Way back in the actual biblical days, before St Peter himself was an apostle he was a fisherman. In other parts of the world the John Dory fish is referred to as the Saint-Pierre and San Pietro. The name of the venue is derived from this and you will also notice all the plates in SAINT PETER have a large single black dot on them. This is the John Dory signature mark on their side.
This is the level of detail and nuance in the naming and plates at SAINT PETER in Paddington – if that impressed just wait until you get a load of what Master Seafood Chef Josh Niland does with oceanic edibles.
SAINT PETER VENUE:
SAINT PETER is a small owner operator restaurant seating only 34 people. It is hugely popular positioned on Oxford St in Paddington and you will miss it when driving if you don’t pay attention. It is narrow with polished cement floors, exposed brick walls, simple wooden tables in two rows heading to the back of the venue where the bar, kitchen and service areas reside.
They have some simple but eye-catching art on the wall that resembles a slightly more minimal Pollock inspired underwater painting of a weedy sea dragon and or seaweed. It’s a wonderful statement piece that is like everything else they do at SAINT PETER. It is unique, refined and powerfully effective. It’s no frills high end seafood made with a powerful love of the product over the money made from bums on seats. It’s owner operator and the budget is stretched as far as it can go to present seafood like none other you have eaten before.
One could imagine this venue would be better placed in a large oceanfront setting with 100+ seats – but then that wouldn’t allow Chef to be as nuanced and delicate with his creations.
THEIR MISSION STATEMENT SAYS IT ALL:
Our mission is to showcase Australian sustainably sourced seafood, prepare it expertly and serve it simply.
We select the best quality fish available each morning, meaning that our menu changes daily.
We work closely with fisherman around Australia to source only the best seafood. All our fish is purchased whole and processed in our custom designed Fish Butchery just down the road from the restaurant. Some species of fish are dry aged in our custom designed coolrooms, allowing us to intensify and clarify the flavour of certain species as well as achieve maximum skin crispness.
Our sustainable approach and appreciation of Australian fish is displayed by our use of the whole fish, including offal where appropriate.
Our attention to detail in all things fish, flows down into everything we do; from our vegetable preparations, to our exquisite tarts for dessert and our Australian wine list.
SAINT PETER MENU AND THE MAESTRO, CHEF JOSH NILAND:
No Chef in Sydney has as much respect for seafood as Chef Josh Niland and SAINT PETER. It is like Paddock to Plate for the ocean with as much of the fish used in each dish to try new things, reduce wastage and also loss of income. Chef’s cooking style is inspired by his desire to showcase lesser-known seafood varieties and flavours – don’t expect to find a Barra on the menu regularly but do expect to have a groupers head terrine. Something you probably never knew existed. My same reaction to half the dishes good friend, Tammi Kwok, and I devoured on our visit. Did you know you could use Murray Cod Fat to make a Caramel Slice? Nor did I.
Having worked at Est, The Fat Duck, and headed the kitchen at Café Nice, it’s the years Chef spent cooking with Steve Hodges at Fish Face that crafted his seafood mastery. Hodges worked with Greg Doyle at Pier in Rose Bay, these guys were leaders in the Sydney Seafood scene, and the skills rubbed off on Chef Josh until the pupil became the master.
The menu changes DAILY. You will never know what is coming until they Blu-Tack the new menu on the glass ten minutes before they open the doors daily. The menu explains where everything comes from (All Australian) and the wine list likewise only serves Australian wine. There is a Japanese inspiration here in the simplicity of the food and allowing the hero to be the hero and not have it overpowered by too many ingredients. Get ready to leave your comfort zone and try seafood offal you probably never knew could be eaten. There is a reason this is the restaurant that other Sydney Chefs dine at for their seafood fix. Every mouthful is another Chef’s inspiration.
