Is­land in­va­sion

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

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - FRONT PAGE - BY MITCH MACDON­ALD Mitch.macdon­ald@the­guardian.pe.ca Twit­ter.com/Mitch_PEI

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.”

MITCH MACDON­ALD/THE GUARDIAN

MITCH MACDON­ALD/THE GUARDIAN

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.

MITCH MACDON­ALD/THE GUARDIAN

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.

MIKE HAR­VEY/CHRON­I­CLE HER­ALD

Murphy Hos­pi­tal­ity Group president Kevin Murphy stands out­side of The Bar­ring­ton Steak­house and Oys­ter Bar.

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