Requirements for a good lunch:
- fresh local produce cooked well
- good local wine, preferably sparkling
- a wine cellar in an old lift that used to be used to transport bodies
- a toilet haunted by the ghost of an angry man and a little girl
All jokes aside, this describes where I lunched today in Halifax. The Five Fishermen is a popular restaurant in Halifax spread out over two floors. Originally a school that offered education to children from poor families in Halifax (it was the first free public school in Canada), it then became the Halifax Victorian School of Art before being bought by the Snow family and becoming the John Snow & Co. Funeral Home which sadly would be associated with two major disasters not long after.
When the Titanic sank in 1912, the wealthier victims were brought here so that arrangements could be made. A few years later the Halifax explosion (the largest explosion in the world before Hiroshima) claimed over two thousand lives, and many of the bodies ended up here.
Naturally, now there are lots of ghost stories and sightings. Mediums have gone to eat there (and always remark on the presences), and Creepy Canada (seems to be like Most Haunted in the UK) paid them a visit. Curious!
There are tales of taps that turn themselves on and windows that won’t stay closed. Pockets of cold air on hot days, apparitions, an elderly gentlemen with long grey hair appearing infrequently in a mirror or on the landing.
Scariest of all, is that the ladies is haunted by an angry male ghost, and a ghost of a little girl who is really scared and doesn’t realise she is dead. They have had two exorcisms in the bathroom but she has been sighted since. The thinking now is the angry male ghost won’t let her leave. Typical, eh? I can tell you that I decided to wait to use the toilet elsewhere once I heard that.
SO, those are the stories. But what of the restaurant? The downstairs section is modern and bright. An enomatic machine houses the best wines by the glass downstairs, ensuring that you always get it at its best, and some tables sit by a glass walled wine cellar. Upstairs is very classic with stained glass windows from an old French convent lighting one room beautifully, and lots of quirky maritime fixtures abound. The wine cellar as you go up the stairs is the one in the aforementioned mortuary lift.
The wine list is reputed to be one of the best in Halifax, and it has one of the widest local selections of wine. The first two pages of the wine list are entirely devoted to Nova Scotian wines.
I ate there for lunch. I am all about the seafood here and this is what they specialise in so I chose tempura oysters to start (3 for $9), which were perfectly fresh and juicy with some good mayonnaise.
I followed this with a shrimp po boy ($16), a local take on the New Orleans classic. Large succulent North Atlantic shrimps, very lightly battered were served in a brioche bun with salad. You could have this with a stilton caesar salad, garden salad or bowl of soup, I chose the caesar.
To drink I tried two very good and well priced local sparkling wines. Prost from Jost Vineyards (€7.50 a glass), and Crescendo from Gasperau Vineyards (€9 a glass).
Otherwise, there is a comprehensive a la carte and a very well price Prix Fixe menu with three courses for $42 including access to the mussel & salad bar. I do want to check out the Oyster Happy Hour before I go back. All oysters are $1.50 and are served freshly shucked, baked and in other styles with great wine offers by the glass including a chablis for $10. A bit of a bargain.
So there you go! It ticks a lot of boxes and is well worth a visit for the history, a little drama, and definitely for the wine list and super fresh delicious seafood.
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