Watermark Irish Pub, Toronto

LLet’s face it; Queen’s Quay has never technically been a hot spot. Just always been there. Toronto is a city lucky enough to have its own waterfront, but despite a lot of promises and a few efforts to deliver those promises, it still has a long way to go to become a legitimate “destination”. That’s not to say it isn’t on its way. The Harbourfront Centre has certainly stepped up its summer music and cultural programming, and the Toronto Music Garden is a bona fide under-the-radar design sanctuary.

But, as always, the area’s biggest flaw is its lack of quality options for drinking and dining (a.k.a. martiniboys.com’s reasons for living). Aside from The Guvernment complex, there isn’t much in the way of nightlife, and that isn’t exactly tailor-made for the yuppified harbourfront condo community (some of the most coveted real estate in the city). Taking over the former Boathouse Grill space, the brand-new Watermark Irish Pub, while hardly reinventing the nightlife model, does help fill a void on and around Queen’s Quay.

Watermark is the ninth Irish pub for Toronto’s powerhouse F.A.B. Concepts chain, a company whose roster also includes (among others) Brazen Head, Murphy’s Law, The Pour House, The Foggy Dew, Pogue Mahone, and, surprisingly The Mill Street Brew Pub. At times, this creates an unsavory feeling of comfortable corporate blandness, but unlike its counterpart Firkin chain, F.A.B. manages to escape complete insipidness with its upscale design, subtle differentiation of franchises (including varying names), interesting locations, and avoidance of the obvious. It’s still a little calculated for my liking, but it’s a step above most other options in the area (which is to say, not much).

Exhibit A. The Alcohol Selection: surprisingly, much more than just Molson and Labatt (although they have 50 on tap, which I fully approve of). In addition to a wide selection of single malt scotches, Irish Whiskeys, and a stocked bar with 20 different beers on tap, including Harp, Kilkenny, and Leffe. Not bad at all. The dining menu is a bit less imaginative, but the slight variations on Irish and comfort food standards like Angus Burger Sliders, a Lobster Club, and Irishman’s Bread will do the trick if you’re hungry.

Exhibit B. The Décor. Okay, so it looks a lot like its brethren, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The grand dining room is surprisingly stately, even though it’s obvious that’s the look they’re going for. An enormous antique chandelier and stone fireplace gives way to high-top tables and banquettes, along with dark wood floors, and five plasma TVs (yes, it can be considered a sports bar). The Victorian-style “Quays Bar” makes use of dark mahogany, brass, copper, and granite actually imported from Ireland.

Both rooms open onto separate patios, one of which looks onto the Queens Quay Terminal’s docking station, and the other (complete with its own bar) onto Lake Ontario. Add them together, and you end up with a larger capacity outdoors than indoors (240 vs. 220), making it an ideal place for a summer drink after a show at the Harbourfront Centre. Criticize the Watermark for its lack of personality if you wish – and really, you do wish – but a good beer selection and a large patio is a good formula for a good time. So, see you there around, say, 9:00?

Address: 207 Queens Quay W, Toronto, ON
Contact: 416-214-2772
Area: Lakefront
Venue: Pub
Price Range: $$$ (Within Reach)
Payment: Master Card, Visa, American Express

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