Pubs in Halifax: laurels and brickbats
With the cold weather and the Season of Brown Food approaching, and so many "authentic" pubs opening in Halifax, I thought it might be useful to start a thread on the topic.
Krisie recently posted about Elephant & Castle:
I tried Durty Nelly's, a new "Irish-style" pub on Argyle recently. The owners have put a lot of effort into the decor, which apparently was inspired by a Pub in a village in Clare, but it is big room and though it is well thought-out, it still has a "pub kit" vibe. Note that the menu items painted on the facade are purely decorative. There is no shepherd's pie on the menu. I had Irish stew. The serving was very large. It wasn't richly flavoured, but it was appropriately simple (lots of carrot, a some potato, I may have noticed a bit of turnip) and pretty good. It came topped with dumplings which were called "gnocchi" in the menu. They were good dumplings (light, soft in texture, nicely bland), but not very good gnocchi, so let's call them dumplings instead. My companion had the Kilkenny battered haddock sandwich, which he declared a bit greasy but otherwise tasty. He liked the fries, which were made from frozen and wedge-shaped, with skins.
Neither of us liked the house ale, which we found a bit over-carbonated and lacking in character.
Thirding Henry House. They have great homemade fries and potato skins. My favourite dish is the chicken and leek pie - so nice on a cold winter's day.
I went to Durty Nelly's last night and it was pretty mediocre. I had wings and potato skins, since they were half off during happy hour. The wings were nothing special and the "potato skins" were kettle chips with a smattering of melted cheese and bacon. Would not recommend it at all.
Fifthing (is that a word?) the Henry House. Food is good, service is friendly, and the have amazing beer. It ticks all of my pub boxes and living around the corner from it means I go a fair bit. I wasn't a fan of the prepackaged feel of Durty Nelly's and haven't been back.
Henry House is a great space, run by people who don't like their customers. The beer is often sour, bringing me to wonder if they ever clean their lines more than annually. If you are served a bad beer, I guarantee you that if you try to take it back, you will be told that is the way it is supposed to taste. And they will continue to serve sour beer to their other customers. If there is something wrong with your meal, they will take it to the kitchen, and then bring it back saying "the cook says that is how it is supposed to be", and they WILL charge you for it, even if you then order something else. This has happened too many times now for it to be a one-off. Yes, it is a classic cosy pub space, up and down stairs, and the food is usually very good. Many people swear by it, but I suspect they cannot tell sour beer from good, they are there drinking off beer so often. Or else they are not drinking the Granite beers. You just better like what they serve, because here, the customer is always wrong. Going here is like driving a nice car with no warranty.
If you want Granite Brewery beer as it should be; fresh; buy it in growlers from their new Stairs Street location, or grab a pint at The Lions Head. Not real ale, no, but not stale ale.
Right now, and these things change, the best pub in Halifax for beer and food is the Hart and Thistle, in the old Harbourfront Market space at the end of Historic Properties.
It opened in summer with great beer, but not so great food. That has changed, as with the closure of O'Carroll's restaurant and Pub, this has now become the new home of O'Carroll's kitchen staff, including Chef Collin Stone.
Sporting beers from Propeller, Garrison and Pumphouse, and the obligatory Keith's, plus two specials made on premise (the former John Shippey's brewhouse has been resurrected by former Shippeys/Garrison/Pumphouse brewmaster Greg Nash) that are designed for beer geeks and those who love extreme brews, this is THE beer place in town. Yes, Maxwell's has more taps, but 80% of those are Molbatt's products or the like, and many micros are not served fresh. (exception is Friday afternoon's 4:30 pm tapping of a fresh firkin of Garrison beer, made as a one-off every week).
The next best place for beer is Rogues Roost, with what is normally a very good selection of their brewpub beers, although the food has seemingly gone downhill a bit, or others have simply surpassed it.
And I agree with the above assessment of Durty Nellys. When you cry forever and ever about being an "authentic" Irish Pub in Halifax, Canada, just because you had the wood shipped in pre-made like Ikea furniture from Ireland, that does not give you the right to serve Molsons/Rickards as your house beer and maintain your supposed "authenticity".
Though I will admit that a recent meal there was very good. It just is not real, while pretending to be. And there is something about that that leaves a bad taste. But the place is full, so don't listen to me, go see for yourself. Maybe you'll love it.
Thanks, Brewnoser, for such a detailed post.
I haven't been to Henry House very many times, but I have to admit that the food is pretty much on par with slightly-fancy pubs in England. That's not saying much, but I'll give them good marks for accuracy! I'm always a sucker for a Ploughman's Lunch, though. Any pub that offers one of those gets extra points from me.
I had really lacklustre lunch at the Hart & Thistle quite a while ago, but I think I'll give it another try, in light of the changes. It doesn't have a cozy atmosphere, and in during the tourist season it would probably be a bit too bonkers but for an afternoon pint and snack with a view, I'll give it a try.
I had a late, light dinner and a beer at Rock Bottom recently. A friend described the atmosphere of this place as "airport bar", and I'd agree. I didn't eat enough to give a good assessment of the food, but what I did try (pierogi app & salad) was pretty run of the mill.