The decor is cozy, with wood-trimmed booths, nice-sized tables and a hushed ambience. The designers went for an early 1900s fine-dining feel, and they hit the mark. It’s quite a contrast from its fun, boisterous sister operation, the neighboring Celt pub. But the yin and yang works.
There’s something else worthy of note before we get to the menu: the lighting. The Harp has an attractive, subdued environment in which you can actually read a menu. I often see patrons of new restaurants holding menus at odd angles trying to catch elusive rays for illumination. Recently I almost caught a typography-challenged translucent menu on fire, holding it over a candle to get backlight.
You can read The Harp menu easily enough, but here are some of the highlights from my visits.
For a starter, I liked the shrimp and crab chowder ($4-$5). The lump crab flavor dominates the thick concoction. I was disappointed by the caprese salad ($8). The buffalo mozzarella rounds were ample, but the cheese was a bit dry, and the tomatoes lacked flavor.
Stick with the Irish theme and share the smoked salmon platter for two ($16). The honey-flavored fish is presented with capers, cream cheese, tomatoes, red onion and warmed brown bread.
For entrees, the menu writer injected a bit of humor into two of my favorites. The paddy lamb shank redemption ($26) was falling-off-the-bone tender and finished with a wine demiglace. For the salmon of knowledge ($20), the chef blanketed the fish in chopped pistachios and served it with a cream sauce. The distinctively flavored nuts complemented the richness of the salmon. The chicken marsala ($16) was a tad salty for my palate, but my guest loved it.
The chef’s choice of vegetables can vary; steamed asparagus was served on both of my visits. But it’s the colcannon you don’t want to miss. These creamy Irish mashed potatoes include flavorful thinly sliced leeks.
Several of the desserts come from Annie Pies Gourmet Bakery in Longwood (AnniePiesBakery.com). And I liked that the server readily gave credit to Ann Resnick and her staff. Annie Pies’ Jack Daniel’s bourbon-laced chocolate cake ($6) and the Bailey’s Irish Cream Cheesecake ($4) can start fork wars, so arm yourself. The restaurant really shines with its own Kahlua-laced bread pudding ($7). Warm and sweet, it’s what all comfort food hopes to be.
The Harp is a small dining room, easily handled by one very professional and attentive waiter. General evening dining is limited to Friday and Saturday nights, but the room is often booked for corporate and private events, so it is important to make reservations, or you could end up crashing some nice couple’s rehearsal dinner.
Dining on a budget
The dinner menu has many moderately priced choices. The lighter bites can definitely keep you under $15 at dinner.
Dinner under $15: Order the marinated rib-eye salad ($10) with sauteed mushrooms, roasted red peppers, a crispy topping of julienned onion drizzled with peppercorn ranch dressing and cup of seafood chowder ($4).
Dinner for $10: Try a bowl of shrimp and crab chowder ($5) and the house salad ($5).
The Harp Restaurant
|Where: 25 S. Magnolia Ave., in downtown Orlando. The easiest parking is in the public garage across from the Orlando Public Library on Central Boulevard between Rosalind Avenue and Magnolia Avenue. When: 6-9 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Lunch is served 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday-Friday.
Reservations: A must. The restaurant is often booked for private events.
Beverages: Full bar.
Sound level: Very quiet.
Wheelchair access: Yes.
Credit: All major cards accepted.