In Halifax, we’re blessed with a profusion of “family” restaurants---restaurants, typically Greek-owned, that serve up homestyle meals at good prices. You know these places:They’re the ones with the daily specials that include soup, and rice pudding or Jell-o. Full of students at breakfast, business people at lunch and seniors in for early supper, these dining rooms serve a great cross-section of the public.
My taste in food runs from high end to low end: I love my foie gras and can scarf back chicken wings for breakfast, but whenever I want “comfort food” and don’t feel like cooking, I head out to one of my shortlist of family favourites.
One of these was the Brass Rail on Kearney Lake Road. That is, until an NSLC outlet popped up in its place and the Brass Rail was no more. Initially, I mourned its passing as a victim of the industry, but happily it turns out the Brass Rail went willingly and it has now resurfaced in a new location---the former Mike’s in Bedford Place Mall.
I decide to beat a quick path there to see how the restaurant has made the transition. The dining room has tall booths and terracotta tiles and is decorated with a warm colour palette that’s much cozier than the Brass Rail’s former home.
I’m delighted to see the signature grilled halibut is still on the menu, along with other seafoods, pasta and Greek specialties. One welcome addition is a move from frozen fries to the hand-cut variety, sure to please the fish and chip fans.
We’re having the pork chops ($9.99) and the Greek platter ($15.99). The chops, two fairly large ones, are cooked nicely with not a hint of dryness. The roast potatoes are the big wedges of olive-oil-brushed Greek-style roast potatoes---lemony and delicious.
The vegetables are best left since the formerly yellow or green string beans are almost the same colour and are not so great.
The Greek platter is made up of a chicken souvlaki skewer, moussaka, Greek salad and rice and tzatziki sauce. There’s nothing to nitpick at here, it’s all great.
Desserts are offered, but most are of the frozen variety so we avoid that list and go straight for the rice pudding, made right there and tasting as if it came right from a mother’s kitchen.
Although the food is good, the service is not so much: In fact, it’s practically non-existent. Aside from glimpsing an arm as our dinner plates are set in front of us, we barely see our waiter. It’s a busy night, so I decide to go back in case this is an anomaly.
On a slow mid-week mid-afternoon, I enjoy a hearty tomato and pasta soup of the day and the deservedly famous grilled haddock ($11.99). Delicate, flaky and utterly fabulous, this is one piece of fish that deserves all the praise it gets.
Again, I ignore my mushy vegetables.
Disappointingly, the service is no better. It’s indifferent at best and I’m not a hard customer to serve. Tossing off a “honey” or “dear” in passing does not replace a quality check, and there’s the “cheque rush,” before I’m asked if I’ve finished. It’s too bad, because at the old spot the service was usually excellent---I never felt as though I was a bother, as I did today.
The Brass Rail kitchen has landed, delightfully competent and intact, at the new location. Sadly, the same can’t be said of my experience with the service.