The restaurant: Harry’s Bar, 30 -34 James St, Marylebone, London W1U 1ER
I love this place. “You can’t say that, we haven’t eaten yet,” replied my friend, as we were seated at a lovely corner booth. I loved the plush, fifties-style interiors, the dim, just-rightness of lighting for a date night, and that they’d already brought over two glasses of champagne. Harry’s Bar is a short walk from Oxford Street. You might have passed its busy, heated terrace with green and white veranda and peered in at its glistening bar, wood panelling, and hanging gold lamps — I had.
Harry’s Bar, with under the creative and dedicated approach of head chef Diego Cardoso, serves up hearty Italian dishes averaging around the £20 mark, with wines ranging from £20 to £280 a bottle. Cicchetti (small plates) top the menu — think pizzetta, arancini and zucchini fritti — revealing the Venetian style the restaurant goes in for. While Harry’s Bar serves food throughout the day, we arrived for an early evening dinner to try out the a la carte menu.
Puncturing the fat blob of burrata was my favourite part, watching the gooey centre ooze out onto sweet grilled peppers and lightly crisped parmesan breadcrumbs. Prosciutto draped over carta di musica — a Sardinian bread that’s rolled out so thin you can allegedly read music through it — was delightfully sweetened by cool chunks of cantaloupe. Garlicky green olive tapenade supplemented and elevated the mixed bread basket, without the concentrated astringency often found with a black olive dip.
Seafood spaghetti was dumped from pan-to-dish at the table, as is traditional; the food is kept hot until it reaches your plate. Fat, juicy prawns, a good handful of mussels dominate, while pieces of clam and squid hide amongst thick strands of spaghetti, all doused with a fishy and flavoursome tomato sauce. Chargrilled tuna steak, cooked medium-rare as promised, and topped with cannellini beans and warm tomatoes in olive oil, had a smoked meaty flavour. Homemade macaroni cheese gratin, which was recommended with the tuna steak, was a deliciously creamy and cheesy, albeit heavy addition, leaving me wishing I’d gone with my gut and chosen the olive oil mash.
Harry’s mushroom (or Harry’s porcini, which somehow gives it more appeal) was for dessert. A stem of ice-cream parfait, topped with a fat, glittered mushroom head with a golden coating and a salted-caramel brownie interior, surrounded by a moat of thick blackberry sauce, felt sickly and indulgent but certainly did all the right things. Hunks of parmesan sat on my pal’s plate with more music sheet bread, but I think we know who chose the best dessert.
We stepped out wondering if the food at Harry’s Bar really was a cut-above, or whether I’d been lulled by the my love of the interiors and impeccable service. It didn’t matter; I was sure they’d have me back as a diner again soon.
To book, call 020 3971 9444 or visit Harrys-Bar.co.uk