On Harold’s Bistro, and Dining with Mr. Harold Cross.

There’s a legend behind Harold’s Bistro and Bar in The Sheraton Hotel, and it goes something like this:

There once was a man named Mr. Harold Cross, who retired to Richmond over 30 years ago with his beloved wife, Jeanne.  Each and every day, they went for lunch at the Richmond Inn, and became good friends with the staff.  They enjoyed lunch there for decades, and after his wife passed on, Mr. Cross continued the tradition.  Eventually the hotel became The Sheraton, and when management decided to put in a new restaurant, it needed a name.  They wanted something that would impart a sense of community, as well as the loyalty of its customers.  The name “Harold’s” was proposed, and it stuck.  Nothing else would do.  They sat down with Mr. Cross, asked permission to name it after him, and told him he’d never pay another bill in the restaurant again.

The End.

Great story, right?  Well it’s true, and as part of my stay-cation this weekend at The Sheraton Hotel, I had the honour of dining with the Mr. Harold Cross.  Turns out, he’s even more legendary than I’d imagined him to be.

For starters, he’s 91 years old.  I never would have guessed that, because he simply doesn’t look it.  He lives independently, drives a car, and has a much better memory than I do.  And still so handsome!

He’s also the definition of a gentleman; he wears a suit and tie every day, and has tremendous respect for the people around him.  Gentlemanly behavior is all in the details, such as helping a lady with her coat, and pulling out a chair for her.  It took me some getting used to this ‘being treated like a lady’ stuff.

Beyond his impeccable manners, he’s a fascinating, intelligent, and LOVELY man.  He’s also full of great stories, and I love, love, love stories.  Mr. Cross spent almost his entire career with the federal government, and travelled extensively around Canada in various positions.  He said there’s not a part of this country he hasn’t seen, including the great white north.  In the late 60’s and early 70’s, he spent half a decade as the territorial secretary of the Northwest Territories, visiting each and every community within the vast region, at a time when many of them were nearly inaccessible.

I asked Mr. Cross about his family, and he said his father came from England and his mother from Northern Ireland; when telling me about his father, he said “If I speak of him as a sort of hero, it’s because he was.  You see, he was a genuis.”  At the age of 12, Mr. Cross’ father won a math scholarship to Cambridge but never attended, both because his parents couldn’t afford to send him and thought their class was below such a prospect anyways.  Despite having received no university education, he still went on to a highly successful career in Canadian manufacturing, and apparently never once came across “a broken thing he couldn’t fix.”

Mr. Cross also spoke to me about his late wife, Jeanne.  In describing her, it became clear she was a woman he respected and loved dearly.  He said “wherever she went, I went.  Wherever I went, she went.  It was like we were the Mutual Admiration Society.”

And there you have it people, a kind of love to aspire to.

Mr. Cross still dines at Harold’s every day.  He has a special table, and for his 90th birthday the restaurant gave him his own chair with a plaque on it. When I asked him what keeps him coming back, his immediate and unblinking answer was “the people.”  The food is great, yes, but the people there have made the experience for him.  There are three servers in particular – Cherie, Angie, and Katie – who have been working at the restaurant nearly as long as Mr. Cross has been dining there.  They are genuinely like family, and he announced the birth of Cherie’s first grandchild as if it were his own.

I could talk about Mr. Cross all day, but I guess I’d better get to lunch, shouldn’t I?  When I opened up the menu, my eyes immediately zeroed in on the goulash, described as “slow braised beef short rib with paprika, caraway seed, sour cream, and fettuccine noodles” ($18).  Cherie told me it was one of her favourites, so my mind was made up.  Mr. Cross told me he switches up his orders, but Fridays are for fish and chips, so he had one piece of halibut with fries, and a coffee to drink.

