Philadelphia has no shortage of dilapidated industrial spaces, long forgotten realms of what could have been, which go unused and unappreciated. Every once in a long while, one happens upon a space which has the potential to become something more. Michael Schulson happened upon such a space between 15th and 16th Streets at 1525 Samson. What resulted, after considerable work, is Harp & Crown. Philadelphia’s most recent incarnation of New American cuisine opened it’s doors to the public on Wednesday, October 12th.
Inside, guests are welcomed into a world of Victorian Old World charm and luxury. Rich, supple leather chairs are complemented by industrial, wooden and metal tables in the waiting lounge. A 32-seat cocktail bar provides ample seating for those wishing to imbibe while they wait for their table. A variety of framed portraits are scattered across the wall in a haphazard way which complements the mismatch group of chairs at each table. All of this combines into an inviting, elegant atmosphere which is at the same time, both airy and intimate.
In addition to the main floor dining room and bar, Harp & Crown features a downstairs cocktail bar and reservation-only two lane bowling alley. Groups of 8 may reserve a lane at the rate of $100/hour and enjoy drinks, small plates, and pizzas.
For those seated at the bar, there is an abbreviated menu featuring cheese, charcuterie, pizza and small plate selections to go along with an excellent sampling of artisan cocktails, drafts, and wines by the glass or bottle. Those looking for a refreshing cocktail should choose The Charred Stone, composed of bourbon, grilled peach, mint, and ginger beer. The bar at Harp & Crown also has an unique take on the Old Fashioned which they call the Dying Declaration. This concoction combines a house-made cinnamon tincture with the usual bourbon and bitters to create a slightly smoky and sweet Old Fashioned-like cocktail. Half of the enjoyment is in the preparation of the cocktail, which involves the flaming of the tincture in the glass. Although all of the small plates are delicious, of special significance is the Lamb Meatball Sliders topped with pickles and provolone. The meatballs are perfectly tender and excellently balanced with the melted cheese and crisp pickles. It’s hard to find a better appetizer in the city for $9.
Sit down at a table at Harp & Crown and one immediately becomes further immersed in the Victorian luxury. A new list of small plates accompanies the full menu as opposed to those available at the bar. The Burrata dish with pickled figs, pistachios, and blossom honey is simply a revelation. It is the perfect sweet and savory start to any meal. Of the salads, the Red Beet with arugula, feta pesto, and pumpkin seeds stands apart in its character and flavor profile. When choosing a main plate, guests can simply not choose poorly. The Diver Scallops are rich and buttery, well framed on the plate with the mashed parsnips and green chermoula. The Halibut is perfectly seared and complemented with the crab, zucchini, and basil in corn broth. It is a wonderfully delicious and light entree. From beginning to end, the culinary experience created by chef Karen Nicolas is truly extraordinary and a perfect companion to the Old World ambiance which Harp & Crown embodies.
The new space at 1525 Samson is a welcome addition to an already thriving gastronomical neighborhood. Within Center City, Harp & Crown is unique, an edifice to a time gone past, complete with rustic charm and high-class attention to detail. At the same time the restaurant manages to draw patrons in with warm light streaming from industrial chandeliers, invitingly intimate table settings, and most importantly, the chorus of happy exuberance from those already enjoying themselves. Whether looking for a place to enjoy a fine cocktail after work, an intimate dining experience with character and refined cuisine for a date, or a professional dinner away from the traditional Philadelphia haunts, Harp & Crown delivers on all fronts.