“We are at a corner table at Harry’s in Mayfair, working our way through a bottle of Pol Roger, I try not to drink in daylight hours, but I definitely need a glass today. I must look drawn, but I’m beginning to feel myself again. The starched white linen, the exaggerated courtesy of waiters with Italian accents, is all so comfortingly dependable that I can almost forget the disconcerting start to the day. And London is still being dazzled by blinding sun from an almost cloudless sky.” Gil Peck
"Nothing new on the West Front '' I think when entering despite having never been at Harry’s before. The linen is still white and strached and the waiters are still exaggeratedly courteous, even though without particularly Italian accents. With a bright combination of paintings, photographs and brown leather sofas, the place is glamorous a la Belle Epoque. And as this is Mayfair, far more glamorous than Soho’s Little Italy, despite being on a similar price range, and much, much tastier.
"Nothing new on the West Front" Having thought that I immediately engaged to prove myself wrong:
At the corner table this early January 2022 …. surprise, surprise: a female customer is settled. She eats and drinks alone and she is… well not alone in this pleasant enterprise. There are three of us this Tuesday lunching alone : The Corner Lady, the Ridiculously Young and Sweet Middleasternly Looking Girl - she looks more Arab than me - and I. I bet there hasn’t been anything like it in the distant 1994. At least not in London. In Montmartre probably yes, in Mayfair no, I am certain.
A quick look around shows me that everybody, literally at every single table, drinks only and exclusively bottled Panna water. Apart from me, obviously, I drink jasmine tea and tap water. Who and on what occasion was drinking bottled mineral water in 1994? I don’t have a clue.
Have there been smart black people lunching in clusters at Harry's Bar when Gil Peck was sitting with a mate at the corner table? He doesn't mention. But for some reason I believe they hadn’t. Not in this number: Next to me there are three gorgeous, young black men in sports gear. As I drink only tea, I can't overcome the impression that I am a lonely fifty-year old blond attracted to handsome black men, so I don't ask them what I would very much like to know : "How did you discover Harry's?" “I discovered it thanks to Gil Peck”. It's only fare to say, they don't ask me this or any other question. That's the main problem with people drinking mineral water and tea. On a table on my other side, two beautiful black women are eating zucchini fritti that look like very long french fries and come in a massive cornet and Harry’s tagliolini - gratinated tagliolini pasta with truffle, parmesan and creme. Wherever my glance falls everybody’s having Harry’s tagliolini. On the menu, truffle is the king - after all it’s the truffle season. There is even a Winter Black Truffle Menu, but it’s slightly too ambitious for me price wise with a pizza at £42, I decide to pass.
Everybody around looks stupendously young - all under thirty. Was Harry's Bar clientele so young as that in 1994? Yes, no? Giles only knows.
Restyled by @Martin Brudnizki - this is the only information Harry’s staff is able to give me art-wise - no mention on Harry's website on whose are the paintings or what photographs hang on the walls. What bothers me even more is that from Brudnizki 's side none bothers to answer my questions - some three years ago the art on the walls of Harry's Bar is probably also new, but what would I know? As well as the the warm nice light - in 1994, I imagine the light was dimmed by cigarette smoke.
Menuwise, I can’t even fathom what was on Harry's menu in 1994. Was the delicious truffle chicken on the menu then? In a rich mascarpone truffle sauce and wild sauteed mushrooms it’s criminally and guiltily delicious. It tastes like something from my childhood and the last time I ate something similar was in Georgia and believed that none in Europe cooks guilty recipes like this anymore. It's a half-chicken, men's size portion and I struggle with it despite the deliciousness and I am happy that my starter tuna pizzeta - raw tuna with truffle-citrus dressing on a crisp baze - was so tiny.
At Harry’s I discover that ‘sundae’ is in English what in my imagination lives under the name ‘Melba’ and I am enchanted - always enchanted to learn something new.
By the end of my lunch two girls came and settled nearby and thank, thank God ordered cocktails, just to prove that the world hasn’t gone completely bonkers - there was something rather unsettling about being in a chic Italian restaurant surrounded by people drinking water, be it early January. With a mixologist looking like a real MC I promise myself "Next time, next time cocktails and pasta".