Ma Belle’s Cafe delights tandem tea-sippers with afternoon high tea served in welcoming surrounds that include a cozy fireplace. Nibbling duos can engage in Pythagorean theorizing as they chomp through a roster of triangular, crustless sandwiches that enfold fillings such as egg salad, cucumber, and tuna in a delicate breaded hug. Individual pots of tea prevent arm wrestles for the last sip, and quaffers can choose to melt mouth-cave icicles with one of 30 varieties of flavoured infusions including pumpkin spice, coconut-mango, and Earl Grey. Alternatively, a cup of filter coffee affords drinkers the piping-hot temperature of tea without the dangers of accidentally divining each others’ futures. As a dulcet epilogue, a flock of assorted house-made treats including mini scones and mini cupcakes serenade sweet teeth with mini ballads.
Every six months, according to The Coast magazine, Chef David Clarke begins updating his menu at Nectar Restaurant and Wine Bar. Those seasonal changes have been met with consistent acclaim, including The Coast's honor of "Best Dartmouth Restaurant" five years running. The ever-evolving menu has been known to spotlight mains such as braised rabbit in Pomeroy mustard sauce and prosciutto-wrapped monkfish paired with sautéed brussel sprouts. Chef David continues flexing his culinary creativity at brunch via housemade risotto crab cakes and crepes filled with bacon and asparagus.
Nectar's bartenders match that creativity with a slate of inventive martinis—which includes the garlic-tinged Janes' Bond and the mandarin-kissed Southern Peach—and an extensive wine list. High-backed, white chairs juxtapose the dining room's black floors and tables, creating a striking tableau accented with damask-patterned wallpaper and bright chandeliers. Amid this upscale ambiance, the staff hosts themed occasions such as bring-your-own-wine Tuesdays and vegan Wednesdays. On Sundays, Nectar presents live performances from local musicians Daniel Matto and Georges Hebert, who enliven the air with a blend of jazz standards and the occasional organ stab whenever a date reveals something shocking.
In 1976, Glen and May Young established the first May Garden Restaurant—a tiny take-out restaurant fixed along Beaverbank Road in Lower Sackville. Just under two decades later, Glen and May's nephew, Eric, bought the restaurant, and has since reproduced the success of the original mom-and-pop shop at two other locations.
Eric quickly expanded May Garden to a second location in Bedford, then a third in Dartmouth. Even with that continued growth, the original restaurant sticks to its roots. When Eric bought the first May Garden in 1993, he retained the original open-kitchen policy so diners could watch chefs tangle with dancing flames as they fry Dop Woey Almond Ding or do the moonwalk after they form the perfect eggroll. Guests get a front-row seat as the varied menu blooms into colourful dishes, including curries, Szechuan offerings, and chef specialties.
The chefs at Caribbean Twist import near-meridian flavours all the way up the globe to Halifax with their spicy jerk chicken, stewed oxtail, and vegetarian curry potato roti wraps. The staff expects some confusion from those who are new to Caribbean food, but have taken measures to preemptively stave off any anxiety. They included a short FAQ section to the menu to answer such important basic questions as "What's ackee?," "Is everything hot and spicy?," and "What animal does oxtail come from?" Their insistence that every bite and sip be true to its Jamaican roots extends all the way to the dessert menu, which is drawn up by resident baker Fatima Adam. Fatima crafts all desserts in-house, including mango cheesecake, coconut cream pie, and basbousa, a sweet cornbread-like cake soaked in syrup.
This commitment to crafting exotic dishes and fresh jamaican patties has earned Caribbean Twist an army of avid fans and awards, including Best Desserts Category for Eastlink Magazine's "Nova Scotia's Best" and their jerk chicken winning the 2011 North-End Community Cook-Off. When a zoning issue threatened to permanently close the café in 2010, these loyal patrons rose up and helped save the modest eatery.
Established in 1938, Java Blend is a small-batch family-owned roastery and café located in the heart of Halifax. Like a reclusive film director, Java Blend has accumulated decades of experience resulting in an avalanche of accolades, including the Krups Kup of Excellence award for best espresso in Halifax. Java Blend sources fair trade and sustainable beans for its eclectic collection of coffees, including six original blends, which, like an insult comic stuck in an infinite loop, are roasted fresh each day. Snag a bag of fair-trade-certified Organic Mexican Nubes de Oro ($11/lb.) for a medium-bodied morning brew with vanilla and caramel notes, or explore new terrain with a batch of earthy Organic Northender Blend ($12/lb.).