This summer I recently discovered something I haven’t found many times in Victoria, and that is a restaurant that has been around for over thirty years.
Though we had heard about it, neither Mark or I had been to the Harbour House Restaurant before.
We didn’t know much about it except that after looking at their menu online, we looked forward to some fine seafood dining.
As we often do, both Mark and I started our evening off with an appetizer each.
To get my seafood fix, I ordered the “Avocado Shrimp” ($11.50).
I have always loved the whole shrimp/avocado combination, and I was happy to see that my appetizer gave me plenty of both.
Although I enjoyed it, I had hoped for a bit more “wow” factor which I have had from similar dishes at other restaurants (for example Pablo’s, which I will review later!).
My guess is that it was the mediocre sauce in this appetizer that made this dish lack a little for me.
Mark ordered the “Carpaccio” ($14), and really liked it.
The dish came with lots of cheese and good quality olive oil, making it definitely worth the $14 Mark said.
After our appetizers we decided to share the“Classic Caesar Salad for Two” ($22).
This turned out to be the highlight of the evening.
Herman, our wonderful server (who incidentally has a great Spanish accent), prepared my very first authentic Caesar salad right in front of us.
This is a lost art he said, and I agreed as I have yet to see this being done anywhere else in Victoria, let alone anywhere else.
Unlike most Caesars that you would order at a restaurant, this one was made with two “secret ingredients”, a raw egg and olive oil.
Herman also added plenty of garlic and just the right amount of anchovy to make this Caesar salad one of the best ones I’ve ever had.
For my main course I opted for the “Rack of Lamb” (Full $36). Herman said it was good so I even went for the full rack as opposed to the half.
When I got my entree, my lamb was perfectly done (medium rare) and the meat was a nice light pink colour.
It had a nice crust on it as well which I also liked.
The challenge I had with this dish was that it came with a Martini demi-glace which for me, overpowered the lamb and made it so that I couldn’t taste the meat as much as I would have liked.
Mark ordered the “Sea Bass” ($31), and comparing it to other dishes of its type around town gave it a “solid average”.
It wasn’t the best, or the worst he’d ever had. He found the fish was a bit chewy and the risotto that it came with was over seasoned (a nice way to say it was too salty).
Before I start sounding like I am giving this restaurant a negative review, I want to mention the things we enjoyed about the Harbour House atmosphere.
Our window table gave us a lovely garden view, and the warm ambiance that developed in the evening as the oil lanterns shone on the tables was really nice and romantic.
Also, though it wasn’t on at the time (probably because it was the middle of summer), the fireplace in the main dining area gave the place a nice look as well.
This restaurant has been going strong for over thirty years and has every right to be proud of that fact.
The only thing that I might say about its atmosphere is that it seems to attract an older crowd (50 plus) and it may be due for a makeover if it wants to keep going for another 30 years.
The service we had didn’t need a makeover though, and we were very happy with our wonderful, friendly server Herman.
Overall we found the staff to be professional, and all well dressed (in tuxes!).
As a small but important note, I was happily surprised when Herman brought me a finger bowl with lemon water in it so that I could clean my hands after my meal (kudos for them saying it’s okay for me to pick up my lamb with my hands!).
To finish off the night we both ordered dessert. My “Chocolate Cake” ($7.95) was again in the “not the best I’ve ever had but not the worst either” category.
I guess when dessert prices hover over the $6 – $7 mark I expect a bit more “wow”…
Mark got his usual “Creme Brulee” ($7.95). and gave it a solid thumbs up (yeah!).
It had a Marzapan flavour too it though, which he liked but wondered why that wasn’t written on the menu as he expected the traditional vanilla taste.
Overall our experience at Harbour House Restaurant was pleasant. I don’t want to say we had the best meals we ever had because we didn’t. But we did have a very nice evening with decent food, great service, and nice ambiance.
We will be back again, but next time will be trying some of their other offerings.
IN A NUTSHELL…
Harbour House Restaurant
Address: 607 Oswego St., Victoria
Phone: (250) 386-1244
Hours: 4:30 pm – close, 7 days a week
Price: $$$$ ($25 and up per entree)