FIRST LOOK: Heartwood Hydrostone
Inside the vegetarian stalwart’s new location on Gottingen
The north end of Halifax just keeps getting better. Everywhere you turn, another crane looms over a pocket of construction. Every time you pop out of a full locust pose, a new yoga studio. Looking to replace or repair your couch? I’ll be damned if it isn’t a mini furniture design district. For drinks, a new cidery, distillery and brewery, oh my! And oh the restaurants! Whether you want a full rotisserie chicken over charcoal (CHKN CHP), a delicate plate of handmade pasta paired with an artisanal cocktail (Bar Kismet) or a pile of savoury blue cheese and okra donuts (Unchained Kitchen), it’s simply all there for the taking, or rather the eating. And when a decades-old stalwart restaurant on the vegetarian scene decides to open its second full-service location, you sit up and take notice.
I’m kicking off this First Look series with a visit to Heartwood Hydrostone in the trendy new St. Joseph’s Square on Gottingen Street. Opening its doors in early November, owner Carrie Surrette had the opportunity to once again team up with Bhavana Yoga Boutique, recreating their neighbouring duo on Quinpool Road.
It’s a little chilly on this particular day, and I am running between meetings and errands when I first stop by for a quick visit. It’s mid-afternoon and sunlight is pouring into the restaurant from its huge front windows. I’m already feeling relatively cozy as I tuck myself into one of four re-purposed church pew banquette booths at the back. Ordering a soy latté from the über-friendly staff, I settle in and open up my laptop to take notes as I watch the comings and goings during that unique crossover period of late lunchers to early dinner diners, all fueled by a soundtrack from the likes of Joni Mitchell and Patsy Cline.
The space is in complete contrast to what I like to refer to as the “shire” at the original and long-standing location on Quinpool Road. And by shire, I mean only in the sense of ducking into a deep, dark-green forest for a hearty meal (pun intended). It feels large and light in here with its high ceilings, big windows and white-washed wooden tabletops. Yet it’s grounded in a rustic, modern kind of feel with its concrete floors and exposed pillars, steel bar and stools at the back, and warm wooden church window frames furnished with fresh pops of green ferns. The true pièce de résistance in this room is a stunning full wall featuring an epic floral mural in wallpaper. I swear I could stare at it all day.
The menu staples, much like the original location, are the chock-a-block Heartwood bowls. And I maintain that never have I been so full on vegetarian fare. On this occasion, I grab my go-to spicy peanut satay bowl to-go full of steamed greens, seasonal roasted veggies, marinated tofu, toasted seeds and sprouts on brown rice. With a large selection of veggie burgers, open-faced sandwiches, spelt pizzas and salads, the menu is similar to that found on Quinpool. All the soups and baked goods are vegan and naturally gluten-free. There are no fillers, no additives. All dressings and sauces are made from whole foods. The plates are a little more scaled down to size on the lunch menu with its mini-Heartwood bowl, falafel wrap, bean burrito, and soup and half-sandwich combos.
What really grabs me is the expansive brunch menu. There is everything from coconut banana French toast; to packed breakfast bowls such as the Fresh Bowl with cucumber, peas, greens, cilantro, pickled beets, basil vinaigrette topped with your choice of a local free-range fried egg or a tofu scramble; to a whole array of fancy toast options on their house-made sourdough spelt bread such as avocado toast with garlic oil and organic almond butter toast. There’s even a breakfast poutine and espresso shakes. Espresso. Shakes. But alas, I am here mid-week with no brunch in sight. Not only that, but I’m in a rush and all I want to do is linger in this booth with another latté for the rest of the afternoon. This feels like a place where you could most definitely do that.
I’m a little stretched for time on this visit, but I’m already itching to get back real soon, especially for that brunch menu.
Heartwood Hydrostone is open seven days a week. Brunch goes from 10 am to 3 pm on Saturdays and Sundays. iloveheartwood.ca