Last week, my wife and I made the trek north to Sydney visiting our daughter who is currently living and working there. (I may also have been interested in watching Geelong dismantle the Swans).
She lives in an ideal location for all things culinary and we made the most of it. We bumped into a restaurateur from Melbourne who was opening a new eatery in Surry Hills. In answer to my question about the merits and a comparison of the Melbourne and Sydney food scenes, he said “Melbourne has so many wonderful restaurants, that not much attention is paid to the hundreds of establishments serving quality food at a reasonable price. In Sydney, however, the depth of excellence is not as great and as a consequence much is made of a new restaurant that is offering superior food and wine”.
He thought that Sydney has a rapidly improving food and wine industry, but was still some way behind Melbourne’s innovation and sheer quantity of, in particular, middle of the road eateries.
My experience was similar, but one restaurant in which we ate was incredibly inventive and downright revolutionary.
Called Saint Peter in Oxford Street, Paddington, their speciality is “fish butchery”. You will hear more of the term fish butchery in the “food press” during the next 12 months.
The chef is Josh Niland and he is leading the charge in retailing sustainably caught, underutilised species. I am not one to be carried away with fashion and every new culinary trend, but I like the idea of using fish (or any food) that may ordinarily be discarded.
The “nose to tail” concept has been around for quite some time now for meat and I’m glad to see the notion being extended to fish.
When we were kids, we caught lots of Australian salmon. Most people throw away the fish, which they regard as inedible. Many years ago, however, I found if treated in the right way, this fish can be most satisfying and quite delicious. I wonder if this species is used by Josh and his team.
The chefs also operate a very glamourous fish and chip shop where the menu boasts battered and fried Bermagui mirror dory, Mooloolaba albacore, or Macleay River whitebait. The menu sometimes changes twice daily, depending on the freshness of the fish, which is purchased daily at the Sydney Fish Market (also worth a visit if you like getting up very early). The only slight disappointment was their potato cakes, which vary greatly from state to state in Australia and in my opinion are best in Victoria.
Having spent this whole article talking about fish, I will now change tack completely and include the following recipe for lamb shanks which has been requested by an avid reader and is perfect for mid-winter. More fish recipes to come this year.