I've been looking forward to trying Harbord Room ever since folks on this board have been glowing about it. But with all the great reviews in the papers over the last 6 months, it's been impossible to get in on short notice and I rarely plan my dinners weeks in advance. Fortunately, hubby was paying attention and surprised me with dinner there with some dear friends for my birthday.
- Good space, great feel (though the noise levels definitely get up there)
- Service was good. Attentive without being overbearing or insincere.
- The wine list has some fantastic local deals on it. Our server told us that they've managed to source several Niagara wines for great prices and they pass the deals on to the customers. The Henry of Pelham Cuvee Catherine was only $64 ($30 in the LCBO) and a lovely Tawse merlot/cab blend was only $54. Very nice.
- A friend raved about the burger.
- The salt cod fritters were yummy, as was the grilled cheddar on Fred's walnut bread.
- Friends enjoyed the arctic char salad.
- Fries were also very yummy, particularly with the homemade ketchup and mayo
- The chilled yellow tomato and cucumber soup was wonderfully fresh, but surprisingly bland, unless you managed to get a bite with fresh basil in it.
- The trout was cooked well, but the accompaniments felt all over the map and didn't seem to come together as a whole.
- The elk tartare was found to be ok, not as interesting as hoped (I didn't try it, so can't comment).
- Asparagus risotto was "fine", also found to not be that interesting (I didn't try that either)
The really not so good:
- The smoked and roasted whitefish, which I was really looking forward to, was so salty as to be inedible. One of my friends also had it and neither of us could eat more than a few bites. This was the one misstep in the service. I'm sure our server noticed the large portions of the fish remaining on the plates, but there was no question or acknowledgement of why. I will note that the ratatouille it was served on was delicious
- As much as I enjoyed the grilled cheese, the portion (for $11) was incredibly small. I realize that this is meant to be a "small plate", but the two tiny pieces of grilled cheese I received were about 1.5" x 2" each -- not enough to even equal a half of a regular grilled cheese sandwich. I did see another person's plate earlier and that portion looked larger. Maybe I just got unlucky with the small end of the loaf of bread.
So overall, I was actually really disappointed with the experience. Maybe my expectations had been set too high from the reviews here, or maybe we just picked the wrong dishes. But with such a small menu (which I usually like!), to have so many "just ok" dishes was pretty disappointing. I felt bad for my friends, because I was SO excited to be eating there and we all left going "meh". It was a wonderful evening because of the company and the setting, but I really can't see myself rushing back, with all the other great options along Harbord and elsewhere in the city.