Cherie brought us some bread, recommended I try the sourdough with cranberries, then warned me not to eat too much of it or I wouldn’t have enough room for my main course.  This was good advice but tough to follow, because the bread was awesome and the butter even better.  It wasn’t that weird whipped stuff restaurants often pass off as butter; this was properly rich, yellow, and deserved to be spread thickly.  Oooh butter.

The goulash was gorgeous.  Great.  Gregarious.  Gourmet.  The noodles were perfectly cooked, and the sauce was hearty.  I made it halfway through and had to give up though, because it was SO filling!

My one complaint is that the sauce wasn’t quite salty enough, but with a little extra sprinkled on top that was easily fixed.

Mr. Cross’ fish and chips looked great, and came with the biggest garnish of orange slices I’d ever seen.

When he pulled them off the plate, he explained that the kitchen gives him extra, so he’ll get his daily dose of vitamin C.  What?  Ahhh.  So sweet.

Even though I was incredibly full from my rich meal, I immediately agreed when Cherie said I must try the bread pudding.  How can you say no to a highly recommended dessert?  You cannot.  It would be rude.  Un-ladylike, even.

And I’m sure glad I didn’t, because it was warm, buttery, mildly spiced, and covered in a soft, vanilla bean-studded caramel sauce.  The best sweet bread pudding I’ve ever had, actually, and large enough to feed about 4 people.  After eating more of it than I should have in the first place, I packed up the rest up and enjoyed it the next morning.  Phenomenal.

Harold’s Bistro is one of the busiest hotel restaurants I’ve seen so far, and I got the sense it’s a favourite spot for more than just Mr. Cross.  They do tasty, unpretentious food, and of course there’s the long-running staff.  Customers don’t go to restaurants for 30 years without great service, nor do servers stay somewhere for 25 years without great management.  Buttery bread pudding is great, but feeling genuinely welcomed is even better.  A huge thank you to Harold’s for a wonderful lunch, and to Mr. Cross for hosting me.

We can’t all aspire to have a restaurant named after us someday, but I do hope that if I live to be 91, I have as many admirers as he does.

Or at the very least, my picture on the wall with Elvis.

PS – Just one more story about Mr. Cross (I can’t help it).  You’d think that someone who eats out every day can’t cook, but that is soooo not to the case with Mr. Cross.  He actually loves cooking, and shared the food prep duties with Jeanne for their entire marriage.  They loved to entertain together, and he told me his favourite meal to prepare is Chicken Supreme.  He coats chicken breasts in bread crumbs and parmesan, browns them in a pan, and finishes them in the oven.  While they’re baking, he makes “the most important part”: the sauce.

He deglazes the pan with white wine (a direct quote, I kid you not), then adds onions, chicken stock, brandy (if he has it), and whipping cream.  This gets poured over the crunchy chicken breasts, and served with rice pilaf.

Unreal.  Gentlemen, I hope you’re taking notes.

 

Harold’s Bistro and Bar (in The Sheraton Hotel)

7551 Westminster Highway, Richmond BC

604-233-3968

Cash and cards accepted

Vegetarian options available

 

 

30 Comments

  1. Sue

    This is your best post yet in my opinion. Great job. That bread pudding looks to die for.

    Reply
  2. Janice

    Great photographs and stories! And lunch and dessert look good too.

    Reply
  3. FM

    Loved this post so much. It brought tears to my eyes! It was interesting, inspiring and lovely. Great job!

    I always wondered about Harold’s. Now I will make a point of visiting this wonderful, community restaurant. And I hope to run into Harold!

    Reply
  4. Katy

    This is my favorite post so far! Love it!

    Reply
  5. Laurette

    this is really great post I had read about his 90th birthdays last year but to come from you it was better written.
    BTW less salt is better & up to people to add. As you get older you try to use less sodium. Your taste buds adjust slowly. I read packages & amazing to see how much sodium some things have & must to avoid.

    Reply
  6. kate

    great post!
    thanks for a wonderful story.

