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Voyages: The Barrington Steakhouse & Oyster Bar

Voyages: The Barrington Steakhouse & Oyster Bar

As of May 23rd, a new contender has come to the downtown strip and its name is The Barrington Steakhouse & Oyster Bar. With its grandiose golden lettering on the outside, this is a place that has repeatedly caught my eye. It may only require a few strides to pass the front, but that’s all it takes to plant a lasting impression – and even then, there is much more to it than first meets the eye.

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Upon entering, you will quickly realize that this is one swanky place with a lot of character and history. A glass pillar holding the wine cellar greets you, stretching up to the second floor, but let’s not get too ahead of ourselves. On the first floor, there is a lounge area by the window and a cozier more intimate area towards the back, with a huge bar separating the two.

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You can usually find live music on the first floor from Thursday to Saturday. The second floor has a huge fine-dining area, an outdoor patio, two private rooms, and an additional bar.

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In Halifax’s early years, a steam laundry occupied the building and the Barrington has done a great job of featuring this history in its design: a mural on the second floor tells the story while a collection of classic irons adorns the pillar dividing the first floor.

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Considering all the space the Murphy family was given to work with, they have spared no expense when it comes to the details. Each decorative element and furnishing is a deliberate stylistic decision that plays into the feel of the whole place. Both metallic and velvet textures can be found all around you and the lighting draws attention to the industrial, iron-clad atmosphere, reminiscent of a luxurious lifestyle during the roaring twenties. You can come here and make yourself at home – you’d want to.

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What’s more, the seafood is local whenever possible, the beef is always sourced from within Atlantic Canada, the bread and pasta are made fresh in-house, and the staff is handpicked not only for their skills and experience, but for their warm personalities as well. These are all details that the Murphy family considered in order to create a restaurant oozing with genuine Maritime hospitality.

Without further delay, let’s talk about food:

The appetizers arrive at the table, and with them, an accompaniment of popular PEI beers: Gahan’s 1772 IPA, Sydney Street Stout (both of which are award-winning), and Iron Bridge Brown Ale, as well as PEI Brewing Co.’s Beach Chair Lager.

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First, I have the seafood bruschetta. I arrange each ingredient strategically, making sure to use the bread for the base as I layer the seafood on top. As I take a bite, the first thing I notice is the scallop – the consistency has a nice chew but is just soft enough for my teeth to sink into. I taste the shrimp, and then very quickly the basil. The lemon olive preserve and the citrus herb cream all fight for attention as the tangy, citrusy flavours climb into a gentle climax. The goat cheese anchors all the flavours together while the bread gives the whole thing substance and brings it home.

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The lobster ravioli is the second appetizer. Expect a dish packed with flavour when it comes stuffed with shitake mushrooms, lobster, and goat cheese, topped with freshly cracked black pepper and basil. A first bite is followed rapidly by a second; the ravioli is creamy and I cannot get enough of it. Similar to the scallops, the consistency is somewhere between chewy and soft and the dusting of Grana Padano (a less salty version of Parmigiano Reggiano) contributes a complex nutty creaminess. The lemon basil cream working in tandem with the buttery lobster and the chewy ravioli is the zesty bow on top that makes the whole dish shine.

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Now for the main course, which comes in the form of two medium rare steaks.

The first is a 10oz beef strip loin caked with a Gouda crust, and my god, does it ever smell heavenly. It is paired with a double stuffed potato: bacon, chives, cheese, and bacon fat make it nice and fluffy, and I mean “my-fork-sinks-right-in” fluffy. It smells comforting and tastes even better. The steak catches your attention with its smokiness and texture until the cheese and the potato take over. The taste is something else: creamy, cheesy, earthy, and smoky. With the Gouda crust caked on top, this is beef strip loin taken to the next level.

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Next up is the beef tenderloin that comes seasoned with a house-blended steak spice. I realize how highly I regarded the strip loin just now, but this tenderloin is pure sorcery, I promise. The consistency? Doesn’t even feel like meat in your mouth. It’s soft, and melts like butter. The house-made spice provides some salty and spicy accents but doesn’t override the taste of the beef, and the red wine sauce provides some deep, dark notes. This is the textbook definition of the perfect steak right here.

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Just when I think the barrage of food is over; a lovely surprise greets me in two parts. Dessert is donuts and a deconstructed s’mores concoction.

Fried cinnamon nutmeg donuts are brought to me alongside three dipping sauces (blueberry whisky, caramel, lemon) and a white paper bag on a plate. The smell invades the whole restaurant. Never in my life have I ever been so impressed by a common treat. The donuts are crisp and sweet on the outside but the inside holds substance without being too heavy – especially for a dessert dish.

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In the s’more, the chocolate crumble serves as a base with more chocolate of a fudgier consistency on top. What can I say? Every bite is rich with sweetness but the strawberries are my saving grace. The little slices of ripe red berry counter the indulgent flavour with a fruity acidity. I have no problems scraping my plate clean of this rich, chocolate fiesta.

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In the end, I find myself profusely pouring compliments towards head chef Dwayne MacLeod for the wonderful trip through time and place my taste buds went on today. A huge thank you goes out to the Murphy family for the incredible experience and hospitality.

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Until next time,

-Patrick

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