Photos courtesy Five Fisherman Restaurant
Contributor Maureen Littlejohn visits the highly-rated Five Fishermen Restaurant in Halifax, Nova Scotia … and gets a history lesson, too
If you like good food and fascinating history, The Five Fisherman Restaurant in downtown Halifax Canada serves up both in abundance. Chef Chris Kyprianou’s carefully curated dinner menu combines the best of seasonal, often local, ingredients with a touch of surprising sweet or spicy inventiveness.
Starters include a Nova Scotia seafood chowder chock full of scallops, clams, shrimp, mussels, and salmon. There’s a daily ceviche or, if fish isn’t your thing, pork belly tostada with charred corn and crispy quinoa. Wood grilled fish (salmon, arctic char, Mahi Mahi, swordfish) comes with your choice of signature sauce: maple brown butter, Asian BBQ, pineapple salsa or chimichurri.
Despite the restaurant’s name, carnivores have quite a few choices including slow cooked short ribs and wood grilled steaks. There are even options for vegans and vegetarians, including a grilled cauliflower with polenta and leeks or wood grilled mushrooms and tofu.
In my opinion, the best comes last since the desserts are heavenly. Cedar smoked smores with torched marshmallow, caramel and peanut butter cream that woke up my taste buds with just the right touch of charred fluff, gooey caramel and silky nut cream. My partner had the coconut chi latte cheesecake, daubed with chai tea syrup, coconut foam and delicate black sesame tuile.
History and Heritage at The Five Fishermen Restaurant
Eating fabulous food, however, is not enough at The Five Fisherman. You have to soak in the incredible backstory of this protected Heritage site. Built in 1817 as a schoolhouse, it was the first in Canada to offer a free education to the poor. Later, it was sold to Anna Leonowens who turned it into the Halifax Victorian School of Art. Prior to opening the school, Anna had been a governess to the King of Siam and wrote the book Anna and the King of Siam, which went on to become a Broadway play and the movie The King and I. The art school eventually moved and became the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design.
After Anna left, the building was taken over by the Snow family who ran a funeral home there. In 1912 when the RMS Titanic went down, some of the wealthier victims were brought to the Snow funeral home until their families could arrange to get them home. Two of the most well-known men laid out at the Snow mortuary were John Jacob Astor IV, the richest man on the ship, and Charles M Hayes, president of the Grand Trunk Railroad. The funeral home also dealt with the aftermath of the Halifax Explosion in 1917, when more than two thousand people were killed after munitions ships collided in Halifax harbour.
The building was put to a few other uses over the years, including being a warehouse, but in 1975 the owners of The Five Fisherman took possession and it has been a restaurant ever since.
This is a must-do in Halifax. Even if you’re only in the area for lunch or are looking for lighter fare, you can still steep in the building’s deep history at the Little Fish Oyster Bar downstairs.
Maureen Littlejohn has been writing about entertainment, lifestyle and travel for longer than she’d care to disclose. Currently, she is executive director of Culture Magazin (no e!).
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