ONCE INSIDE BAR KISMET, you’ll understand why there is so often a queue. Between the happy folks slurping oysters and sipping bubbles at cozy tables along the wall and the lively kitchen party atmosphere at the bar, it feels like you’ve arrived at a pretty special place.
Owners Annie Brace- Lavoie and Jenner Cormier have warmed up the simple decor with personal touches: the abundant houseplants; the carefully curated soundtrack of Afro-funk and classic disco from Brace-Lavoie’s father’s record store; and, possibly best of all, the portrait of Queen Elizabeth presiding over the bar. It feels like an extension of their living room—yes, they’re also married. But the elegant, fresh, ingredient-focused seafood plates coming out of the back kitchen are several cuts above casual house-party fare.
Cormier says the food, conceived and executed by his wife, will always “reign supreme” in the equation of Bar Kismet’s appeal. But it’s clear to everyone else that the 9-seat bar, with its renowned cocktail program and constantly evolving drink lists, is equally crucial. Often jammed, it’s become a beacon and a hub for spirits aficionados and industry folk who regularly drop by to sample new creations and chat with bar stars like Will Irvine, Cooper Tardivel and Cormier himself. A Diageo World Class veteran, Cormier was crowned Canadian champ in 2013 and went on to compete in the global finals.
“The goal, from day one, was an elevated local food and beverage experience in an atmosphere that, when you walked in that front door, made you immediately feel welcome and looked after,” says Cormier. “We wanted to stay away from an over-thetop pretentious feel—you know, anything that might make someone think they couldn’t come in because they were wearing a T-shirt.”
The talented Kismet team works hard to keep the complex drinks menu fresh and relevant. With so many old favourites in perpetual rotation, there is always plenty of off-menu drinking to be had. The crowd-pleasing Floppy Disk, a low-ABV Cynar, curaçao and mescal lowball, is pretty much the house cocktail, even when it’s not listed.
And then there’s the wine—mostly contemporary juice that fits the Kismet ethos. Local Annapolis Valley wines shine. So does a smart selection of low-intervention vintages from Jura, Burgenland and Stellenbosch. And did we mention the beer? Equally awesome, with a heavy emphasis on local.
Although it certainly wasn’t the first spot in Halifax to serve world-class cocktails, thanks to Cormier’s tireless efforts and his team’s considerable talents, Bar Kismet helped raise the bar and put the city’s now-bustling North End on the map.
Between his bar smarts and her kitchen chops, it’s a perfect union, almost like it was meant to be.
– Christine Sismondo