1883 Magazine

Harry’s Bar (30-34 James Street, W1U 1ER) is the latest addition to the St. Christopher’s Place collection of restaurants and bars that provide a welcome respite from the stifling busyness of Oxford Street. It is a spin-off of the well-known private members’ club on South Audley Street, which has been serving Italian classics to an exclusive crowd of Mayfair’s most sophisticated and select residents since 1979.

Now owned by the entrepreneur Richard Caring, Harry’s Bar is the second offshoot in an enterprise that may well follow the proliferation across London of the Ivy Collection (also owned by Caring).

The launch on 3 October was well-attended by a fashionable Marylebone crowd, including artists, models and social media influencers. The bar was cheerfully serving dozens of Bellinis, originally invented at Harry’s namesake in Venice, although we shortly switched to some excellent G&Ts with grapefruit and pink peppercorns. Smartly-dressed waiters and waitresses were quick to follow up with canapés – pumpkin ravioli, pizzetini and some devilishly delicious gelato cannoli. Whichever Sicilian genius had the idea of putting gelato inside a cannolo surely deserves some kind of award.

Wondering a little if we had been misled on the evening and Harry’s would turn out to be yet another central London Italian joint serving average, over-priced spaghetti, we returned a week or so later to sample the full dinner menu and happily were not disappointed.

The kitchen at Harry’s is run by Diego Cardoso, who started his career aged 15 working at Cinnabon in the United States and (somewhat more recently) proved his extensive skills by winning Angela Hartnett’s Murano its first Michelin star in 2008 after just five months as Head Chef. In October 2017, he joined Harry’s Dolce Vita in Knightsbridge as Chef Director. As fond as my memories are of Cinnabon (particularly of late-night snacks picked up at their Piccadilly Circus branch), I will happily admit that I much prefer the Italian fare being offered at Harry’s.

The first pasta dish was one of the best of the night – delicate tagliolini with a soft, creamy truffle and parmesan sauce that reminded me it was autumn and therefore acceptable to eat every carbohydrate in sight. The pasta dishes at Harry’s are also enjoyably served directly at the table with a quick flourish of a copper pan – too quick for our cameras to catch the action unfortunately. This was followed by a couple of light, crispy, fried courgette flowers with a fresh mint and lemon ricotta salad.

For primi, we decided to share the pappardelle al ragù bolognese, which was smooth and rich and definitely had some of the depth of flavour of its Emilia-Romagnan cousin. This was followed by Harry’s Rib-Eye (rare) as secondi. The meat was delicious, although a little too charry for my taste and we were not fussed about the little rosemary sprig we were given to spread the garlic butter.

After being skilfully coerced into ordering dessert, we went for the Amalfi Sundae and the Harry’s Porcini, the latter of which is worth taking a few words to describe. The stalk of the porcini was made of iced vanilla parfait and supported a gold-painted dark chocolate cap filled with some kind of salted caramel chocolate deliciousness. At the base of the mushroom, a kind of leaf litter made up of toasted hazelnuts, fat fresh blackberries and a chocolate “twig”, also gold-painted. Just as we were admiring the considerable effort that must have gone into this dessert, our waiter added the final touch, draping the whole scene in a warm blackberry sauce. A stand-out dish – not to take anything away from the Amalfi Sundae, which I gather was also delightful. I’ll admit I was not paying much attention to it.

Harry’s also offers a Venetian-style bàcari menu from 4-7pm every day – perfect for after-work aperitivi and cicchetti, if you are lucky enough to escape work in time. Similar in concept to Spanish tapas (as much as the practice of comparing any small-plate menu to tapas infuriates me), cicchetti have undergone a renewal of interest in recent years, finally being rediscovered among the tourist traps of Venice’s gastronomy. The idea is to roam from bar to bar, to eat and drink a little at each bar and to Far Bàcara! – in the Venetian dialect, to celebrate together!

The cicchetti offered at Harry’s do not include some of the more adventurous Venetian classics – such as sarde in saor (sardines in onion and vinegar) or baccalà mantecato (creamed cod), usually served atop slices of grilled polenta – but look delicious nonetheless. I can personally vouch for the n’duja flatbread, which was doughy, spicy and cheesy in perfect measure with a hint of fennel seed, and I plan to come back at some point to try as many of the other cicchetti as I can get my mitts on.

The damage: a hearty supper for 2 with G&Ts to start and a bottle of Refosco will set you back £180

For more info head to www.harrys-bar.co.uk

Words by Luisa Ruocco @luisainsta & Patrick Tsitsaros

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