Downtown Halifax, Halifax
I have mentioned in numerous tips elsewhere on this page that Halifax is certainly not lacking in very decent places to go and have a drink and / or a bite to eat. The problem arises in which one to choose and, frankly, with the exception of the appalling place down on the waterfront (see tourist trap tip) which was nothing short of a disgrace in terms of service, or more properly complete lack of it, but I would be happy to recommend any of the other fine establishments I visited.
I was slightly surprised to find that so many of the pubs / bars in NS were Irish themed as the predominant British influence in this part of Canada was more Scottish than Irish although there were certainly many of the latter amongst the original settlers. Indeed, the very name Nova Scotia translates as "New Scotland" and tartan, Scottish traditional dancing and music and culture generally are still very strong here. I even bought myself a kilt in Halifax!
On one particular day, I was wandering around "downtown" Halifax on my own, my travelling companion being a little unwell and having decided to stay at home, when I stumbled completely accidentally upon the Loose Cannon. It had been a long, hard day sightseeing and I really fancied a pint and so in I strolled. Actually, I was somewhat attracted by the name, having been thus described by more than one officer in my Service days many years ago!
It was mid-afternoon on a midweek day, and as the images probably suggest, the place was not really busy at all. Straight to the bar and ordered my pint from a decent selection and was immediately engaged in friendly conversation by the barman who had heard my fairly pronounced and obviously not local accent. Taking my seat to enjoy my pint, I was almost immediately engaged in conversation by the three gentlemen you can see in the second image here. The usual, "where had I been in Canada?", "how long had I been in Canada?", was it my first visit?", "was I enjoying my holiday" and so on. All very sociable which made me feel very comfortable and I really do think this is what a good bar should be about. I had wandered in here as a complete stranger and felt like a "local" in about five minutes flat, great stuff. Maritime Province people seem to be very keen to promote their region which is heartening but there really is no reason to, the place is so inherently wonderful it speaks for itself. The hospitality is very much appreciated by us visitors though.
I had been deputed to cook for my slightly "off-colour" travelling companion and so I had to curtail what would have undoubtedly have been a bit of an evening in this excellent pub but that was the deal. Lynne drove and performed mechanic functions and I did the cooking. Odd to some people perhaps but it works for us. We were staying a little out of town and so I had to bid a fond farewell with the notion I would return again, a wish that sadly never materialised due to circumstance.
I had not even checked the menu here for reasons as stated but a look online whilst researching this tip shows a very decent selection of food including one of the loves of my life namely haggis! I know it is not to everyone's taste but I adore it. Like most Nova Scotian pubs / bars, they seem to have daily specials at very competitive prices (as well as a very decent a la carte offering) so if you are on a budget then have a look at those on the menu. Most days they have a $6:99 and a $9:99 special except on the weekend when they offer a $6:99 special and brunch starting at $5:99 which is cheap for the centre of a Provincial capital.
This place is clean and tidy and is so incredibly friendly and I have no hesitation in recommending it.
I noticed when I was in the Maritime Provinces of Canada that pubs and restaurants are effectively the same thing. Unless you go to an extremely upmarket restaurant, you are likely to be eating in what I (from UK) would describes as a pub. I am completely in favour of this concept, I had many excellent meals in "pubs" in Nova Scotia that I would have expected to spend about three times the money on in London, where I live, and this place is one such. I have decided to make two tips about Maxwell's Plum pub / restaurant as I believe it deserves to be recognised both as a pub and as a place to eat, it does both things rather well. I make no apology for doing this as I believe that, hopefully, it will assist the traveller to Halifax.
The city is rather well served for places of this type and, frankly, the visitor can more or less pick whichever he or she chooses and probably won't be disappointed with the sole exception of the waterfront place where I could not even get served (see separate tip on this page). My friend and I were wandering about downtown with no particular plan and we spied this place. Well, we had had a long and extremely wonderful day wandering about the Citadel and other places and I thought a beer was called for and so we wandered into what was a clean but fairly basic pub. No fancy nonsense, just a fairly large, spotlessly clean bar with quite a few people in there.
We perched ourselves up at the bar (as is my wont) and I asked the barman what he had in the way of beer. Well, that was the start of it! He immediately produced a beer menu the likes of which I have rarely seen outside Belgium or Holland. It had just about everything on there from local and American beers, through European imported beers (and cider) and right up to a section entitled "We don't know what these are". Now there is honesty in marketing if ever I saw it. As it happened, I actually knew what all of them were, but that's just me.
If I may quote a song lyric here from my mate Fish, I was "trapped in the indecision of another fine menu", there was just such a selection. The barman, ever helpful and friendly as seems to be the way in the Maritime Provinces, suggested that maybe a sampling board would be in order. Basically that is where you pick four beers and they give you a reasonably small glass of each, then you decide which one you want to have a large glass of. I think it is an inspired idea.
After sampling, I decided on which I fancied and ordered that. Heaven knows it was a difficult choice. We had a light meal which, as I say, I shall report on in a restaurant tip as it definitely was restaurant quality food, finished our drinks and regrettably left as we had to get public transport back to our campsite in Dartmouth. We did, however, return the next day after another long day sightseeing and treated ourselves to a thing I don't even know the proper name of and had only hitherto seen in Asia. It is effectively your own beer tap which looks a bit like an old soda machine. The central core is filled with ice and the outer with beer so it remains cold. There is a tap so you basically pour your own beer. I know I am not describing it very well so I hope the image gives you some idea. I think it is a brilliant idea.
Just one further thing to mention. If you are on a budget and watching the pennies / cents then there are some great beer deals in here depending on the day. Check out the attached website or inhouse advertising for details.
Maxwell's Plum (where did they get that name?) is clean, friendly and with good service whilst being "no frills". If you want a "posh" place, this may not be for you but it suits me right down to the ground as it is my kind of place and I highly recommend it.