I love Harry Potter; the books and the movie, and I'm not even remotely ashamed to admit it. I also, however, love drinking (beer particularly). Not to excess, but let's just say enough to loosen my tongue and provide a lighter head for a heavy heart. These are two interests that I never dreamt would coincide in any meaningful way, so imagine my delight when I stumbled upon The Lockhart bar in Toronto, which is not only a Harry Potter themed bar (it's named after Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher and infamous fraud Gilderoy Lockhart), but a Potter themed bar that only real fans will even realise is paying homage to the boy wizard and his magical adventures.
The Lockhart bar in Toronto is not only a Harry Potter themed bar, but a Potter themed bar that only real fans will even realise is paying homage to the boy wizard
The bar is designed so that it appears on the surface as a sophisticated, albeit conventional 'hipster' establishment, complete with exposed brickwork and a vast menu of craft beers and exotic cocktails. Dig a little deeper though, and you'll see that the stag's head logo isn't just a stag's head; it's a “Patronus Charm,” and the neon sign stating “All was well,” is actually a reference to the final line in the final book of the series; “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.”
These kind of hidden references are woven into the design of the bar in such a clever and subtle way, that it sets the venture apart from similarly themed enterprises, which more often than not tend to go overboard with the concept. There's even an item on the menu named after a reference so obscure that anyone who can place it earns themselves a free drink! The only thing you won't find on the menu is butter beer, as that particular beverage has been copyrighted to be sold at existing Harry Potter attractions in Florida and London. Having tried it myself at the Warner Bros Studio Tour, I can assure you nobody is missing out as it tasted like sweaty feet dipped in a vat of sugar.
Co-founders and Potter buffs Paris Xerx and Matt Rocks have shied away from pigeonholing the bar explicitly as a destination for Potter fans
Co-founders and Potter buffs Paris Xerx and Matt Rocks (Not sure if those are real names but I really hope they are), who both identify as members of Hufflepuff house (the ideal, measured temperament for running a bar), have shied away from pigeonholing the bar explicitly as a destination for Potter fans. Indeed, they not only wish to refrain ostracising non-fans, but claim they love the books so much that they would never even dream of flat-out ripping them off (something tells me legal matters might also have something to do with this decision). Rocks, who is a British expat and lifelong Potter fanatic with the tattoos to prove it, said: “We definitely want to stay away from being too niche, we try to be quite ambiguous about our Harry Potter references. We took ideas from the books and kind of added them to the decor, along with other things that we liked, but there are definitely some things in here for Harry Potter fans like myself.”
The references don’t end with the décor either. The drinks menu, which Rocks said his co-owner Pouria Fakhraei created using inspiration from the alchemy and potion craft found in the books, includes numerous references to JK Rowling’s fantasy world, such as the “Befuddlement Brew,” shots of “Shacklebolt” an the “Ludo’s Debt” cocktail. Despite the gimmicky names names, Rocks insists that the bar offers a genuinely unique quality experience, with all of their liquors infused in-house, and their short tapas menu providing comfort food favourites like baked brie, gourmet popcorn and deep-fried jalapeño mac and cheese sliders.
The duo also plans to continue adding to the already thriving business, with a bespoke brunch menu on the way and monthly Potter trivia nights
It'll come as little surprise that the bar has already become incredibly popular, having only been open for just over a week. The duo also plans to continue adding to the business, with a bespoke brunch menu on the way, monthly Potter trivia nights, and a Halloween party. I'm not convinced it's reason enough alone for me to book a ticket to Toronto, but it's certainly piqued my interest, and the concept of taking a beloved pop culture icon and subtly infusing it's influence into an establishment which doesn't solely rely on the custom of fans is a very interesting one indeed. So make mine a double Firewhisky!
Benjamin Hiorns is a freelance writer, struggling musician and wannabe Ravenclaw from Kidderminster in the UK.