The Marriott's new restaurant-bar hybrid The Harbourstone Sea Grill & Pour House nails the sharing plates, and the AC. by Melissa Buote
It's hot out. The air is thick with sweat and air conditioning is the first thing on my mind. I stroll into the cool lobby of the Marriott where The Harbourstone Sea Grill & Pour House has replaced 44 North, a staid dining room that boasted an incredible view of the harbour.
The Harbourstone takes up a huge portion of the hotel's ground floor. The old view has been replaced with the dull glow of poker games and weather forecasts on television screens. While the huge, modern dining room–the same type of multi-use space as Tempo at the Delta Barrington–has a spate of comfortable looking booths with big pillows and deep seats, I am seated in a regular four top. I peruse the menu, a wide array of small sharing plates and casual entrees suited for a space that functions both as restaurant and bar, and wait for my two pals.
44 North's chef Trevor Simms is still running the show at the Harbourstone, and his commitment to using local ingredients and showcasing Nova Scotia flavours is still the main focus of the menu.
We order the Harbourstone nachos ($6), the crispy Blackpoint Buffalo clams ($8), the house-dried jerky ($4) and the biscuits. "Nope," our server says as soon as the last item is out of my mouth. She purses her lips and tells me that that's a bad order and I don't want them, and that she'll bring some fresh rolls instead. She offers up the onion rings ($4) as a suggestion for a different appetizer. I agree, appreciating how firm she is about what is and isn't worth the money.
We get the rolls first. They are delicious. Soon after, in a well-rehearsed manner, our server delivers the nachos, calling the tower of fried wontons "not-chos" as she hands them to Damian. They are good, but oily and very messy. The salsa has a smoky heat to it, and the cilantro sour cream is a cool counterpoint.
The clams are tender, with a lightly crisp coating. Lime mayo is a nice accompaniment. The jerky is my favourite of the sharing pates, slightly sweet and salty with soy sauce and Worcestershire flavour. With the spice of a homemade honey mustard–made with Cosman honey–it's a truly great snack.
The onion rings are actually onion strings, more suited to a garnish for burgers and steaks. They come with a very delicious onion dip, but they are almost impossible to actually dip. I'd prefer rings.
For our entrees, Megan gets the lobster roll ($13), Damian gets the Monte Cristo ($11), adding an egg ($1) at our server's recommendation, and I get the Garrison ale braised short rib sandwich ($14).
The lobster roll is fresh and bright. Chunks of tender, lightly dressed lobster are generously tucked into grilled, buttery garlic toast. The Caesar salad is almost embarrassing, bland and boring; it's one step away from a salad in a bag.
Both the Monte Cristo and the prime rib sandwiches lack flavour for the most part. The juicy and slightly smoky pork in the Monte Cristo is an above-average ingredient that elevates a dime-a-dozen sandwich. The prime rib is overcooked and under-seasoned, and even a generous layer of melted Foxhill cheddar can't save the open-faced sandwich from mediocrity. The shoe-string French fries with both plates are terrific.
The good price points and a friendly server with an easy humour that seems tailored to making guests feel relaxed and at-home, make this a welcoming restaurant. If you're local, I'd stick to the sharing plates and grab a drink. If nothing else, it's a nice place to beat the heat.
Harbourstone Sea Grill & Pour House
1919 Upper Water Street