Three Strikes

Saturday, 29 September 2012

And you're out.
Indeed, it was a close call on this one! Read on to find out the goss...I'm writing about my dining at The Fish Shop, on Challis Ave in Potts Point. Another addition to the Hemmes' Merivale group empire that seems to be growing on a weekly basis (no joke) now, with the addition of dim sum nirvana, Mr Wong. I must admit this Friday evening hadn't gotten off to the best start, we had rocked up to The Apollo, new restaurant of chef Jonathan Barthelmess just after 18:15 and had missed out on securing a table. This is becoming a regular occurrence in my life. Why???? Not happy Jan! Not wishing to wait another 2 hours before a morsel was to pass our lips we trundled along through Potts Point like lost souls, wavering in the night. That didn't last long of course, certainly not in this postcode (2011). So we found ourselves at the new local fish & chipper.

The Bar at the Fish Shop. I liked the stripey sailor get-up worn by staff. Source: Time Out Sydney

Formerly Lotus (RIP) restaurant, the site next door to Fratelli Paradiso has been converted into a somewhat posh purveyor of Fish and Chips. Complete with fishing nets strewn from the ceiling, a fantastical display of fishing lures and life buoys strategically placed. You never know, you might have a man/woman down from the bar stools!

The decor: just in case you didn't 'catch it' before. I almost regret typing that. Source: Merivale

We were ushered to a hybrid bar/table, much too narrow by my standards (considering the amount of food we normally get through), and perched ourselves precariously upon bar stools. We were rather suitably seated to directly face the kitchen to watch its goings on e.g. lowly apprentice picking (kilos of) coriander leaves off of stalks (poor sod). Collecting a menu from the holder, we settled in to have a squiz of the evening Reel News a.k.a. le menu. A good selection of seafood dishes, supplemented by The Catch of the Day, a pin board stating simply "Barramundi, Snapper, Eel etc". How intriguing, we wanted to know (order) more.

My photoshopping ability knows bounds, that's for sure. My entree plate and the cover of the menu, posing as the local rag. Sudoku anyone?

Being seafood, we were served our dishes in rather quick succession. That's the name of the game really. This is how we rolled:
'Scuse fingers: South Australian mussels in a white wine sauce with fresh peas, parsley and chunks of garlic. The chorizo was an unusual touch but that also quickly disappeared. The dish was demolished in minutes - the bread was a welcome addition to mop up the last of the sauce but we needed more! Speaking of sauce, be prepared for projectile sauce spray (I fell victim to my own clumsiness). I had half a mind to discretely tuck a napkin under my chin..stayin' classy (San Diego).

Can't go past: a must to order (from a bloomin' fish & chip shop) if ever there was one ($19). The old faithful, battered flathead fillets and a serving of thick cut chips. Not quite as good as the truffled triple cooked offering of chips from Charlie & Co, but you know. I was half expecting the package to come in a newspaper cone! The pot of tartare was nice and chunky with gherkin and capers (fab).

Catch of the Day #1: Smoked eel. More salad than main, I thought that the serving size here was extremely meagre (but one measly fillet!). Here's hoping that slither of eel was exceptional. I am glad to note here a perfectly soft boiled egg. Eggs, are the ultimate cooking yard stick.

Catch of the Day #2: The Barramundi. A whopping great fillet, as opposed to the last. Deliciously simple, the fish was beautifully cooked, flaky and soft inside with a crunchy, crispy skin. Boo yah! The tomato sauce had a hint of spice that was very reminiscent of Moroccan flavours. P.S. a little garnish wouldn't have gone astray here!

The best thing about the Fish Shop is that it's not pretending to be something that it's not. It's a pretty basic formula: the freshest fish cooked well and occasionally "well". I like to order dishes that I'm probably not capable of producing myself...and this is one such example. My barramundi was swell thanks very much. But there was a bit to say on the contrary...

Disclaimer: the following may discourage the (future) hoards from calling (we certainly left feeling a bit miffed)...I did warn you!

Catch of the Day #3: SNAPPER failings.
To spare your delicate nerves, I have omitted the images of this dish. This is also a good cover because they were actually as blurred as anything. See, it was on not one but two occasions that M had to send her dish back to the kitchen. We are loathe to do it I tell you, but when you get RAW fish served to you (and you're not eating Japanese) there's something wrong. It's rather embarrassing when the head waiter takes the dish back to the kitchen in a huff, yelling "Bloody HELL!" and shoving the plate towards the head chef (which we presumed because he was the tallest haha). Chef then proceeded to hold the plate very close to his face to get a good look at the incriminating snapper and shook his head in disappointment. Apprentice was now tearing coriander voraciously with renewed nervousness/fright. This sequence of events we were all privy to with the kitchen in plain view.

