15-19 Bedford Hill, Balham
London SW12 9EX
I like the design of the lamps
Harrison’s is a restaurant and bar located in Balham. From outside it is mostly just the bar area that is visible. The dining area is deeper inside, far from the street noise. The design is cosy and interesting with big “bee colour” lamps. The air conditioning worked well without being too cold. We were given a table at the corner. That table is it is quite large for two people but we cannot face each other.
As starters we ordered the 1/2 pint of prawns, lemon mayonnaise (£7.50) and the Norfolk asparagus, poached eggs and hollandaise (£7.50). For the same price, you can get a buffalo mozzarella, pickled beetroot, broad beans and balsamic dressing, a raw salmon, ginger and soy, or a salt cod croquettes & aioli per example. The main courses were the seared organic salmon burger, wasabi mayo, red onion, caper and parsley salad (£10.50) that I wanted to try because I have never had wasabi mayo, and the pan fried sea bass, brown shrimps and samphire, new potatoes (£14.50). Other main course options are grilled calves liver, mash, roast cherry tomatoes, mint and pancetta (£13.50), rigatoni, artichokes, sun blushed tomatoes, ricotta and basil (£10.50), roast free range chicken breast, pomme Anna, spinach and lemon, green olive jus (£13) per example. You also have meals like fish and chips with pea puree or a cheeseburger with house chutney and fries (£10.50). We chose a bottle of red wine Côtes du Rhône Templiers (£23) which was alright.
Decent red wine
The two starters
When ordering 1/2 pint of prawns dish, I have to say that I was imagining a cocktail glass full of peeled prawns (or maybe shrimps) in a lemon mayonnaise sauce. What I actually got was a large short tumbler (half a pint?) with whole prawns inside it, a wedge of lemon on the side, and a little dish of mayonnaise. And a finger bowl for cleaning the mess after.
1/2 pint of prawns
Not exactly the elegant starter I’d hoped for. However, the prawns were very nicely cooked, tasty and not that difficult to deal with by hand. The mayonnaise was a perfect accompaniment. It just was not the tidiest meal in the world, and a deeper finger bowl or even better, a towelette/wet wipe would have been nice. I mention this particularly as (as was my experience a little later) catching a whiff of prawn is not pleasant when you’re eating dessert…
Perfectly cooked egg
The Norfolk asparagus were good. They were topped with a poached egg which was perfectly cooked. Very hot, and still runny when breaking it. The hollandaise sauce was good although I prefer it when it is lighter with some hint of lemon.
The two main courses
Pan fried sea bass
Pan fried sea bass & brown shrimps
The pan fried sea bass with new potatoes, crevettes and green beans was a meal best described as so close, and yet so far. Everything on my plate – the sea bass, the new potatoes, the crevettes and the beans – were cooked to perfection. The potatoes were just tender, the beans still firm, and the fish wonderfully moist with a crispy blistered skin that was just perfect. What was wrong? Someone needs to hide the salt from the chef, that’s what. A touch of salt on the skin of the fish would have been perfect. But in this case, it was salted to the point of complete disguise of the flavour of the fish (what a waste!). Not only that, but the beans accompanying the meal (with which the crevettes were mixed) were also salted to death, overpowering any flavour the crevettes might have had. Since the meal had no sauce – just a touch of (salted) butter with the potatoes – presumably to allow the natural flavours of the food to come through, it seems particularly a shame to have over-seasoned it to the point of ruination. I’m not on a low-salt diet, but even so, I think I’ve had my salt ration for at least a week now. If I ever return, I would make a point of asking that my food not be seasoned with any salt (safer to do it myself, I think).
Seared salmon burger
The seared organic salmon burger was ok. I was hoping for something with more flavour because of the wasabi mayo but it was bland and very filling. At least the salmon was very hot which was nice. The wasabi was detectable but unfortunately only just. I think it would have been better if the salmon had been marinated in some teriyaki sauce to give it more taste. The red onion, caper and parsley salad was forgettable, especially the capers that were too soft.
The two desserts
The Eton mess was quite decent. For my taste, it was perhaps a bit overloaded with meringue and underdone with fruit/coulis – but then, I prefer things that are not especially sweet, and meringue tends to be very sweet.
The crème brûlée was quite good, not too sweet and well mixed with some raspberries. The layer of hard caramel was seriously hard to break but it was well done. The shortbread was alright.Cost and conclusion: it was £83.25 including the “optional” service 12.5%. If it is optional, please do not add it automatically to the bill as it is rude and a kind of forced sale. Tips should be left at the discretion of the client. Talking about the service charge, it was ok but quite pushy at the beginning. No less than 3 waiters, and within 3 minutes, asked us if we wanted a cocktail to start while we were looking at the menu. We came for diner, not for being harrassed. One no thank you should be enough. Now about the cost, £83 is overpriced for what we had. The design is nice but the food does not follow. Harden’s describe this place as “Stunningly average food at not-so-average prices”. We fully agree with them: the food was just alright. For more, but at a much better value for money, you can eat at Lamberts located 5 minutes walk away. And at 20 minutes walk away towards Wandsworth Common you have the excellent French restaurant Bellevue Rendez-vous.