In the upstairs seating area at the The Basin Cafe and Bistro, at the New Bedford Basin Farmers Market, nine long picture windows offer a stunning view of the sparkling Bedford basin. With the pleasant hum of conversation and soft piped music in the background, I count eight different types of tile and marble, five varieties of sparkly light fixtures, and an impressive variety of seating options: hard back cafe chairs for eating, soft loungers, sofas and comfortable armchairs for conversation. The atmosphere is classy, but relaxed enough that I can’t resist the urge to lift my soup bowl to my mouth, drinking the last few mouthfuls of delicious homemade turkey noodle soup.My fellow cafe-goers on this weekday afternoon include a man about my age, tapping away at his laptop, several couples, one well-behaved toddler, and a group of middle-aged women wearing reading glasses, colourful scarves and carrying handbags small enough to indicate that their kids are all grown up. My bet is that it’s book club. I can imagine taking my kids here on the weekend to watch the trains (the tracks are right here!), but today, it’s just me, also tapping away on my laptop and enjoying the view.Following the turkey soup, I indulge in a cappuccino and a chocolate chip cookie. There’s only one size of cappuccino and it’s impressively large (a great deal for only $3.50), but my chocolate chip cookie, disappointingly, has only two lone chocolate chips.I forgive the Basin Cafe and Bistro for their lack of chocolate chips because the entire meal is served promptly on thick white china with clean silverware, and the coffee cup is presented on a saucer (well, a small plate), with a teaspoon and a napkin underneath to stop slippage and drips. Since a request for a china cup, let alone a saucer under your cup – and God forbid, a real spoon– is far too often met with raised (or perhaps just overly pierced?) eyebrows from the Starbucks baristas with whom I am accustomed to haggling, I thank the The Basin Cafe and Bistro for a sophisticated European service.Downstairs, the produce at the Farmers Market itself is very similar to what you would have found at Farmer Clem’s in recent times, but with a growing section of European goods: large tubs of tahini, rows of Olive oil from Greece, huge tins of dolmades. I consulted with a Greek friend who also visited the new market recently, and she said the selection of Greek food is really extensive by Halifax standards. Her family is from the mainland, and she suspects, judging from the products, that the owners are from Crete. I have never been to Crete, but I was on Santorini once, and it occurs to me that the colour of the Bedford Basin today is actually really similar to the colour of the Aegean sea. Greek blue.The meat section at the Market sells free-range chicken from Cogmagun Poultry, and a limited selection of beef, lamb and pork from Withrow’s Farm Market. Ryan, the butcher, explains the pricing for me, since I am usually a grocery store customer (and to be honest, I only buy chicken when it’s on sale). Free range chicken, he says, is always going to be about double the price you would get in the grocery store (but worth it), but in the case of the other meats, he can price competitively. In fact, he offers me a challenge: if I can find lower priced lamb, beef or pork at the grocery store, he’ll cut me a deal!Another deal I find is a basket of day-old (?) bread for only $1.00 per loaf. Now that’s worth a visit!
The only criticism I would have of the new Bedford Market is the parking, which although ample, is still a little tricky, same as it was in the days of Farmer Clem’s. However, judging by the steamroller and a front-loader I spot in the rear yard, my suspicion is that the market is creating an extra back parking lot. Or perhaps it’s an outdoor seating area…which would be amazing.The atmosphere at the bistro is convivial. As I tap away and snap these photographs, I find myself making friends. One of the ladies from the book club asks me to take a group photo for them. The single man, my age, happily shares the wifi password, which I forgot to ask for when I ordered my food. Toward the end of my visit, a mother and her teenage daughter arrive and take the place of the single guy. They notice me taking a photograph of the view. “Isn’t it amazing here?” raves the Mom, “I don’t know anywhere else like this. I think it’s going to be the next big thing”. I agree with her, wholeheartedly.
Whether you’re going with your book club, your family or enjoying some well-deserved YOU-time, The Basin Cafe and Bistro at the New Bedford Basin Farmers Market is a welcome addition to the greater Halifax cafe scene, and definitely worth a visit!