“There have been many ghost stories here, especially in the women’s washroom,” says our waiter at The Five Fishermen Restaurant & Grill in Halifax. He’s smiling but serious. “Oh yeah,” agrees another waiter, “lots of weird things happen here at night.” Oooh, perfect timing for Halloween…
I’m trying to focus on the copious amounts of seafood I’m being served*, but all I want to do is bolt to the ladies’ washroom to see if the waiters are right. But I do the polite thing and finish my dinner.
It’s an epic Nova Scotia Tasting Menu (in the regular menu, all main courses also come with the hearty mussel and salad bar). First comes the seared scallops on smoked salmon ragout and truffled mashed potatoes, then the butter poached lobster salad with a local arugula greens vinaigrette, paired with the NV Crescendo from Gaspereau Vineyards ($9 glass / $45 bottle) and the 2007 Chardonnay Reserve from Blomidon Estate Winery ($49 bottle). (They offer “the largest selection of Nova Scotia wines, anywhere,” according to their website.)
Next up is the fantastic cornmeal crusted local tuna fillet with a spaghetti of zucchini salsa verde and paired with the 2005 Cabernet France from Jost Vineyards ($9 glass / $43 bottle). To finish off the main courses is a grilled Fundy salmon served with the 2006 L’acadie Brut from L’acadie Vineyards ($78 bottle).
But that’s not all. There was dessert. A selection of locally crafted cheese came with the Acadianna Reserve port from Sainte-Famille Wines, and mini warm chocolate tarts and raspberry coulis & chantilly cream came with the 2004 Borealis Icewine from Benjamin Bridge Winery.
The Five Fishermen Restaurant was originally built as a schoolroom in 1816 and also housed The Victorian College of Art and Design until 1884 (Anna Leonowens, part of her life fictionalized in Anna and the King of Siam and the musical The King and I, was the patron, this being the first school of arts in Canada).
There have been many ghost stories over the years and staff have become accustomed to strange goings on. Taps turn themselves on, glasses fly off shelves, voices are heard in rooms with no one in them, staff have been tapped on the shoulder when no one’s around, a waitresses face was brushed by something and a red handprint appeared on her cheek, and lots of “people” are seen coming and going that disappear when someone tries to talk to them.
My favourite ghost story happened at 3:00 pm when a waiter came in to set up the salad bar. He heard a crash and bent down to find a shattered ashtray on the ground. As he stood back up he saw an older gentleman’s reflection in the mirror walking away. But no one was there.
Years later, at 3:00 pm, an assistant manager saw an older gentleman standing on the landing below, but the restaurant was closed. When he went looking for the man, there was no one there. But he described the same man with long grey hair and a long black coat that the waiter had seen years ago. (In fact, when he recounted the tale to staff later that night, that same waiter immediately re-told his tale.)
My Ghost Story in Time for Halloween
Back in present day, I’ve finished my meal and completely forgotten about all of these ghost stories. I make my way to the ladies room, a tad tipsy from all that wine. As I close the stall door behind me, something moves against the door. I screech like a little girl: oh my God, the ghost!
And then I laugh that embarrassed but spooked laugh that comes out when you realize you’ve just scared yourself: the ghostly sound against the door was actually my own purse bumping against it as I turned around. Loser!
I wasn’t visited by any real ghosts during my dinner at The Five Fishermen, but I sure got a good scare.