Food Review: Italian-influenced delights from Hartnett & Holder
Blame Covid. Before the great plague struck, we were all happy to head out of the door to eat at our favourite local restaurants. And then Boris – or was it Matt, or was it Dominic? – told us we weren’t allowed out and casual feasting ground to a halt.
How do you eat out if there’s nowhere open? – was the obvious question. The answer was simple. You don’t. You eat in.
And thus sprang a new industry of exceptional food providers who used the genius of DPD – other couriers are available – to deliver restaurant-standard food to our front doorstep.
Of course, that meant service became about whether or not the delivery guy turned up, the instructions were accurate, and the sauce has split inside the box, ruining the dessert – rather than whether or not the polite man or woman was attentive, personable and efficient.
And, as we look to support our local restaurants, we’ll soon switch our attention ever-more-keenly, on local restaurants across the region.
Hell, it’s the least we can do as we look to root out the good from the oh-no-don’t-make-me-eat-it bad, and share those recommendations with you.
But before that, it’s time for one final hurrah – actually, that’s not strictly true. There’s time for two final hurrahs.
Hurrah-hurrah. There they are.
The first is the magnificent, boy-oh-boy-the-local-restaurants-had-better-be-good-to-beat-it magic that is Hartnett and Holder or, to TV food show junkies, Angela Hartnett’s greatest hits.
And, in a week or so, we’ll check out with a sizzling taco feast – because tacos and summer are like Jack Grealish and a night on the ale.
And then, adieu. Write and tell us where we should eat and, if you’re lucky, we might just do that.
Hartnett & Holder is the restaurant run by Angela Hartnett and chef Luke Holder, who oversee the brilliant Lime Wood.
Hartnett Holder & Co was born with a simple vision: to make restaurants feel more fun dining than fine dining.
A friendship that initially formed over a shared love of simple and delicious food, Angela Hartnett and Luke Holder came together to create a restaurant that doesn’t take itself too seriously but takes it seriously enough.
Since opening the doors in 2013, thousands of guests have tucked into many of HH&Co’s classic Italian-influenced dishes, launched a cookery school in the ‘Backstage’ kitchen, entertained many at the Kitchen Table during intimate dinner parties, hosted pop-up events with the likes of Tom Kerridge, Rick Stein and Mark Hix and not forgetting scooping up a few awards along the way.
To celebrate that milestone, they are now painting the town the iconic HH&Co red.
From launching celebration menus – with some much-loved classic dishes from the last decade – there’s a chance to join the party, without leaving the comfort of your sofa.
Frankly, it’s win-win-win. Especially if you’ve got a really comfy sofa.
The greatest hits are, of course, fabulous. From slow-roasted belly pork to sweet-as-honey English strawberries, from fennel and brown shrimp salad, to Jersey royals in a bath of molten butter with mint and black pepper.
All the hits. All the classics.
It’s the gastronomic equivalent of going to an Elton John concert and hearing him belt out Rocket Man, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road and Candle In The Wind – as the first three songs.
It starts, of course, with a dish that could not be more Italian, a small piece of homemade focaccia with mushroom arancini.
The focaccia, warmed gently, was light, with holes bigger than the world’s biggest Swiss cheese. Beautifully light and thrillingly aerated, it was served alongside fabulous nuggets of earthy, cheesey, savoury deliciousness or, as the menu describes them, mushroom arancini.
Arancini are one of life’s great pleasure – crispy risotto, with none of the faff and all of the flavour – and these were exquisite.
Next up was a mozzarella and tomato salad, with an anchovy vinaigrette.
The tomatoes were intensely sweet, a flavour bomb with every mouthful, while the contrast with the salty dressing and creamy mozzarella was pronounced.
Light, delicious, packed with flavour and perfect for the summertime, it was a magnificent way to start.
The main was three dishes, served together, which made for great eating.
A slow-roast pork belly was served with a fennel and brown shrimp salad alongside a bowl of Jersey Royals that literally swam in a small, warm sea of molten butter infused with mint and black pepper.
The pork belly was delightful, full of flavour, with little fat – though the crackling didn’t crackle and the instructions were awry. More time was needed to get the skin to puff up – a technical issue that’s hard to counter with a dine-at-home box.
The meat, however, was unctuous. The fennel and brown shrimp salad was wonderful. The sweet, bite-sized shrimps and crunchy fennel were perfect partners – as good as Laurel and Hardy, or strawberries and cream.
The Jersey Royals were a taste of the season. Decadent in their buttery bath, they were a great partner to the rich, fall-apart meat, and the flavoursome, light salad.
Dessert was magnificent, if not a little too sweet. Stewed New Forest strawberries were served with sweet ricotta and, while the strawberry syrup was just too sugary and sweet, the ricotta was a delight and helped to save the day.
The fat lady started to sing and that was that. Hartnett and Holder’s greatest hits were all sizzle – except for the crackling.
Box eating is here to stay – but, so is eating in your favourite local restaurants. And so while we’ve got one final taco feast lined up, we’ll soon be heading to a restaurant near you.