Cocktails and oysters shine at Argyle Street beauty

Lot Six Bar & Restaurant has hit its stride. Since opening just over two years ago in the heart of Halifax’s entertainment district and working hard to find its place in the city’s dining scene, Lot Six has settled into a comfortable nightly routine shaped by freshly shucked Maritime oysters and a cocktail culture led by one of the most sought-after mixologists in the city. Lot Six radiates an energetic and youthful appeal — while capitalizing on classic touches in food, drink, service and surroundings.

“We are a cocktail bar, first and foremost,” says Sarah Amyotte, restaurant manager at Lot Six. Amyotte works closely with bar manager and head mixologist Shane Beehan to highlight the cocktail offerings and the overall restaurant experience. “Everything that comes to the table is hand pressed, freshly made; all of our syrups are made in-house, all of our cocktails are created by the team that works behind the bar,” says Amyotte. “The educational side of things is so important — we do our best to not only sell the cocktails that we create in-house but educate people on classic cocktail culture.”

The individualistic approach to service at Lot Six is partially due to the layout of the restaurant. Once you step off the sidewalk on Argyle Street into the space, it becomes clear there is more than one way to eat or drink (or both) your way through an evening here; it is a very old building with many nooks and crannies. My visit is for the entire dining experience, so I’m led past the front area (where a horseshoe-shaped bar gives the perfect show of oyster shucking and drink shaking), deeper into the historic building that houses Lot Six, to the atrium.

There is a real courtyard feel inside the atrium, with its high glass ceiling letting in bright daylight and offering a peek of neighbouring buildings’ stone and stucco exteriors. This space is versatile and designed to accommodate bigger groups and those who want long, leisurely meals. There are low-top tables on the main floor, large banquettes, raised sections around the perimeter with oversized wicker chairs, and a handful of high-top seats. The back wall is entirely exposed red brick, and is lined with the second bar, busy with staff, where I’m seated. The comfy, plush brown leather bar stools have great back support and are designed for lengthier stays. A bartender promptly drops off waters and menus; it’s time to think about cocktails.

“This is the first time we did [the cocktail list] like this. We broke down the approach to the cocktail, or kind of wrote a few little notes about it,” says Amyotte. I order On a Whim, described as “refreshing, fruity and complex,” which is spot on for a cocktail crafted with Pimm’s, gin, blueberry, strawberry, cucumber, soda water and mint. A last taste of summer, if you will, bright and easy, but with the gentle herby bitterness of Pimm’s coming through. Neighbouring drink entries on the list describe being perfect for sipping before or after the meal or are described as a twist on a certain classic cocktail.

Oysters are shucked by staff behind the front bar; this is part of the entertainment philosophy Amyotte describes. I order a dozen — three each of the four kinds offered tonight. Beehan shows up shortly after, presenting them in a branded wooden box filled with crushed ice. He quickly and confidently educates us on the oysters, describing their flavour profiles and pointing out the house-made accoutrements of mignonette and fresh horseradish. The large, meaty Pristine Bay oysters from Nova Scotia with their smooth brine prove to be the favourite of the night.

As expected, a dozen oysters don’t last too long, and even before the final slurps, appetizers are being dropped off. The Sticky Ribs I ordered come stacked in a shallow white bowl, and following a hasty attempt to navigate them with a fork and knife, I’m soon picking them up with my hands and easily devouring fall-off-the-bone pork that’s been glazed with sweet maple balsamic and seared until delightfully crispy and caramelized on the outside. Next, I’m discussing wine pairings for the main course with my bartender. What goes with fried chicken? A few options and we settle on a lighter bodied Tempranillo.

Daylight fades and the atrium ceiling is soon framing only the black night sky. The lights strung from the highest apex start to bounce off the glass, creating a tantalizing star-like effect inside the space. The light is flattering and intimate; the Edison-style light bulbs that hang above the bar and subtle walls sconces are gentle and dimmed. Wine is poured and the sounds of the space take me into the moment — cheerful background conversations, laid-back hip-hop, the constant percussion of drink shakers. I am relaxed.

“Our chef, Jason [Reddick], does an incredible job of elevated comfort food,” says Amyotte about the menu design. “It’s approachable, it’s recognizable.” Aiming to complement the rest of the experience, Reddick doesn’t overwhelm customers with choices or trendy ingredients. Fried chicken and frites arrive for the main event, and the portion is bigger than I expected. I start to suspect that choosing ribs for a second course wasn’t the best way to achieve longevity during this meal. Presented on a slate are two pieces of crispy, breaded dark meat (drum and thigh) drizzled with a rich white barbecue sauce, an overflowing tin of fresh-cut frites, and a little pile of house-made bread-and-butter pickles. The chicken is, as it should be, extremely tender and wonderfully juicy, and the breading is crispy, light and not too greasy. They have this fried chicken thing down. The bread-and-butter pickles are sweet and not too tangy, but serve as the needed palate cleanser.

I order a 10-year-old tawny port and take a breather. Dessert is a must, and I’m splitting one with my date. It’s the only dessert to make a consecutive appearance on the seasonally changing menus: an Acadian maple sugar pie tart served with house-made bourbon pecan ice cream. One bite of the crust and I think I know why: it tastes like grandmother’s house — undeniably buttery, salty and comforting. The maple sugar base isn’t overpoweringly sweet, just enough to balance. The real punch of sweetness is delivered by the ice cream — one scoop that’s on a bed of crunchy, candied caramel oats and rye caramel sauce. It’s simply a really nice dessert. It’s pie and ice cream, and it’s not too complicated.