Where was executive chef Jeremy Strode at a time like this?! We needed him (Cap'n)! Or should I say they needed him. This was not a good night for snapper man. On take 3, the snapper fillet was cut in half, with good reason too - to make damn well sure that fish was done right i.e. done. Lucky! We all breathed a collective sigh of relief. In recompense the meal was on the house, with all that fish in the bin, probably equating to a loss of at least 90 bucks. Dang. Not wanting to get carried away on this wave of criticism (however constructive), the accompanying tomato based sauce with a good whack of coriander was great! *smiley face*

A little sweetener at the end:
Presenting the Fish Shop's nostalgic ice cream 'wich: reminded me very much of a violet crumble in ice cream form. YUM! Now I know why restaurant critics go for lunch service, it's not so dark! Even with forced flash, bells and whistles etc I am still struggling ;)

I managed to swing a few bites of the above but I ordered a serve of the day's ices - coconut sorbet, to be exact. It was so so good, the flavour was bang on i.e. bona fide. This is all positive reinforcement for me to buy an ice cream maker...One. Day. Friends. One. Day. And one day I will also be the size of a house! So all in all it was a bit of a mixed bag: smashing fush & chups (in true Kiwi style), a chef having an off day and a little ice cream to make it all better. I'm okay with that.

Thanks for reading! x
The Fish Shop on Urbanspoon

Sal-mon, mon

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Here's a quickie from me,
I've just discovered this video from Freunde von Freunden, a great little site documenting people (often creatives...when will scientists have their moment?) and their homes, sort of like The Selby Deutsche style. 

This clip documents the life of Ole-Martin Hansen; salmon-smoker, Norwegian, dapper gentleman.  He is chipping away in North London running the business, Hansen & Lydersen that specializes in smoked salmon. He uses a traditional Norwegian recipe that has been passed down through the generations since 1923 (cheers, great grandpop). It warms my heart ;)

Hello Sailor: Hansen at the entrance to his fishy abode. Photo credit: T Magazine, NY Times

The film is directed by Nikolaj Belzer  and very reminiscent of Jiro Dreams of Sushi which I wrote about a little earlier this year (see here). The clip is accompanied by tinkering piano music (composed by Edvard Grieg) and lush shots of salmon fillets (naturally!) and 'the process', which look amazing y'all. The salmon is sourced specially from Denmark's Faroe Islands, a positively  idyllic location to set-up-farm. Everything coming out of London these days makes me miss it even more!

Gosh, could you imagine? Other salmons should just go now. Where to? Nobody knows. Photo credit: Maltby St Market

The film continues on to show us Hansen's home, literally a cabin built upstairs from his manufactory. It's much like a timber bunker/Scandinavian sauna if you ask me! It's nice being able to scamper up to the roof though and take scope of things (meditative, I know!). Take note of his boots by the way - I want a pair haha! His accent is also very endearing, Ole pronounces salmon "sal-mon" and kiln "killen", very sweet. Hansen philosophizes about achieving one's dream(s) and being the best at what you do. It's something to be immensely proud of, being 'trusted' in your craft. 

Badge of Honour: the business logo, where salmon is king. Right: smoked salmon on sourdough with creme fraiche and dill - a little taster Ole sells at the markets. P.S. one of my most FAVOURITE lunches/snacks in the world. Photos: T magazine, NY Times

Londoners and foodie tourists alike can flock to find Ole's salmon at Maltby Street Market and eateries such as Gail's (much like Bills here in Oz), Nopi (by Yotam Ottolenghi, one of my Bri-ish food heros) and the Albion caff (Shoreditch, read: too 'trendy' for words). I think I've given Mr Hansen a plug and a half - enjoy the video!

Left: salt curing salmon with salt sourced from Guérande, France and Right: Juniper smoking chips Photos: T Magazine, NY Times

In case I've left you wanting more, there's also a 3 minute sound byte that Ole has recorded for Todd, 'The' Selby. Check it here.

And finally! Todd asks Ole...

Thanks for reading! x

Coming up with the Goods

Friday, 7 September 2012

Baked goods, that is.
There's not many places I feel entirely comfortable with declaring my allegiance (more like devotion, but anyway) to but Black Star Pastry in Newtown is one of those. BSB is one other (previous post here). The very definition of old trusty, BSP has hit the nail on the head several times over.
A wide angle lens could work wonders...standing room only: This is a regular occurrence at BSP seeing as there is a total of one table inside and then bums on stools outside. The rest can lump it, basically. A teeny tiny shop, sandwiched next to Oscillate Wildly, a degustation only diner, where molecular gastronomy is high on the cards P.S. such a good restaurant name). Photo: Concrete Playground

Opened in 2009 by pastry chef owner Chris Thé, it has become a Newtown stalwart. A suburb dominated by Thai restaurants (often in multiples of the same I, II etc), grungy food co-ops, cafes GA-LORE and more Thai restaurants...though I could never turn down a $6.50 Thai meal though - never! BSP has built a great reputation in just over 3 years, swiftly becoming a Newtown 
stalwart. The crowds (still) speak for themselves.

