Fish and Chips by Fish Face

132 Darlinghurst Road, Darlinghurst, NSW

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  • (02) 9332 4803
  • $
Fish and Chips by Fish Face in Darlinghurst. Photographed Tuesday 24th September 2013. Photograph by James Brickwood. SMH GOOD FOOD 130924

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Fish and Chips by Fish Face in Darlinghurst. Photo: James Brickwood

Joanna Savill

Fish Face has forever been the place for great fish, cooked every which way, including excellent beer-battered fish with chips. But with a new restaurant and sushi bar opening later this year in Double Bay, the original Good Food Guide-hat-wearing, turquoise-tiled Darlinghurst sidewalk fish caff has taken a different route. It's now counter service only, with a few eat-in stools, eco cutlery and serviceware, ready-to-go salads, sides and sauces in plastic containers and even a tub at the door to receive your rubbish as you leave.

Luckily the fish remains superb. Josh Niland and Steve Hodges are almost evangelical in their pursuit of super fresh, sustainably sourced, lip-to-tail use of produce. "All our fish are processed and dry-filleted on site," says the glass-backed, handwritten menu board.

So, here's how it rolls. Original owner and fish maestro Hodges runs the register, pours your wine (a red or white of the day) or a nicely malty Murray's Whale Ale from Nelson Bay. You just have to slide your own glass out from under the bench. There's a couple of fish choices for either Batter Fried, Crisp Skin, Panko Crumbed or Grilled; sauces and dressings, ready-packed salad leaves (cos and iceberg) with parsley, dill and chives, raw wooden cutlery wrapped in a napkin. Just pay up front and wait.

Showstopper: Beer battered fish and chips.
Showstopper: Beer battered fish and chips. Photo: James Brickwood

The show stopper is fish 'n' chips delivered with a dramatic flourish in a deep, wide, black cardboard cone, set in its own little stand. Stumpy hand-cut chips come with wedges of fish in an intriguing, super-crunchy batter. The beer batter of yesteryear is forgotten. Niland's secret formula contains things like vodka, honey and rice flour and the batter keeps its crunch, he reckons, for up to two hours. It's based on a few tricks the young but well-credentialed chef picked up staging with Heston Blumenthal. The batter is lacy and crackly and makes a lovely envelope for firm-fleshed pink ling.

Or there's panko-crumbing - the thin, crisp, dry-not-greasy shell that goes around tonight's batons of shovel-nosed shark. The fish is sweet and stringy, in a good, skatey kind of way. Makes sense as shovel-nosed shark is actually a species of ray. So now you know.

Footnote: if it's on, try grilled john dory liver with parsley - seared rosy, slightly wobbly slices, delicate with a squeeze of lemon, lushly draped on rounds of toast. Or a ''shark cutlet'': the slightly gelatinous ray fin poached, crumb-fried and dusted with reggiano and fried sage.

And next time we'll order the salt & vinegar onion rings with Niland's vinegar powder. Or the salt & pepper calamari with native pepper.

This is fish 'n' chips for the 21st century.

With craft beer, decent house wine, dress-your-own salad and Gelato Messina round the corner, Fish and Chips by Fish Face could well be the best fish 'n' chipper in town.

Do … think about eating in. It's fun.
Don't … worry about the two-hour batter crunch test. Why wait?
Dish … um … fish & chips, perhaps?
Vibe … so casual you could come in your cossie. Except the beach isn't anywhere nearby.

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132 Darlinghurst Road, Darlinghurst, NSW

  • Prices - Fish & chips from $13.90-$17.90 (market prices change daily); sides $5; sauces 50 cents.
  • Owners - Josh Niland and Steve Hodges
  • Opening Hours - 5.30-9pm Tuesday to Sunday
  • Author - Joanna Savill
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17 comments so far

  • is it strange to think that not only is the food important at a restaurant but the setting, surroundings and company together that make a good meal great.

