One of the most eye catching features of The Lockhart, apart from the line extending into the adjacent street, is the immaculately designed logo and the stag visible through the large mirror. This new Harry Potter themed bar opened in the first week of September at Dundas and Dufferin, a few blocks away from the popular Ossington-Dundas bar district. Although slightly removed from the Friday night hot spots, the bar had absolutely no problem attracting customers, as the average wait time for anyone hoping to make it inside was anywhere between 45 minutes to an hour and a half on a rainy Friday evening on the weekend of the September 11. The long wait, combined with the small capacity of the venue and the scattered rain, meant that several people who had waited in line left before they could even see inside the already famed bar. However, those who felt they had waited too long, as well as die-hard Potterheads, braved the windy rain and shared stories to keep warm till they made it in.
Opened by co-owners Matt Rocks and Pouria Fakhraei, who have obviously studied their customer base extensively, The Lockhart is the latest addition to Toronto’s roster of cool tapas bars. By introducing it as “a cool bar that had a theme”, the owners managed to advertise their newly opened bar, while simultaneously dodging a potentially messy lawsuit. Despite the owners’ careful skirting around the issue, to the well trained eye, there is no getting past the homage they are paying to J.K. Rowling’s magical world. Starting from the name itself, (in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Professor Lockhart was the Defence Against the Dark Arts professor during Harry’s second year at Hogwarts), to the “All was well” sign behind the bar, and the massive patronus painted on the main wall, the bar is chalk-full of Harry Potter references.
The Harry Potter references are subtle and tastefully done, so that the bar not only avoids a legal battle over copyright issues, but also avoids looking like a cliché themed bar at an amusement park. To those who have never ventured into Harry Potter’s world or those who are not as obsessed with Harry Potter as they were when they were 12, the Lockhart is still a chill Toronto bar with some eclectic decoration. But again, any die-hard fan will recognize the Deathly Hallows symbol on the ceiling for what it really is.
Arguably the best part of the whole venue is the bar section, aptly named “Potions & Elixirs”. The shelves behind the bar hold several curious jars and bottles in addition to the usual display of bottles. The menu is fascinating – again the references are subtle and tastefully done, and invisible to anyone who has not read the books. The Shacklebolt, a spiced rum and ginger drink is a warm brown colour, while those who miss the lovable gambler Ludo Bagman from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire can find him on page two of the menu with his own drink, Ludo’s Debt.
The most horrifying and exhilarating experience on the menu is the Jalapeno Death Shot. The Death Shot, which comes in a clear crystal bottle, is fit for any Death Eater. When the description of an item on a menu reads “not recommended for human consumption”, it automatically becomes the first thing you want to try. The drink is essentially a bottle of Tequila that has been marinating in a bottle of sliced jalapenos, you know, because tequila is not painful enough to drink. The drink feels like Voldemort himself has whispered Incendio (spell for casting fire) down your throat. The spiciness of the tequila, mixed with the burning sensation of the jalapenos is an experience the stomach really shouldn’t be forced to confront. The only known cure (as far as I am aware), is to take three shots of vodka to cool your insides and do another Death Shot just to be sure.
The overall vibe of the venue is super chill and laid back. People were there because of their shared love for Harry Potter, so conversations flowed freely across tables. The bartenders and waitresses were just as laid back as the venue and absolutely lovely. They took time to explain what was in every drink, were attentive and funny, and made the night an enjoyable experience. The same is true for the two owners, Matt and Pouria, who were going to every table and talking with their patrons in addition to working behind the bar and serving the drinks. They took time to introduce themselves, talk Harry Potter and were even courteous enough to introduce us to their friends, the chef and the bouncer.
Given all the hype that The Lockhart has garnered online, I was a bit weary of going there and being slightly let down. However, overall, I would give this venue five out of five stars (100 POINTS TO … whichever houses Matt and Pouria belong to). I will say though, if you go in expecting to feel like you’ve walked into the Universal Studios Harry Potter bar, you will be sorely disappointed. But if you go there looking for all the things we’ve come to expect from a chill Toronto bar, like great music, good energy, friendly faces and really strong drinks with a dash of geeky fan-girling, then you will not be disappointed. While I definitely went there for the Harry Potter theme, I will certainly be going back just for the great atmosphere and wonderful owners… although I might give it a few weeks and let the buzz die down before I make it back there. I am not ready to line up for an hour and a half again on a Friday night.