Chris to the rescue! All he needs is a fist in the air...Often seen helping in 'front of house' i.e. pavement, Chris has given up his hatted kitchen roots (little place called Claude's, in other words a hatted kitchen in Sydney for the non-initiated) to set up his own joint. Photo Adrian Wiggins

I first discovered these pastry digs several years ago when a friend of mine had my soon-to-be favourite cake. It was a real beauty: their uber famous Strawberry and Watermelon cake with Rose-scented cream. Ah! I died! It is so amazingly light, you could easily down a piece in a heartbeat. Here is a more recent piccie:
If you haven't yet tried this chunk (or is it 'slice'?) of heaven, hop to it - quick smart! True it looks like a heart attack on a plate but you will not believe how incredibly light it is, especially with that rose cream. The layers form a perfect union (how poetic of me). Iphone photo: VD

If you're feeling game, I've posted the recipe for this cake at the tail end of the post (featured in a back issue of Australian GT magazine. Props to those who give it a go! It looks pretty okay but I'm sure the assembly part is a b****. I'm quite content savouring it in-store at the moment, thanks very much!

Since that occasion, I have found myself going back there time and time again. It's a one stop shop for all of your baking needs and cravings. I'm one to grab a coffee, a loaf of sourdough, a sausage roll, a cake for dessert, all of the's like a bloody gold mine. Like Ikea, you never leave empty handed! If I've got a spare moment, I'll happily mooch there with company for hours, systematically picking our way through the pastry cabinet. It really is a bit like that. 

A feast for the eyes! And taste buds hopefully i.e. GO THERE. A wee selection of sweet treats featuring old mate (strawbs and watermelon), orange cake with persian fig and quince (LOVE quince), apple and blueberry tart (not a huge fan of the sugar dusting but i'll deal) and panna cotta. I think the ginger ninja may have looked a bit out of place here, but they're mighty good too ;) Iphone photo: SLY (actual initials!)

In more recent news, I was struck by a new cake that I hadn't seen before. It was a sponge that had some serious height going, perched in a glass dome all on its lonesome. It was their Lemon Myrtle Chiffon Cake (just to change things up a bit: WHAT will she do next?!). It had a bit of a retro feel to it which was cute. Beautifully fluffy, just as a sponge should be (I know you're essentially paying for air here, or maybe a good whisk attachment on a mixmaster?) and with a hint of herbiness slash fragrance from the lemon myrtle powder + toasted coconut dusting. Ignoring the layer of buttercream (though very thin) you could almost pass it off as the 'fat camp' of cake! Like a lemon (myrtle) detox in a way. Yes, I go to great lengths to justify... *smiley face*

At risk of being blinded by pixelation, I have had to keep this picture on the small side. But I mean you get the idea right? Each slice is probably close to 15cm tall - now that is some serious elevation. Photo credit: Black Star Pastry
Drum roll cake fans!

Strawberry and Watermelon Cake
Serves 8

250g seedless watermelon, thinly sliced
60ml (1/4 cup) rosewater
4 tbspn caster sugar
40g almond meal
500g strawberries, halved
10 seedless red grapes
1 tbspn slivered pistachios
1 tbspn dired rose petals

Almond dacquoise (fancy french for cake layer of nut meringue and buttercream)
150g almonds, coarsely chopped
150g icing sugar, sieved
5 egg whites
135g caster sugar

Rose-scented cream
300ml thickened cream
30g caster sugar
2 tbspn rosewater

1. For dacquoise, preheat oven to 200 degrees. Process almonds in a food processor till finely ground. Combine with icing sugar in bowl. Whisk egg whites in electric mixer to form soft peaks (3-4 minutes), the gradually add caster sugar until stiff peaks form (1-2 minutes). Gently fold through almond mixture, spread evenly on tray (~30x40cm)lined with baking paper and bake until golden (10-15 mins). Set aside to cool on tray, then cut in half lengthways
2. Arrange watermelon slices in a single layer on a wire rack. Sprinkle with 20ml rosewater, then scatter with 2 tbspn sugar. Stand to macerate (break up/soften)for 30 mins then pat try with absorbent paper
3. For rose cream, whisk cream and sugar in electric mixer to soft peaks, gradually adding rosewater and whisk until stiff peaks form
4. Spread 1/3 of rose cream evenly over one half of dacquoise, scatter with half of the almond meal, then top with watermelon, trimming to fill any gaps. Scatter over remaining almond meal, spread over half remaining cream. Top with remaining dacquoise, spread over remaining cream and refrigerate until firm (1-2 hrs)
5. Combine strawberries, remaining rosewater and remaining sugar in a bowl, toss to combine and set aside to macerate (15 mins). Carefully arrange on top of cake, gently pushing into cream. Trim edges of cake, scatter over grapes, pistachios and petals. Voila!

I feel quite posh after typing dacquoise all those times haha. And there we are! Do your worst.

Thanks for reading! x


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