On my last visit to Canberra, for work, I really searched for a bunch of unique and affordable places to eat – they had to meet price criteria and also have a great score on Urbanspoon, now Zomato. THE FISH SHACK was one of these places, I faced a mind boggling moment that there could be superb seafood venue that wasn’t on the coast but the peeps had spoken, I needed to try this place out so off I headed to find it. Possibly my worst attempt to actually locate a dinner venue. I parked in the area and walked and walked and walked, asked people, walked some more and eventually pretended I was a car and got there via my phone’s TomTom ap following roads.
I kept searching for a restaurant in a bank of shops/ restaurants in the mall area of Civic, asking people gave me no help but then like a lighthouse on the rough seas I spot this literal stand alone shack-like cafe in the middle of the mall by itself with a large outdoor section of seats. It is more of a hut, a round-ish like “yurtish” establishment with a big orange fish on the side. I immediately thought “oh no, this is not a restaurant’ it is a little takeaway joint” so approached hesitantly. It has more of a sunny lunchtime air about with the outdoor section and the fish and chips vibe but in I went to get my fish and chips on.
THE FISH SHACK immediately got bonus points for its decor, it had one of the antique diving bells as per above and holy cow an old red dial phone, my life for about 15yrs was one of those, nostalgia set in, I was comforted.
I got to meet the owner, Hai, and he picked me as a blogger pretty quickly, at the time of night I entered I was the only patron and I got to speak to him about the place. If my addled brain serves me correctly he used to work for the old owner and eventually bought it from him and has some grand plans. They introduced the Sugar Cane drinks and I have to say I was a huge fan, I just loved mine (MANGO $4.50 – next time I am all over the lychee), lots of flavours to choose from. I was there in April so it was still semi-warm, I am not sure how enjoyable a cold sugar cane drink would be in winter so maybe save this one for the coming summer, still delicious.
I was advised prior to coming that they are especially known for their soft shell crab but I wanted to try the fish so immediately was taken with THE SHACK BASKET, it would fill all my needs.
The shack basket – Try it all. Soft shell crab, salt & pepper squid, fish and tempura prawns, served with chips & dip. $16.50.
For the price and the taste it was all a winner! The fish was fresh and perfectly cooked, the salt and pepper squid won for me, prawns amazing and the soft shell crab matched the hype. My only small gripe, it was salted for me and for my personal taste I found it too salty. Chips were all devoured and now I know there is a selection of dips I am all over that for my next visit – I need more Sichuan aioli in my life over tartare. This was a perfect seafood dinner for one. It was made quickly, it was presented superbly and it tasted divine (if a little too salty).
I am back in ACT in a few weeks and am visiting for their laksa – it just sounds divine:
Laksa (vegetarian option with eggplant & sweet potato also available): Noodles, fish & prawns in a coconut cream broth, finished with asian salad & fried shallots. Chilli available for an extra kick – YES PLEASE!!!
The menu is vast and you can check it out HERE. I really want that Laksa on the next visit but they also have all the different types of fish to their famed soft shell crab but then they also have some sneaky burgers, a thing very close to my heart. Seeing a Soft Shell Crab Burger makes me squee.
My next visit might include a Soft shell crab burger – Crispy soft shell crab, tomato, lettuce, cucumber, red onion & aioli for $14.50 – YES PLEASE!!!
Besides the food the winner for me was the passion, friendliness and dedication of Hai and his staff. I have not visited when the place is being ran off its feet but the staff talked with me about everything and I felt like I was at a hosted dinner as opposed to ordering a quick bite in a restaurant.
The biggest drawcard for everyone, besides all the above, should be two epic items of awesome.
1) THE FISH SHACK only uses fresh Australian sustainable fish. Nothing frozen (ok they admit the chips).
2) The one that got me excited haha #alcoholic – BYO drinks are permitted and no corkage is charged.
Get in there and enjoy it all – say hi to Hai and let me know what you think of the place!! And feel free to stalk them on their website HERE and their FB HERE – for the menu click on the Zomato box below and be advised – a new menu is about to release – I am sure the favourites will remain.