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Halifax: The Press Gang

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I had occasion to revisit The Press Gang on Prince St. for the first time in about 5 years this week. I was looking forward to it since my previous vist had been excellent and I couldn't really figure out why I hadn't gone since.

The interior of the place is very old and full of character, basically a series of small rooms with lots of stone, beams and wooden panelled walls. The furniture is old also and unfortunately that meant we were seated in very uncomfortable (and I believe cheap) older wooden armchairs. We were handed sheets of paper that were the menus and wine list. Our server was friendly and casual.

This is the frustrating thing about The Press Gang. The furniture, service, and atmosphere are both casual, yet prices are very high given that level of offering. Couldn't they afford a decent-looking menu holder? If they're charging me $70 for a $26 bottle of Nautilus Sauvignon Blanc I would think so. The same holds true for the food items. Apps were $9-$16, mains from $23 to $40. I ordered a roasted beet salad and was fairly unimpressed with both the presentation and the flavor of the dish itself. For a main I chose the sea bass and again was unimpressed -- a small piece of fish, rather oily, with some small chunks of sweet potato and vegetable that was totally forgettable and relatively flavorless.

In fairness some others were luckier. One person ordered the chowder as an appetizer and came away impressed, and others had oysters that were fresh and flavorful. A "rack of veal" got mixed reviews; one person liked it, another found it fatty and was unimpressed. There was nothing that blew anyone away. The service was friendly and enthusiastic but very spotty as well; dishes were misplaced in front of the wrong customer, and finding a clean fork, knife or spoon when needed was always a bit of a challenge. There was simply nothing about the evening that lived up to the prices being asked, which was my biggest gripe. I mentioned the wine prices, which were beyond ridiculous, approaching 3 times the shelf price, but menu prices also failed to match up to the quality of the dishes offered.

In short, The Press Gang seems like other places run by Victor Syperek; a funky, interesting room but an indifferent food offering and service that fails to impress. I won't be recommending it any time soon.

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  1. Greg B:

    On our trips to Halfiax one spot which was consistently recommended by others but which we found lacking was the Press Gang.

    As you have described interesting decor, etc. but in the end, the food did not meet our expectations given the price. We find Halifax an expensive city to dine but that is not a complaint given the types of restaurants we intended to try. We know that, expect that and it remains comparable with other cities we visit like Victoria, Vancouver, Calgary, Montreal and Ottawa. You just want to get value for money.

    On our last visit, admittedly all of five years ago, we tried again. Looking back at it now it is almost laughable because it is not the food nor the prices I remember as much as the "jerk" who was hosting. He was so bad and full of attitude...unlike virtually every one else we met in Halifax restaurants...blue striped t-shirt a la Marseille under jacket with sleeves rolled up to his elbows...that I initially thought he was trying to fit into the sailor/pirate motif. He must have been one of the "beautiful people" in the local industry.

    I went to Dal in the '70's. Right out of the Jury Room or the Office back oh-so long ago [smile]. Mind you I was more of a Derby, Midtown, Hollis Street Tavern struggling student so you would not have seen me at Fat Franks, Clipper Kay or the Henry House in those days [grin].

    You mentioned Nautilus Sauv Blanc. Coincidentally it became our holiday wine that trip but more often down at Bish or other restaurants. We could find their pinot noir in Alberta but the sauv blanc was a new one [at least then] for us.

    Keep the reviews coming. Once again we are hoping to be able to cobble together enough money and holiday time to get back to Nova Scotia this summer but have been saying that for too many years. Will order my "Do'ers and Dreamers Guide" in the New Year.