    Reply
  7. tek

    You have to admit that some of those photoshopped pictures on the walls are just a little bit unsettling… I think they crossed over from charming to creepy with those. I’d have preferred to see one or two like that, not on every single wall.

    Reply
  8. Terry

    What a delightful post – I’d love to try to this restaurant – the goulash looked and sounded so tasty and satisfying, ditto the pudding…and I’d love to eat somewhere that the staff are obviously very special. Great story, Lindsay – thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  9. Marie

    Loved your post, Lindsay! It is great to know the history of a place and yes, indeed, they do have a GREAT dishes in their menu and WONDERFUL staff. Love the pics! Hilarious.

    Reply
  10. Jarod

    Excellent post. It’s a nice break from the cheap unappetizing meals that you’ve been doing.

    Reply
  11. Linda Bateman

    This post is full of passion and a sweet love tone! It might be a fun idea to dine with other Richmond personalities at their favorite places to eat. Thanks Lyndsay!

    Reply
  12. Julia

    This is an interesting story and well written. Thanks for sharing.
    I also want to say that although you always mention at the end of each post if the meal-of-the-day venue has vegetarian options, I would greatly appreciate a review of the menu through a vegan point of view. Thanks.

    Reply
  13. cwid

    What a lovely story about an extraordinary man. He’s part of a dying breed. Your best post yet. Thanks.

    Reply
  14. raymond chan

    Great write up. I am now inspired to try the restaurant the next time I am in Richmond!

    Reply
  15. jem

    Loved this post! Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  16. Wiener Schnitzel

    Hi Lindsay,
    There is an elderly gentleman eating at the McDonalds in Steveston everyday.
    He must be at least 80 years old and he is in a wheelchair, showing off collectors buttons to everyone who seems to care.
    The local high school students high five him all the time.
    Maybe you could interview him, too.
    I’m sure he’s part of Richmond’s history, too.
    Thanks

    Reply
  17. Nicky B

    I am glad you met Mr Cross….I am a Harolds regular more for the story than the food….isn’t he the best??

    Reply
  18. stevestonlass

    I have dined at Harolds only once, and the service was very friendly and efficient. Thank you for the lovely story.

    Reply
  19. Bea ichiiwa

    Thanks Lindsay for a heartwarming story. You made my day!

    Reply
  20. ilovegroovygirl

    Lindsay.

    This is my favorite post! Well done. And let me tell you that I am Hungarian and I know my goulash. Harold’s is truly one of the best! I would love to sit with Mr. Cross and spend the whole day (or 2 or 3 or 4) with him. What a lovely man!

    Reply
  21. ilovegroovygirl

    Oh, and I LOVE the photos on the walls. Each and every one of them make me smile.

    Reply
  22. Nick

    I live right near this place and thought it was just a typical hotel restaurant, I had no idea! Thanks for this.

    Reply
  23. Megan

    Great post Linds! I love reading about your daily adventures!

    Reply
  24. Wiener Schnitzel

    Perfect post.

    Reply
  25. christina

    I actually work there and everytime Harold’s bill comes up, its an automatic “EXTRA ORANGES GUYS!” Hope you really enjoyed the place i work at, staff there is great and so are my bosses :)

    Reply
  26. Ariel

    Hi Lindsay,

    I’ve been reading your blog since day 1 of 365, it’s awesome!

    Just wanted to leave a comment finally because this is such a touching story! I would definitely like to visit this restaurant sometime and hopefully meet Harold :)

    Reply
  27. jcp

    I love this article about Harold Cross, and to pay tribute to this man for loyal service, and being respected to have a location named after him. This article really made my day, I’m glad you got to meet him, and hear his stories. Great post Lindsay.

    Reply
  28. Natasha

    Love this story! Totally one of the good ones :)

    Reply
  29. The Last Supper for Richmond Foodie Blogger | Latinos en Usa

    […] people of Richmond also became the stars of the blog, as was the case in her own favourite post on Day 150 dining with local-legend Mr. Harold […]

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