The weather couldn’t have been worse for my first visit to Harry’s Bar James Street: a dark, cold and wet winter morning. Perhaps that is part of what drew me to the restaurant. After heavy rain and a rush-hour tube, the warm and elegant dining room was a welcome sight. I’ve never been happier to sit on a plush leather banquette as a waiter in white tuxedo served me a cappuccino.
The London restaurant opened last October and is sister to Harry’s Dolce Vita in Knightsbridge, both sprouting from Mark Birley’s original private members’ club, Harry’s Bar Mayfair, now in the hands of Caprice Holdings. Inspired by the original Harry’s Bar in Venice, the James Street spot features the aforementioned leather banquettes, wood panelling and mirrors on the walls and ceiling, brown marble tables and portraits of Italian stars of the dolce vita era.
The 150-seat restaurant and bar is situated in that Marylebone oasis of boutiques, cafés and restaurants known as St Christopher’s Place, just around the corner from Bond Street and Selfridges. It’s an all-day spot to satisfy the needs of a diverse clientele, from breakfast right through to late-night cocktails.
A disclaimer before I write about the food by chef director Diego Cardoso: morning isn’t generally the best time at which to judge an Italian restaurant, given that a typical Italian breakfast consists of a cappuccino and croissant hastily eaten at a coffee-bar counter. But the breakfast menu at Harry’s Bar is very much a British affair, with dishes such as Harry’s breakfast (£13.50), essentially a full English, eggs Benedict (£8.95) and the ever-present avocado on toast (£9.50). To add an Italian twist and create dishes bursting with flavour, Cardoso uses ingredients sourced from Italian suppliers. Harry’s breakfast, for example, features grilled bacon from Tuscany and blistered datterini tomatoes from Sicily, while the olive oil used for seasoning is made in Tuscany’s Maremma hills.
I ordered eggs royale (£9.75), and the two poached eggs – one perfectly runny, the other nearly hard-boiled – and smoked salmon came served on toasted focaccia. While I still think the English muffin is the ideal base for this dish, the salty focaccia worked surprisingly well. The yoghurt and berries (£6.50) was a pleasant, though not particularly remarkable, serving of organic yoghurt accompanied by fresh berries, compote and pistachios in gravy-boat servers.
My friend, chef and cookbook writer John-Gregory Smith, ordered the spicy one-pan eggs (£9.50): a stew of oven-cooked spicy pepperoni pork sausage, cannellini beans, tomatoes and basil served in a copper pan with two fried hen’s eggs and a slice of focaccia. While he enjoyed the breakfast, he remarked on the beans being slightly under-cooked.
The real highlight of my visit was a cup of coffee made from dark-roasted beans by Passalacqua, a family-owned Neapolitan roaster, using a cuccuma, a traditional Neapolitan coffee maker. Despite being a coffee geek, I had never seen this coffee pot at work. The base is filled with boiling water and flipped to drip through the coffee grounds in the centre. As a result, the coffee is less like espresso and more akin to filter coffee.
As the rain continued to pour down outside, I wished I could hide away in the glamorous surroundings of Harry’s Bar for the rest of the day. I will return soon, though, to try the chef’s signature tagliolini with truffle, Parmesan and cream (£12.95). From what I can already tell, Harry’s Bar is a strong addition to the St Christopher’s Place dining scene.
Giulia Mulè is a food and travel writer based in London who is passionate about sharing food photography on her Instagram feed (@mondomulia) and blog Mondomulia (mondomulia.com). Originally from Rome, Mulè has spent over a decade living in London and travelling the world. In her spare time, she organises brunch meet-ups with the @IGBrunchClub and fundraising events with @CreatingForGood – a collective of Instagrammers who share their creative skills to raise money for selected charities.