HFX Fish ‘n’ Chips Quest: Willman’s
I have to admit I had never heard of Willman’s Fish ‘n’ Chips, but apparently it is a local institution. Indeed, their Facebook page states that the restaurant was first opened in 1946 by George Willman. It changed hands in 1990, and again in 2004 when Lucien Nehme took ownership. Lucien expanded the menu and rebuilt the restaurant, which still resides on the corner of Kane and Isleville Streets in the north end.
This location is unexpected and highly residential, which is why Willman’s enjoys neighbourhood status and a word-of-mouth following, while others remain completely oblivious to its existence.
Our first impressions were good. A clean and homey dining room, patio seating, delicious Lebanese beer, and a large DIY squeeze-bottle of tartar sauce.
I can’t say I was actually a fan of the tartar sauce. It had been thinned somehow. Over the course of the meal, this would be my only real complaint.
There is baked haddock, pan-fried haddock, and baked halibut on the menu, if you wish to avoid the fat fryer. There are also two types of battered fish: traditional (“pancake batter”) and Lucien’s (“unique light batter”). The menu mentions both clam strips AND whole belly clams. There are also scallops, shrimp and calamari, and you can get absolutely everything on your plate if you order the Gigantic Seafood Platter ($27). My friends decided to split the more modest Seafood Platter, which included 1pc haddock, whole clams, scallops and fries for $15. (Coleslaw is $1 extra).
Immediately we were impressed with the hand cut fries, and the clams were also excellent. I didn’t get to try a scallop, but my reports indicate that they were tasty and tender. The battered haddock was entirely acceptable, if not mind-blowing.
I found the menu to be a little overwhelming with all the choices, and I had to break my 1pc-only rule in order to fulfil my blogger’s duty. I ordered a piece of the traditional battered fish, and a piece of Lucien’s battered fish to compare them. I was also taken aback that Newfie poutine was available ($2 upgrade). This goes well beyond my blogger duties, but I just can’t say no to representing my homesick Newfie readership!
For those who don’t know, Newfoundlanders love eating French fries with “dressing” and gravy. This culinary classic is easily converted into a poutine. Just add cheese curds and, Voilà! – you now have one of the most fattening meals known to humankind.
As for the fish, I definitely preferred the traditional battered fish to Lucien’s style, the latter being comparable to a flour-dusted pan-fried haddock. As for the traditional batter, it made for a good fish ‘n’ chips. That’s all I will say, as this is only my second stop on this quest.
Overall we were very impressed by this neighbourhood gem. Newfie poutines come in small, medium and large ($7, $8 and $9), there is a pizza menu, $2 corn dogs, and something called a “Seadog” which I believe is a bunch of clams stuffed into a hot dog bun. Interesting stuff, and well worth a shot.