menu was seafood orientated and to start proceedings I had a trio of sashimi – Lobster, Scallop and Salmon served on a bed of samphire – beautifully subtle flavours with the smokiness of the Salmon working perfectly with the sweet notes from the Lobster and Scallops and tied perfectly with the pepperiness from the samphire. I had a glass of barrique-aged sauvignon blanc from Craggy range Te Muna 2009. Not normally a big fan of barrique aged Sauvignon but this wine was perfect, a lovely mouthfeel and richness, gentle and not too herbaceous yet with a lovely citrus note in its length, matching the seafood perfectly.
“Chilli squid, caramelised Kelmscott Pork”
Possibly contender for ‘course of the night’. But I’ve always been a sucker for a perfectly cooked piece of Pork belly, whatever it’s served with! Alongside the Pork belly (that by the way was so melting on the palate that the fat almost evaporated effortlessly, leaving the crisp crunch of the crackling) was squid served with a light chilli / curry sauce. The Pewsey Vale Contours Riesling 2005 sat perfectly with the food – all 3 components – Pork, Squid, Riesling – like a trio of friends counterbalancing each other perfectly, with the distinct aged nose (Kerosene / Lime) of the Riesling and the gentleness of the palate ring-fencing the course perfectly.
Next up was the perfectly presented tail of Pembrokeshire Lobster. Beautifully cooked sweet meat of the Lobster standing in perfect countenance to the 2007 Chassagne Montrachet and its hint of hazelnut and nougat – The wine was lovely, but for me could have done with a little bit more lift on the back palate.
“Line caught Turbot, Truffles”
If my memory serves me correctly we had a little break before cracking on with the Turbot – an opportune time for me to bore the other half about all things ‘ultra running’! Yawn! The vibrant Pinot berry fruit from the Craggy Range Calvert Pinot Noir and the fresh, crunchy palate cut through the meatiness of the Turbot and the hint of earthiness from the sliced Truffle.
(Apologies for the photo – the condition of the food was not down to presentation by the restaurant but to the fact that I started before I had taken the photo!!) This for me was the surprise food and wine match of the night – the gamey / floralness of the Partridge went surprisingly well with the rich new world Shiraz. I thought the richness of the wine might overpower, but the quality of the wines from the renowned Mitolo estate showed through. Mitolo Savitar Shiraz 2006 – a rich fruited nose, yet despite the unctuous swathes of fruit on the palate, this was balanced with crisp acidity and an earthy, savoury finish, perfect with the complexity and earthiness in the game – inspired!
Pre dessert : “Boiled egg and soldiers”
A marvel of cookery and presentation – an amuse bouche of soft meringue covering a core of sauce Anglaise with a shortbread soldier – a perfect amuse bouche to get the taste buds firing again for last few furlongs of this brilliant tasting menu.
Tasting of cheeses (L to R – Waterloo, Whitelake, BerksWell, Hafod, Nuns of Caen, Shropshire blue)
A smorgasbord of six different cheeses ranging from light to strong (from left to right) was the perfect penultimate dish to a so far flawless tasting menu. The star it has got to be said out of these six cheeses was the little known sister of Stinking Bishop – Nuns of Caen – Soft, oozy and with a distinctive stink and with the glass of Pedro Ximenez sherry 1927 = perfection!
Mini dessert platter
I wasn’t sure if I would have enough space but the mini dessert platter arrived and proved to be a beautiful palate cleanser – A lovely counter balance of richness from the Garnache / Pistachio, honeycomb slab, espresso shot versus the raspberry sorbet and lemon ice cream. All in all a brilliant tasting menu, great food, relaxed atmosphere and great service.
The matching wines tended to be bias towards the southern hemisphere and particularly New Zealand – maybe this was hinting towards a certain result on Sunday morning in the World cup final!!?
Stuart Rae – Fine Wine Department