Fo’c’sle Tavern, the oldest pub in Nova Scotia, built in 1760 oozes with history. The name Fo’c’sle refers to the forward part of the ship, below the deck, traditionally utilized as the crew’s living quarters.
Location: Fo’c’sle Tavern, located at 42 Queen Street in Chester, Nova Scotia. Find the restaurant’s website here.
Menu: The menu features Maritime ingredients, such as lobster, haddock, scallops, and mussels. In addition to seafood, the menu stars Nova Scotia products, like Acadian maple syrup and apples from the Annapolis Valley region.
Fo’c’sle Tavern serves lunch and dinner daily with brunch on the weekends. The offerings frequently change, featuring what’s fresh and in-season. Vegan and gluten-free options are available.
Thoughts: My visit to Fo’c’sle Tavern was during the South Shore Lobster Festival, so my selections focused on lobster, lobster, and more lobster. The appetizer was a lobster cake accompanied by a simple green salad with a house-made maple vinaigrette. The chef decorated the plate with a Southern Comfort aioli and a balsamic reduction.
The tavern’s lobster chowder won the 2019 Lobster Chowdown Showdown Golden Ladle award. It started with onions and celery sautéed in butter. In addition to lobster, the chowder had tri-colored potatoes and corn charred for added flavor. All of this was cooked in a combination of whole milk and heavy cream to create a rich award-winning lobster chowder. A lobster-claw garnish added to the beauty of the dish.
The lobster croissant was Culinary Institute of America-trained, Chef Scott Youden’s riff on a lobster roll. The buttery croissant made a perfect foundation for the lobster filling. I tried a lot of lobster rolls during my visit to Nova Scotia’s south shore, and surprisingly this was the only place I found a lobster roll with a croissant as the bread component, but it made sense. Lobster and butter are classic, and so are croissants and butter. The filling contained pieces of lobster knuckles and claws for a tender sweet taste. The body and tail make for a stringier mixture. The chef used a minimal amount of lemon and mayo to let the lobster flavor shine through.
My next course was the lobster mac and cheese, which had a quarter-pound of lobster, in addition to the beautiful claw garnish. This dish had a cheese sauce that began with a traditional roux and lobster stock. Then they added a combination of Monterey Jack, Cheddar, and Parmesan cheese. The cheese sauce was then combined with elbow macaroni and that quarter pound of lobster. Finally, panko breadcrumbs cooked with butter, shallots, and herbs blended with more Parmesan cheese covered the dish to make a slightly crunchy topping. Baked until crisp and bubbly then garnished with the lobster claw, it was irresistible comfort food.
The finishing touch was apple crisp that featured Cortland apples from Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley region. The crisp topping contained a mixture of oatmeal, walnuts, cinnamon, and butter. To finish the dessert, a scoop of vanilla ice cream, a swirl of whipped cream, and a drizzle of caramel sat decoratively on top. Finally, Chef Scott showed off his artistry with a spun sugar garnish. It was almost too pretty to eat.
The building itself radiated charm and character. What is now a cute front dining room with blue-gingham checked tablecloths and nautical art was once a blacksmith’s shop. The bar area with a pool table and guitar at the north end of the building was once the inn’s stable. And today’s central dining room transitioned from boarding house, inn, and mercantile to the tavern’s central dining room.
In the former stable, today, you might find a game of pool or an impromptu concert by someone who decides to pick up that guitar and start strumming. No wonder Fo’c’sle Tavern is often referred to as Chester’s living room.
Price Range: A bowl of chowder ranges between $8.99 and $10.99.Indian Point Mussels three ways are $9.99. A variety of entrees featuring local seafood run about $10.99 — lunch for two runs about $35, including taxes and gratuities.
Disclosure: Visit Nova Scotia provided the author with a complimentary meal to facilitate this review.