I always find it tricky to find a decent spot to eat around Bond Street, but that problem has now evaporated thanks to the addition of Harry’s Bar on James Street.
Stepping into the venue on a Friday night, it proved to be a sophisticated old school oasis and a safe haven from the flurry of tourists and shoppers swarming the streets outside.
Jazz music was playing, the lighting was low and I could see that my friend Ralph had ordered me a vodka olive martini with one of the white-suited bar men delicately shaking it into a sippable blend.
Before dinner we opted for a drink at the bar.
Unlike the original Harry’s Bar in Venice – one of my favourite little drinking holes in the world and a timeless classic – the James Street venue features more lavish interiors.
Think dark wood panelling, plush buttoned leather upholstery, twinkling lengths of mirror and an eclectic mix of art.
I overheard one waiter describing the clientele as a mix of Russian, French, Italian and British and could see how the more opulent interiors cater to this international crowd, compared to the original unfussy venue.
My martini was spot on. It was made with Roberto Cavalli vodka, produced by the Italian fashion designer in Tuscany and the server explained how the spirit had an impeccably smooth taste. He was right.
Just as the clock chimed, a lady wearing an eye-catching silk-textured dress came over and told us our table was ready.
We landed a lovely corner table for our 7:30pm booking, with scatter cushions and candle light adding to the cosiness.
Perusing Harry’s menu I discovered a salivating spread of Italian inspired treats to choose from, with the selection divided between cicchetti, antipasti, pizze, paste e risotto, insalate, secondi and moving on to dessert.
I instantly noticed the fair price point, with most dishes costing around £15 to £20.
This also marks a change from the original Venetian venue, where one Bellini alone will set you back around £20.
The new Harry’s Bar line of restaurants landing in London are owned by Richard Caring, behind The Ivy, J Sheekey and Sexy Fish and you can see his flare echoing through.
Ralph and I had a friend from New York join us and the stewards were happy to add a seat to our table.
To start we shared a bread basket, featuring a mix of rosemary focaccia, Sardinian crispbread and grissini sticks with a moreish green olive tapenade dip quickly mopped up.
We rounded out our first course with a creamy ball of burrata and a buttery bowl of plump olives.
Picking a main proved quite difficult with such an array of options to choose from.
In the end Ralph opted for a medium-rare chargrilled rib eye steak, while Sara from New York went for thick ribbons of pappardelle al ragu bolognese.
Looking for something on the light side, I picked out an avocado and blue cheese salad and on the side, we got some seasonal greens and homemade cheese gratin.
Everything was on point, the drinks kept flowing and there was convivial mood as we tucked into out feast.
Sara commented that the pasta was slightly greasy and not as fresh as she would expect but that appeared to be the only qualm for the night.
We were feeling pretty full but getting in the true Italian spirit of things, we decided to put in an order for dessert, sharing a trio of sweet treats among us.
After finally flagging down the waiter (our corner booth proved a little tricky to get attention) we requested a scoop of olive oil ice cream (gelato cicchetto), a tiramisu (of course!) and an indulgent-sounding gianduia sundae.
Our waiter also persuaded us to try a dessert cocktail, a Harry’s twist on the espresso martini with the bizarre addition of limoncello and gingerbread syrup.
Trust me, this drink is pretty bizarre and you need a real sweet tooth to appreciate the syrupy flavour!
But our disappointment at the martini soon dissipated when the sundae touched down on the table.
This dessert is a winning dish, and pure opulence in a cup. Creamy ice cream subsided under running tributaries of caramel sauce, with soft chunks of chocolate brownie occasionally bobbing up to the surface. Everything was sprayed with s dazzling gold sheen.
I was transfixed.
Meanwhile, Ralph wasn’t too sure about the tiramisu with it not being as boozy as he’d hoped.
I had the cunning idea to pour the espresso martini over the sponge, which we agreed did improve the dish.
Ralph and I didn’t get a look in when it came to the olive ice cream and Sara swiftly polished it off with a big child-like grin on her face.
We left Harry’s Bar on James Street in fine spirits. It’s the type of place that envelopes you in a world of old school sophistication without sky high prices. It’s also centrally located so you can merely roll on to the tube to get home.
This is definitely a place I’d recommend, with the smooth Roberto Cavalli martinis and decadent chocolate sundaes whetting my appetite for more.
Harry’s Bar is located at 30 -34 James St, Marylebone, London W1U 1ER
To book a table visit harrys-bar.co.uk or call +44 20 3971 9444