There is a curved, slatted wall in the entry to the Delta Halifax. As I walk by the wedges, I get angled peeks, here and there, of people happily eating, chatting away at various tables. The Harbour City Bar and Grill is hidden behind the walls, the entrance bursting open into the lobby.
The restaurant is bright, and has a sort of sterile, modern diner-esque bent to the decor that brings a dapper feel. A tall wine rack, long bar, cozy booths and shelves with homey bottles of pickled vegetables combine in a way that suggests the restaurant is trying to break free of the hotel stigma and create an easy warmth.
It's lunchtime, and a group of three waits at the greeter's podium in front of us. A hotel staffer---dressed like a rumpled secret agent, a curling earpiece nuzzling his neck---gathers menus and leads them to a table. We are left alone for a few minutes then waved off to a tall bar table to wait, though there are several available tables. We shrug and watch him wander the restaurant floor. He looks out of his element, as if he doesn't normally work at the restaurant. A few minutes later he returns and ushers us to a table.
Our server is by our side almost instantly with a friendly greeting, menus and a simple question: "Drinks?" There is no cocktail menu. I ask about gin and she says they have "all of them," but when I name Hendrick's they don't have it. The wine menu has several local selections and skews toward new world wines. I opt for a Riesling ($8.50). My friend orders a Garrison Irish Red ($7) after it turns out the keg with Propeller IPA draught she ordered has run dry.
The lunch menu is a tight, varied list of accessible hotel-friendly fare, punctuated by the inclusion of local ingredients. We order ravioli ($16) and the lobster club ($18).
The ravioli does not live up to the menu description. The caramelized parsnip-shallot cream sauce tastes more like a simple Mornay sauce with finely diced shallots thrown in. There is no tang of parsnip or depth of caramelization. The earthy mushroom filling of the ravioli is good, but the pasta itself is a bit doughy. The promised red pepper coulis is nowhere to be seen.
It's a decent plate of food, but nothing more than standard hotel fare.
The lobster club towers, big and beautiful, against the little creamy blobs of ravioli. Meaty knuckles of freckled red lobster and crisp stripes of bacon poke out from under leafy lettuce, tiny claws beckoning us to bite in. A light dressing complements the sweet lobster and crisp pops of green onion. The brioche is the only weak link. The gluten is underdeveloped, and the barely-grilled bread is too flimsy for the sandwich. A crustier bun would be better. The crisp side Caesar, sits in a generous pile with a smiling wedge of lemon on the side. The mild homemade dressing is a little too plentiful, but good. It's a satisfying lunch.
We decide to split a dessert. Two---including the skillet crisp, which we had spotted with a melting knob of Dee Dee's ice cream on top---are sold out. We pick carrot cake ($7), which is served with a salted brown butter caramel sauce.
It's awful. The cake is dry and over-spiced, and the sauce is a combination of a bland caramel drizzle under the cake, and a dollop of an oddly sour brown butter cream frosting. Our cappuccinos ($4.50)---Harbour City "proudly serves Starbucks"---are fine.
There are parts of the meal, the experience, at Harbour City that are quite nice--- our server, for instance, is lovely---but in the end, the sum of the parts just misses the mark a little bit. It's a decent restaurant, but will never be a home away from home for me.