There's a strong focus on ingredients here and while the jaded might yawn at this point and argue where isn't there, the menu in the dish description and the additional blurb show they take this more seriously than most. And yet while many might source the best of prime ingredients like lobster, this attention to sourcing is sometimes felt most in the little things, like biting into a tomato on the lamb dish and really experiencing the flavour of that tomato, and bravo for that.
Service is nicely delivered and the owner Sue Jones enjoys an easy going charm, yet attentive focus on the customer, leading you to think she's perfect in the role. Other staff have taken her lead and service is a strong point here though with two vaguely similar risottos on the menu, there was a little confusion around which we had ordered and which we had received. But sitting outside in their garden with copious shade from the sun umbrellas, we're relaxed and happy.
Our view on the food, and let's get there without further delay, is that some elements are very good indeed, while elsewhere it fell short of expectations. Given the food is at the very top end of pricing - you're paying for those quality ingredients - starters are £15 and mains £30 - you nevertheless feel it should be spot on every time. While there are several menus available, featuring tasting menus etc, on the a la carte, there's only four starters and three mains. Now, to be clear, we are evangelical about our preference for a short menu done well over an extensive but mediocre menu, but 'done well' are key words.
Who can resist 'Deep Fried Pembrokeshire Lobster' as a starter, or indeed, as anything else. Not only is the lobster listed by region on the menu, but it also tells you that it was 'caught by Danny in Little Haven'. Like we say, they're keen on provenience, but we'll never fault anyone for that. It arrives beautifully presented, and presentation is by and large a strong point at The Harrow and it is really excellent, the deep fry providing a little crisp to the lobster and chilli ginger and spiced salt as well as additional herbs delivering interest with balance to make this a classy dish, justifying the price tag. White truffle risotto however, also £15, can less justify the price tag in our view being too firm to be a good risotto and truffle flavours evident as a shrug more than a 'knock you off your feet' moment.
Mains were generally the strongest part of the meal with 'new season Wiltshire Downs Spring lamb' (tenderloin and slow cooked shoulder) having great flavour in the lamb with, and as noted, the veg accompaniments really adding to the dish even if the sauce could have delivered more impact. Line caught turbot is similarly well handled though as a hot dish, it is accompanied by a cold pouring side which for us, never sits well.
Presentation-wise, a pattern is already evident and the long thin plates are clear favourites (see pictures below), though arguably, by the end, this is overplayed and repetition defeats novelty. This is most evident with desserts where style trumps substance and the dessert selection and the chocolate tasting both arrive on long plates with the mini puds lined up like ducks in a row. Delivery provokes am initial wow but what's really there? On the chocolate plate, there's a chocolate cake, a mousse, a single strawberry (!!) and a macaroon, the later morsel normally reserved in Michelin starred restaurants as a petit four rather than the main event. The assiette presentation can lead the unwary diner astray in his judgement but in reality, there's little of interest taking place here. On the mixed desserts plate, there's another macaroon, a sorbet and a panna cotta that has no wobble; panna cottas should always have wobble. We both feel a little cheated.
The Harrow is a nice restaurant, has much going for it, and is in a region where competition is sparse. That said, it will make a dent in your entertainment budget for the same reasons. Living in Wiltshire, it's understandably a destination, but those spoiled for choice both East and West might find equally good food closer to home.