Montreal residents Mario Talbot, left, and Martine Courtemanche enjoy some oysters at The Barrington Steakhouse and Oyster Bar. The restaurant, which is owned by Murphy Hospitality Group, is just one example of P.E.I. entrepreneurs expanding their operati
There’s a P.E.I. takeover happening in Halifax.
While the two areas may not share the same red shoreline, a number of Island-based companies have successfully carried the P.E.I. flag into the Nova Scotia capital and set up operations.
And it’s not just benefiting P.E.I. companies and Islanders. It’s also adding to the vibrancy of the downtown hub.
While others have been in the city longer, The Barrington Steakhouse and Oyster Bar, owned by Murphy Hospitality Group, may be the most striking symbol of the potential for Islanders in the city.
Having opened in May 2016, the up-scale restaurant sits on a prime piece of real estate on Barrington Street, next to a developing condo, while also being a quick walk from the booming waterfront.
In the past year, the restaurant has built its reputation and clientele to locals and tourists.
“As (my friend said), he doesn’t know how they could make a steak taste this good,” said Marcus Wright, who is from the Halifax area and tried the restaurant for the first time this summer.
The establishment has also found its regular customers in the city.
For hair stylists Jason Gilberts and Vlad Snytkin, the steakhouse has become one of their go-to spots.
“We’ve been coming here since it opened,” said Gilberts, adding that the location has only improved since then.
General manager Sam Murphy, who is also the operating partner, says the biggest factor in the taste is where the meat comes from — the Atlantic Beef Products plant in Albany, P.E.I.
“We’ve had many customer comments that it’s the best steak they’ve ever had,” said Murphy, adding that he’s received many offers from suppliers of other beef from the Japanese Wagyu to prime USDA cuts.
He says has no interest in moving from the P.E.I. beef plant.
“We’d put the Atlantic Beef Products, their Blue Dot Reserve (AAA rating) up against really any other steak in the world.”
British couple Stephen Johnson and Carol Hill can testify to that.
The two were enjoying the final night of their Canadian trip at the steakhouse before retuning to their home east of Birmingham.
“The steak was perfect,” said Johnson, who ordered the classic New York strip while Hill ordered tenderloin. “The ambience is nice, and the food is lovely and well-cooked.”
The steakhouse is far from the only P.E.I. company to have found success in the province, with a number of business owners gambling on a risk that has paid off.
While P.E.I. owners acknowledged some differences in serving the two areas, much of that can likely be attributed to the much larger customer base in Nova Scotia.
While P.E.I.-based industries focus on a summer boom, establishments in the Halifax Regional Municipality are able to carry that momentum through the winter, serving a population of more than 400,000, most of it concentrated in the urban area around the harbour.
“I think once we opened (The Gahan House in Halifax in 2014) we just realized we’re pretty much doing the exact same thing we’re doing on P.E.I., but there’s a larger population,” said Murphy. “You’re doing the same thing, but you’re getting a bigger return.”
And that base is only expected to get bigger.
With building permits, employment and housing on the rise, Halifax has become one of the fastest growing cities in Canada.
Or, as Mayor Mike Savage puts it, Halifax’s economy is “pretty hot right now.”
“I think there’s opportunity here that maybe wasn’t here five or 10 years ago,” said Savage, also referencing further potential in the city’s quickly growing tech industry.
“And it’s great to see some of these wonderful entrepreneurs from P.E.I. coming over here and seeking opportunity. And they’re doing well not only for themselves but also for the city.”
In fact, Savage said the steakhouse, which he described as a “very cool, high-end” place that he’s eaten at on multiple occasions, “opened up some eyes” by breathing some new life to Barrington Street.
It appears that it is not only benefiting the P.E.I. businesses but also Halifax as a whole
“When I was a kid, Barrington Street was a pretty thriving place — you had the Paramount Theatre and Sam the Record Man .… As those places closed down, it emptied out and it wasn’t really a jewel of the downtown like it used to be,” said Savage.
“Now it’s regained that lustre.”
Shakel Akhtar, sous-chef, mans the grill at The Barrington Steakhouse and Oyster Bar in Halifax. Akhtar brings plenty of experience to the location after having previously worked at the Murphy Hospitality Group’s Sims Corner Steakhouse and Oyster Bar in Charlottetown.
Barrington Steakhouse and Oyster Bar general manager Sam Murphy stands next to a wine rack at the Halifax restaurant. Murphy and his brother, Isaac, went to the city over a year ago to start the restaurant. Murphy remains at the location while Isaac now manages bar1911, which serves coffee and craft beer, in Charlottetown.
Murphy Hospitality Group president Kevin Murphy stands outside of The Barrington Steakhouse and Oyster Bar.