by Darren Clarke, April 23, 2017
Trip Advisor Rating- 4.5 (2,208 Reviews), Google 4.5/5 (190 Reviews), Zomatao 3.7/5 (136 votes)
My rating is 2 pieces of stale bread out of 5.
When I saw the high ratings provided by Trip Advisor and Google for The Irish Harp in Niagara-on-the-Lake I was given to pause and consider the opinions of the 2,398 people who appeared to have an entirely different experience than I did. But then I remembered the movie Big Momma’s House.
Big Momma’s House made 174-million dollars at the box office. A movie starring Martin Lawrence in a fat suit not only lapped it up at the Box Office but occupied a seemingly endless bit of wall at the local Blockbuster Video store when it was released on DVD.
For those of you curious to know more about Big Momma’s house, stop, just stop. I will leave you with this though, the website, “Box Office Mojo,” has it rated as the #9 movie with a Fat Suit theme and the #4 rated movie with a Cross Dressing/Gender Bending Theme.
So I guess what Big Momma’s House reminded me of was that most people don’t know what the hell they are doing, saying, eating, or drinking.
Niagara-on-the-Lake was especially beatific this Sunday, April 23rd. After weeks of overcast skies, rain, more rain, bonus rain, the sun shone gently down on a vibrant world beckoning locals and tourists alike to lean towards its’ light, its’ warmth. It was a great day for a walk around town. A great day for wandering amongst vintage houses drinking in their yards brimming with lush green lawns, exotic bushes ranging in colours from gold to vanilla, and trees in early bloom, winding up into a freshly washed powder blue sky.
To me, walking, sunlight, warmth, meant one thing- I was thirsty. And being thirsty in those conditions meant- beer. This is how my lovely wife and I ended up at the Irish Harp on King Street in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
It was loud, but I’m 49 so you know, I find myself entering my, “Why can’t everybody quiet down?” years in an especially ornery fashion. It’s a pub right? There was lots of people, there was a band, it should be loud. The ambiance and servers were similar in the fact they were both pretending to be something they really weren’t- authentic, both appearing to have what my wife Caroline summed up as (referring to the ceiling though I think it applied to the servers as well), “Faux finish.”
I ordered a Guinness to start. It took awhile but lots of great things in life do. The Guinness was solid. It was excellent, it was crisp, cool, slightly coffee, slightly cracked wheat, mostly wholesome. As we stepped into our drinks Caroline and I noticed that there was a single bottle of water at the table that indicated it was for sale, kind of like a hotel room. Every table had one. Odd. We ordered food nonetheless.
We decided to order some light fare and share. I ordered a Goats Cheese Salad and Caroline a Lobster Bisque.
The salad, utilizing “Field Greens,” from the local supermarket, was about what you would expect from a cafeteria anyplace in the world where somebody said, “I have an idea, why not stock salads in the cafeteria? People like salads… don’t they?” The Lobster Bisque was overly salty and tasted mostly of tired red peppers. It’s a Lobster Bisque, lobster- LOBSTER. Screwing up something with Lobster in it should get you a special place in hell (perhaps watching all the various incarnations of, “Big Momma’s House,” over and over for eternity). But what was especially bad, especially unforgivable was the bread that came with the meal.
The bread that came with the Lobster bisque was what makes me feel entirely comfortable giving a really bad review. It was obviously once frozen and now completely stale. When Caroline showed it to me I first tried to defend it, “Maybe it’s supposed to be like oven baked… you know, crispy…” But then I realized the butter on the bread had not melted. They knew they were serving us stale old, once frozen, bread and chose to do it anyways.
I ate half to three-quarters of the meal (aside from the bread which remained untouched) and we left. Back into the beautiful day unfolding in the good old town of Niagara-on-the-Lake.
Bears mentioning though that if you are just looking for a beer and, particularly, if you can get a spot on the patio, The Irish Harp seems like a decent spot to chill. The band was great as well- Fiddlin’ Around was the name, a soon to be married husband and wife team- wife-to-be on fiddle, husband-to-be on acoustic guitar, who pulled off a marvellous version of “Loch Lomond,” while we were there.