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LIFE: Harbord House turns 15 (April 2023)

August 8th, 2023 · No Comments

Gastropub caters to a loyal audience 

John Oaks, proprietor of Harbord House an adored gastropub on Harbord Street, is all smiles as he celebrates a 15-year anniversary. FOX OLIVER/GLEANER NEWS

By Fox Oliver

Harbord House is the Annex’s very own gastropub. The establishment has been a local favourite for 15 years and draws in the community with elevated takes on classic homestyle dishes.

On March 15, 2008, John Oaks founded Harbord House which now hosts up to 169 people inside and out, seven days a week. “The Harbord House is a local Canadian gastropub featuring homemade comfort food, craft beers, and creative cocktails. We do dishes that everybody recognizes, but we take them to a different level by making nearly everything from scratch in-house with locally sourced ingredients,” said Oaks.

The term gastropub was coined in 1991 by David Eyre and Mike Belben, owners of the Eagle Pub in London, England, when they decided to advance the quality of their food in an establishment that traditionally emphasized drinking over good cuisine. 

“I really enjoy people, and I enjoy working with and getting to know them. I’ve been in the pub business for twenty years prior to opening on my own, and I realized there was a market for food that is a little bit more elevated,” said Oaks, on why he chose to open a gastropub.

“I love the idea of a pub, the sense of community that comes from it, and getting to know your guests,” concluded Oaks. Harbord House was originally located at 150 Harbord St., the former site of Rower’s Pub, but was in the process of moving to 124 Harbord Street when the pandemic hit. This provided an opportunity to set up this new (and current) location properly.

The new location was formerly home to Harvest Kitchen, and before that, Kensington Kitchen. All these establishments had the intention of bringing good food to the community, and Harbord House continues to execute this goal with style.

The seasonal and secluded second-storey patio at 124 Harbord St. that seats 40 has always been a favourite throughout the current and previous iterations of the space. A winding Manitoba maple tree weaves through the custom fencing on the patio, furthering the restaurants’ connection with the area.

The pub has a rotating lineup of three to five daily specials, which “lets the chef get creative, and lets the excitement in,” said Oaks. However, the bulk of the menu remains constant, letting the familiar crowd opt-in to their favourites (like the blackened salmon tacos and lamb and rosemary sausages). 

“When we opened, we were one of the earlier adoptees of craft beer, a niche that had not been really explored,” added Oaks.

Harbord House also hosts an array of events, including weddings, music launch parties, a monthly sci-fi and fantasy book club (now on their 100th read), and anything else their customers express interest in.

“I love the idea of a pub, the sense of community that comes from it, and getting to know your guests,” concluded Oaks. That passion is what makes Harbord House into a Harbord Home.

Tags: Annex · News · Life