Last year on our travels we visited Murano, the original Angela Hartnett restaurant and Harnett, Hodder & Co which is located inside Limewood in the New Forest. Reasonably therefore our expectations were high. Our review however is slightly hindered by circumstances as we had booked a joint theatre meal deal which restricted us to (in theory) two courses from menu du jour.

They open for dining at 5:30pm but we arrived early and the door is open with people consuming either coffee or tea at a couple of tables but the welcome was slightly offhand and I was not relieved of my coat for about 30 minutes. We chose to sit at the bar with a glass of Prosecco each and observed a comprehensive pre-service briefing was taking place at the other end of the restaurant.   Shortly before 5:30 we were shown to our table. Matters now improved noticeably.

Having had plenty of time looking at the menus, particularly the special menu it was easy to reduce the two possibilities to a single choice for each course. Polenta with mushrooms followed by the lamb shoulder on mashed potato. The Italian wine list covers the country and the price range. We went for a Sangiovese Montepulciano, Rosso Picano “Bacchus”, Ciu Ciu from Marche.

The arrival of bread and extra virgin olive oil demonstrated that one of the keys to the Hartnett success is the quality of the ingredients – the oil was outstanding. The polenta was a little dry for my wife’s taste but the mushrooms are excellent. A well constructed dish which I liked.

The main course was ideal for the time of year – February – rich lamb on top of smooth excellent mashed potato containing, I suspect, a large amount of butter to aid the taste of the dish. I tend to avoid mashed potato as I am simply not keen on it; however if it always tastes like this – smooth and good I wonder if I have been missing out! That is secondary to the shoulder of lamb which breaks apart very easily and is a rich and warming dish on this cold February evening. A rich sauce as well matching the lamb. All in all an excellent main course.

Being diabetic normal puddings usually contain too much sugar so I opted for three cheese from the main menu (£12) which were inevitably shared with my wife. Our waitress kindly indicated the right order in which to eat them and I have to confirm (having already started on what turned out to be cheese “3”) that it tasted better when I reached it. All relatively mild Italian cheeses (no Roquefort here) they were certainly pleasant and as I had not to my knowledge eaten them before my total score of cheeses increased by 3!

Total bill including service was under £100. Which demonstrates that one can eat very well from the “menu du jour” (or Italian equivalent) in the very centre of an expensive part of London without breaking the bank or suffering a poor meal. My wife was equally happy with her identical choices.

At this point I usually reflect on the Good Food Guide Rating – which in this case is a 4; the interpretation is “Dedicated, focused approach to cooking, good classical skills and high quality ingredients”.  As we did not eat off the main menu I shall refrain from detailed comment – but as already remarked the ingredients are indeed of high quality.

The meal was followed by a show – “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown” – which starred Tamsin Greig in her underwear for part of the evening. The show was entertaining but probably not earth shattering! However a very good evening out.