WHAT WE ORDERED:
A lovely glass of Koerner Rolle 18 Vermentino
Mimosa Rock Oysters with a Sweet, Anchovy and Parsley Accompaniment
Esperance Bass Grouper Head Terrine and Pickles
Shark Bay Goldband Snapper Liver and Parsley on Toast
Corner Inlet Yellow Eye Mullet, Burnt Tomato, Marjoram and Garlic Mayonnaise
Bowen Line Caught Coral Trout with Coorong Pipis, Corn and Cowra Chickpea Miso
Fried Brussel Sprouts and Native Pepper Yoghurt
Salad of Fuyu, Ricotta and Berry Tea Shop Black Tea Vinegar
Lemon and Passionfruit Tart
Chocolate and Murray Cod Fat Caramel Slice
WHAT WE THOUGHT:
For my wine at the meal I let the wonderful staff select for me. I stuck with the Koerner Rolle 18 Vermentino because it was delicious and suited everything I ate. It was full-flavoured and rich, with a delicious creamy core. And the perfect drink to down some oysters with their acidic pairing. Our Mimosa Rock Oysters were just delicious. Not too large and nice and sweet. YUMMY Beginnings!
From here we entered another realm of seafood dining that was a little daunting in leaving the comfort zone and also exciting to be able to eat things I had never imagined. The Grouper Head Terrine with Pickles was probably my equal favourite dish of the day. It was light and flavoursome and so wonderfully scrumptious.
At only $14 the next dish was my other equal favourite. A Shark Bay Goldband Snapper Liver and Parsley on Toast snack. It was bloody delicious, just imagine a slightly saltier liver or pate base with delicious texture simply served on toast – I need this again!
The mullet was a struggle, not going to lie, I have never been a fan of mullet and not much was changed by Chef’s skills. An oily heavier fish that just isn’t for my palate. It was however wonderfully presented and Tammi devoured it all and enjoyed it.
The Bowen Line Caught Coral Trout with Coorong Pipis, Corn and Cowra Chickpea Miso was a different story however. With four main ingredients it was probably the most complex dish we ate. The fish was just delightful and that Pippi, Corn and Miso base is something we all need in our lives more often – it was sublime.
Brussel Sprouts are one of my favourite things in life and these were fried to perfection but I did find the Native Pepper Yoghurt a touch too strong with each bite and preferred the pieces with less on them.
Fuyu is a persimmon if you were wondering and the Fuyu salad just looked like artistic layering of fuyu slices that resembled scales. It looked quite plain until you peeled off a few scales and came to the beautiful ricotta with tea and vinegar flavours. It was a Spring-time refreshing salad that was sweet enough to perfectly balance out the fish mains.
Chef Josh might be a faster seafood Chef but when it comes to pastries it is all about his wife, Julie Niland, one amazingly talented pastry Chef. Her Passionfruit and Lemon Tart is to die for and her Chocolate and Murray Cod Fat Caramel Slice is definitely suited to SAINT PETER. You read the right – the caramel slice is made with MURRAY COD FAT – they are a fatty fish with a thick layer of fat that lines the belly – think Pork Belly fat but on a huge oaf of a fish. It is delicious but I cannot see it being for everyone – I was not sure if a mental association but there is definitely a tiny hint of fishiness to the caramel slice.
There is no other seafood restaurant like SAINT PETER in Australia. Chef Niland runs his own Fish Butchery, dry ages seafood, makes desserts with fish fat and serves snapper liver on toast – the food is refined and nuanced and respects sustainability and nose-to-tail like no other in the aquatic realm of cooking. Do yourself a favour and experience SAINT PETER at some stage.
SAINT PETER DEETS:
PH: (02) 8937 2530
362 Oxford St, Paddington, NSW
PRICING: High – Most expensive dish on today’s menu is $95- for a 9 Day Aged Murrumbidgee Murray Cod, Burnt Tomato & Garlic Mayonnaise
Dinner: Tue to Sun 530 – late
Lunch: Fri 12 – 2pm, Sat & Sun 12-3pm
VEGETARIAN OPTIONS: No
LOCAL DELIVERY: No
GLUTEN FREE OPTIONS: Yes
KID FRIENDLY: No
BYO: Full Licensed Only
*** Spooning Australia Paid for their Meal ***
For more reviews of Sydney Restaurants – check them out HERE
All photographs Copyright by Spooning Australia and Jason King Food Photography – please feel free to share with full credit provided.