Halifax's Best Fish & Chips gets makeover

Willman's Fish & Chips is an institution in the north end of Halifax. Open on the corner of Kane and Isleville Streets since 1946, the restaurant recently received a welcomed makeover. When I arrive on a Sunday evening at 5pm, it's almost full. I choose a large table and await my friends. Taking in my surroundings, I really like what I see--- there are a dozen or so tables in the bright, ochre-coloured dining room. Two sides of the restaurant are lined with windows and the natural light comes gushing in. As I wait, a steady stream of customers comes in and out picking up their take-out orders; from the looks of things, the kitchen is busy.

My friends arrive with their new baby and we catch up for a while before placing our orders. The friendly server checks in and when we're finally ready, I let my friends order their mains first; knowing full well that one of us has to order the resto's namesake.

My friend chooses the two-piece fish and chips ($7.99) with a side order of coleslaw (99 cents), while her partner orders the scallops and chips for $8.50. I decide on a non-seafood item: a chicken burger ($6.99) and small fries ($3.45). I also get a can of pop for $1.50. We order a plate of calamari to start. It's served with the homemade tartar sauce for $7.50.

The food arrives quickly, but all at the same time as opposed to the starter first. My friend's fish and chips is a gigantic-sized serving---one I could never even put a dent in. The large pieces of fish are incredible; the haddock is perfectly cooked and tender within its extra crispy batter. The batter itself is light and with such a thin layer, it maintains its crunch without going soggy. The fries are hand-cut with the skin on and cooked so as to be soft, not crispy. That's not to my style, but my friends claim them as their "favourite kind of fry," so we agree to disagree. Our opinions differ again when it comes to the coleslaw; I'm not a fan of the über-creamy slaw, preferring a lightly dressed one instead. But my friend gobbles hers up and I offer her mine as well.

The satisfying seafood continues and I'm shocked when I bite into a scallop---it's incredibly supple and succulent within its savoury batter.

The calamari is equally good: When trying calamari from a new-to-me resto, I'm always hesitant, afraid of tasting deep-fried rubber bands. I'm thrilled to find the squid just cooked within its crispy shell. The house-made tartar sauce on the side is lovely, with a burst of lemon.

My chicken burger is OK, but not something I'd order again. It consists of two chicken strips on a white bun with iceberg lettuce and mayo. I suspect that the chicken strips are of the frozen variety and I find myself left with a good portion of bread once it's gone.

The funny thing about my visit to Willman's is that even without particularly enjoying my own meal, I'll definitely come back based on a couple bites of my friend's meals. It's not difficult to make deep-fried food taste good---it does that on its own---but I'm pleasantly surprised at how well Willman's makes the fish within that crispy shell taste.

I decide to walk home instead of taking the bus. I've just had some very good fried food, but it's fried food nonetheless so the exercise will do me good. I realize on the way home that I'm already making a mental note of my friends who'd enjoy a feed of fish and chips at Willman's. Though my friends and I disagree on some points of the meal, differing opinions show that, what might not be right for everyone, might be just right for some.


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