One does not simply live around the corner from NSW and Sydney’s official best seafood restaurant and not dine there. The Fish Café, recently voted Best Seafood Restaurant in New South Wales in the bi-annual Seafood Excellence Awards and Best Seafood Restaurant in Sydney in the prestigious Restaurant and Catering Association NSW 2014 Awards for Excellence is just up the road from the Spooning Australia residence in Balgowlah so the after reading about their awards the parental units and myself planned a nice dinner there for their following visit.
I cannot believe I have not been here before – I used to live in walking distance, it is in the Stocklands Balgowlah precinct, previously Totem Shops and the place is very relaxed and welcoming with a mostly open kitchen, walls covered in fishing paraphernalia, wine bottles and sporting memorabilia with plenty of seats (it was a freezing night we attended but am sure they also do plenty of outdoor seating in the warmer months). Off to the side, around the corner of the internals of the restaurant was what looked like a takeaway section also.
It is owned by the people from Balgowlah Seafoods and they select all of their seafood directly from the fish markets and local fishing fleets on a daily basis, to provide not only the freshest and best seafood from our local New South Wales waters, but also some of the best eating fish and shellfish from waters further afield.
And as for the chef, just some cook-like dude called Julian Halfacre, he used to work at such little known venues as Jonah’s and Rockpool, he cook good :).
The staff were all incredibly friendly and helpful and as soon as the water was served a waiter/ sommelier asked what wine we would like, I wanted to try something new and he said I would not be disappointed so into a 2012 Mr Riggs Montepulciano we dove. Slightly Merlot-ish and a perfectly smooth red to accompany our seafood – none of us are huge white drinkers.
We accompanied our first round with a plate of oysters mornay $15- for 4. I had never had oysters mornay before and was very keen to try them, they were delicious and abundantly cheesy with a nice béchamel underneath – could have eaten an easy dozen of these.
Mum’s main was the Prawn and Lobster Linguini $29.80 – all she wanted to eat was lobster and she was saddened there was no lobster dish but she was more than happy with this – it was huge and beautifully flavoured being cooked in a lobster broth. She only ate half of it and we unashamedly asked for the remainder in a doggy bag which I devoured for lunch the following day – of course it was while I was eating my lunch I discovered mum left me pasta and sauce but no juicy prawn or lobster morsels, should have known :). Mum had one negative about the dish, not enough lobster, it was well flavoured but “minimal in lobster content.” I would probably order this on my next visit or try their seafood chowder.
Mike had a special and for the life of me I cannot remember all of the details exactly – it was about $29-. It was Swordfish in a jungle-curry sauce with a side of rice and salad plus grilled bethonga pineapple. It looked fantastic and I LOVED the flavours, for Mike, a curry aficionado, he wanted more traditional Kaeng Pa (Jungle Curry), a HOT Thai curry that is really really HOT, this was more mild.
Then there was mine – and I was determined to eat these ever since I saw the menu – my life is now complete after a literal mountain of Moreton Bay Bugs pan roasted in a garlic, chilli and lime zest butter with a side of rice for $36.80. Worth every cent – this meal was HUGE and those Alien-like xenomorphs were filled with so much flesh that was cooked to heavenly status. The rice was really unnecessary unless you want to pour that sauce over the top of it. I waited until I had finished most of the bugs then stirred the rice through the remaining sauce to get the most out of it. This dish was one of the best items of seafood I have ever eaten and can honestly say I prefer Moreton Bay Bugs to both lobster and crabs now – I was in blissful multiple foodgasm heaven.
We skipped desserts but they do have a white chocolate brûlée with my name all over it. We went on a Wednesday night and the place was packed, oddly the Sydney foodies are too afraid to make their way over the bridge for this one and the locals are lapping it up. It operates as a simple no frills affair and concentrates on the food, the wine, the seafood and the people.
My only gripe comes from lack of a lobster dish, I get it, the Moreton Bay Bugs is the lobster dish – JUST BETTER – but mum wanted nothing more than lobster and she mostly got it in the pasta dish, also Mike wanted a much stronger Jungle Curry.
If this venue was in The Rocks the prices would just be double but nothing else would change, as it is on the beaches, in Balgowlah even, it can afford to be cheaper while maintaining superb quality. Dear people on the city-side of the bridge, the place is really woeful, stay where you are, love The Beaches xo.