What: A casual but decidedly upscale restaurant in the UK’s most famous department store. Located on the lower ground floor opposite the Fine Wine & Spirits department, Harrods Social currently has 60 covers but this will expand to 114 when social distancing comes to an end. The space was previously home to Harrods Brasserie, which launched in mid-March and had a rather tough time of it for reasons that hopefully don’t need explaining.
Who: The restaurant is part of Jason Atherton’s The Social Company, joining venues including Pollen Street Social, Social Eating House, Berners Tavern, The Betterment, City Social and Little Social. Atherton is one of the UK’s most prominent and successful chef restaurateurs and has a significant presence and profile overseas too, making him an ideal candidate to run a restaurant for Harrods jet-setting clientele. The head chef at Harrods Social is Pollen Street Social alumnus Dan Welna.
The vibe: Harrods Brasserie was an expensive fit out and barely traded so ripping it all out would have been very wasteful. While a few tweaks have been made it’s essentially the same reassuringly-expensive feeling space with its marble cornerstones, illuminated brass signage and textured leather upholstery. As you’d expect from Atherton - who is running Harrods Social under a management agreement - the dining room runs like clockwork, with perfectly turned out staff offering relaxed but highly professional service.
The drink: The wine list at Harrods Social is brief, but guests also have access to Harrods Fine Wine & Spirits department’s 1,400-bin wine selection, which includes some of the world’s rarest and most expensive bottles. There’s also an expansive selection of soft drinks - including fruit-infused waters and smoothies - and a refreshingly classic and straightforward cocktail menu.
The food: Atherton’s menu is necessarily safe. While few of his customers will be paying attention to the prices, Harrods is not a place in which to push the culinary envelope. Nor does it lend itself to four hour epics, with the majority of diners coming in for a quick bite between purchasing £2,000 handbags. With this in mind Atherton has created a flexible menu that ticks off staples such as club sandwiches, salads, pasta, steak and chips and mac & cheese while also offering more gastronomically ambitious dishes. Dishes from the latter camp include Wye Valley asparagus with wild garlic, confit egg-yolk jam, aged-Parmesan sablé; and hake with white miso emulsion, pak choi, spicy ponzu dressing, crispy squid and peppercorn dressing. While high, prices are less extreme than one might expect given the restaurant's core clientele with starters around £20 and most mains between £40 and £50.
And another thing: Harrods is a good fit for Atherton, not least because it acts as a shop window for his wider group of restaurants both in London and abroad. The chef should be commended for creating something that is neither cynical or greeds. Harrods Social has been executed with the group's trademark professionalism and is fairly priced, especially when compared to other restaurants that cater for this sort of crowd.