The Harcourt: Mixed messages

It’s a puzzle trying to decide how to describe the Harcourt. Maybe as a first stab, it is a traditional English pub with Scandinavian influences offering food from the region with a modern European twist. The venue’s website (un)helpfully has the catchy moniker, “old, but new.” Confused? So were my comrade and I when we dined at the Harcourt on a recent weekday evening. There was a great atmosphere, but the food was not sufficiently impressive to justify the prices charged. If I came back, then it would be more for a drink than to dine. Nonetheless, it was a good thing we had a table reserved since the place was packed; perhaps with well-heeled Marylebone locals, or those feeling homesick for things Nordic (the neighbourhood is known by some as ‘little Sweden’). Indeed, those after foods from colder climes can feast on the likes of ‘toast skagen’ or reindeer at the Harcourt while reclining on comfy leather chairs and taking in the Georgian wood panelling. Elsewhere on the menu, there are more conventional options such as burgers, while the pudding selection seemed resolutely traditional. I went for a Scandi combo, while my comrade stayed on somewhat safer ground, beginning with smoked salmon followed by a chicken breast. For the uninitiated, toast Skagen is essentially shrimps on toast, topped with cod’s roe. It was presented well, but tasted of very little. Unfortunately, the same could be said of both my comrade’s starter and main. I was, however, delighted with my reindeer, which both looked and tasted superb. The meat was very lean and the combination of swede mash and wild mushrooms worked a treat. That said, at £30, I would have been sorely disappointed had it not tasted good. Sure, there are some better value options on the menu (though not many), but at such a price point, I would rather be spending my money for a more formal restaurant experience elsewhere.