A night out in Halifax’s South End on a fine October evening is a wonderful way to take advantage of our city’s inviting fall season. Kicking off my experience on an unusually warm day, I checked into the Halliburton Hotel right at 3 p.m. I intended to take advantage of my one-night stay, relax, and get into some work from my temporary quarters overlooking Morris Street, all while sporting a fluffy white robe.
The Halliburton is a boutique hotel, located on Morris Street between Hollis and Barrington. Built in the early 1800s, the hotel was the home of Sir Brenton Halliburton, the first Chief Justice of the Nova Scotia Supreme Court. A quick bit of research shows its red brick façade was added during a renovation in the 1890s. The property is historic and distinguished, a completely different experience to a large, branded hotel.
After getting the key to my one-bedroom suite on the third floor of the main building—the Halliburton comprises of three heritage townhouses and a lush courtyard—I carried my bag up the set of wide, carpeted staircases to check out the situation. Inside I found a large sitting room with a deep brown leather sofa, small fold-down wooden desk, working fireplace, comfy chair and a small wet bar with a mini-fridge. The adjoining bedroom, like the sitting room, had large windows set so deep form the wall the sills were more like reading nooks. The high, soft bed looked comfortable and there were two sets of the terry cloth robes (and slippers) I’d hoped for. Making myself at home, I got comfortable lounging and working away before a reservation in the dining room at 6:00 p.m.
Later I headed to the main floor for dinner at Stories, the restaurant just off the lobby. A classic dining room with wooden floors, upholstered Mahogany chairs and white linen, Stories is known for “casual fine dining” and head chef Scott Vail has been at the helm for over twenty years. My guest and I were seated near the window overlooking Morris Street. A dark sideboard table lined with tea light candles was just across the room and a large, ornately framed mirror hung overhead making the small space seem larger. There was an adjoining dining room about the same size through a nearby door, I peeked in and found it connected to the kitchen.
Our server was personable and walked us through the small menu, answering questions along the way. The duck three ways immediately caught my attention as a first course—I love duck—and the duck prosciutto is made in house (I asked). We ordered wines by the glass (we were getting drastically different dishes) and watched as the ambience of the room transformed as the sun went down. The row of tea lights flickered in the mirror, and the romantic vibe became very relaxed.
The duck trio offered fatty, rich duck prosciutto, duck rillette garnished with a sliver of crostini, and sliced, smoked duck. All three iterations were complemented by stone fruit chutney and roasted golden beets on the plate, but the savoury rillette was my favourite match. For my main, I went big. The beef strip loin, rare, topped with a piece of delicate, fall-apart prime rib, tangy bleu d’Auvergne cheese, and a red wine reduction. The steak was accompanied by grilled seasonal vegetables—asparagus, zucchini, carrots, and red pepper, and it rested on top of crisped potato pave. About as classic and timeless as you can get. My strip loin was cooked to perfection, and the tender chunk of prime rib absolutely melted in my mouth.
Dessert was a summer berry tart in a pastry shell, with blackberries and blueberries, and topped with a small scoop of pear and Armagnac (a French brandy) sorbet. The tart was big enough to share, and I went for a glass of 10-year Taylor Fladgate port to accompany my final course; a great end to a traditional and satisfying three-course meal. While wrapping up, I used the Casino Taxi app to order a car, as we (kind of urgently) had a show to get to. Tracking the cab’s location on the app meant we stepped outside the Halliburton just as our driver pulled up. After a short drive down the road, we made it to the second floor James Dunn Theatre (inside the Dalhousie Arts Centre) just on time for a Live Art Dance performance. Live Art Dance presents a performance series featuring local, national, and international artists. It was my first time taking in one of their shows and I was pleased to see a full theatre as we took our seats. The room was dark, almost pitch black, when artistic director Randy Glynn briefly introduced the performance.
In Halifax for two nights, Alan Lake Factori(e) is a company based in Québec City, created, choreographed (collaboratively) and directed by Alan Lake. The performance that evening, Le cris des méduses, involved ten artists, including eight dancers, one musician, and Lake. The piece was inspired by the famous painting, The Raft of the Medusa (Le Radeau de la Méduse) by artist Théodore Géricault, said to be an icon of French Romanticism. Lake was inspired by the “state of emergency” shown in the painting—a shipwreck scene representing the aftermath of French naval frigate Méduse running aground in 1816, after which more than 147 people were set afloat on a hastily constructed raft. Most wound up dying after 13 torturous days of starvation, dehydration, and cannibalism at sea.
Intense and deeply physical, the performance at times approached violence. Self-billed as similar to “pagan ritual,” the scenes were powerful. The set featured a large, harsh piece of wood that was pulled around and manipulated, sometimes vertically, to represent the side of the ship. The dancers were variously nude, partially clothed, and, at the end, one performer emerged from a tub completely covered in gold body paint. The music was eerie, at times loud and obtrusive, making things uncomfortable. And the entire performance was (literally and figuratively) very dark. Looking at an image of the painting, I feel Lake well represented the desperation, bodily contact, death, and destruction. I can’t say
I entirely understood what he was trying to convey in every scene, but it was a vivid 65-minute performance I’m glad to have experienced.
After the show, we exited into fresh, cool air and simply walked back to the Halliburton. The ten-minute stroll was energizing—a perfect excuse to stay up for a glass of wine in the suite before crawling into the high, soft bed after a night of food, wine, and performance.