    I would certainly vote for any place by the waters edge with sand at my toes for fish and chips, and not a city establishment where the closest thing to water is the water dispenser on the counter ,

    Commenter
    jason.
    Location
    sydney
    Date and time
    October 03, 2013, 8:54AM
  • Yet another inner ctiy/eastern suburbs eatery...
    Come on SMH, its about time you ventured outside the city and stopped focsing on the "trendy" and instead started reviewing real eateries with rich authentic food and great service. Really, fish and chips is fish and chips. Give us something new and exciting...

    Commenter
    Chuck
    Location
    Sydney
    Date and time
    October 03, 2013, 8:56AM
  • Best Fish & Chips...Smithy's at Blakehurst...then a short trip over Tom Uglys and you have Sydneys best Hamburger at Pauls in Sylvania...both near the water, and priced well. Not paying extra because of the massive expenditure on the inerior design of the shop.

    Commenter
    RedYellowBlack
    Location
    Date and time
    October 03, 2013, 11:56AM
  • I agree with the previous comments...

    SMH would have us believe that the best of every cuisine available in Sydney are all located within 1 square kilometre from each other, bordered by Cleveland St, William St, College St and Flinders St.

    Fancy authentic Malaysian or Indonesian Curry? Don't bother going to Kingsford, go to Darlinghurst.
    Best Lebanese? Not Bankstown or Lakemba, its in Surry Hills.
    Fish and Chips? Steer clear of the water and try Darlinghurst.
    Vietnamese? Forget Cabramatta or Marrickville, get yourself to East Sydney.

    Methinks the opinions held about Sydney's Best Cuisine are less a factor of the quality or authenticity of the food and more related to a cap on what Fairfax will approve in cabcharges.

    Commenter
    Dan
    Location
    Sydney
    Date and time
    October 03, 2013, 12:57PM
    • Dan, Every so often, to add a veneer of credibility to the Darlinghurst/Surry Hills/Potts Point reviews, the Good Living food reviewers fire up Google Maps on the iPhone and head to places like Cabramatta (praise its 'realness') or Willoughby (patronise it/damn with faint praise) or Blakehurst (ditto) and review a pastry shop or noodle house. It's called keeping it real.
      As a rule of thumb, add 3-4 points out of 20 to any SMH review of a restaurant not in a hipster inner city suburb.

      Commenter
      Olaf
      Location
      Date and time
      October 03, 2013, 2:09PM
  • Two things Sydney just cannot provide, good fish & chips and meat pies.

    Commenter
    Oxen
    Location
    Sydney
    Date and time
    October 03, 2013, 1:07PM
    • I have some Bourke Street Bakery pies from Mascot and they were not bad. The "famous" Robertson Pie Shop at Robertson has an undeserved reputation and gets a wide berth.

      Commenter
      Spud Murphy
      Location
      Planet Earth
      Date and time
      October 03, 2013, 1:18PM
    • Good fish and chips and good pies are a bit of an oxymoron aren't they..? Or at least they should be.

      I'm not criticising those who sell said dishes - quite the opposite in fact - but in terms of fish and chips I don't see the point in seeking out the 'best' there is, inevitably finding it in the inner city, then talking about the interior fitout of the shop and quality of the breadcrumbs they use to make it. It's totally missing the point of the food.

      Pies, fish and chips, kebabs, donuts and burgers (with a few exceptions) by their very nature are meant to be cooked by (and then eaten by) people who have effectively given up on fine dining, fashion, taste or style.

      A pie from a roadside bakery, a midnight kebab from a fluorescent-tube lit caravan or fish and chips from a beachside shop complete with sand on the floor, unhygienically stored tartare sauce, decorative and dusty plastic crabs and those things that hang over the front door to keep the flies out is one of life's rare luxuries.

      Please stop ruining it by making it all high-brow, classy and expensive.

      Commenter
      Dan
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      October 03, 2013, 4:06PM
  • Fish and chips is just fish and chips? Really, Chuck? Good fish and chips are hard to find. Most places just dosh up basa fillet (the cheapest of catfish that if given to a cat would lead to charges of animal cruelty) in commercial batter or crumb, fried in the cheapest vegetable (or more often an oil loaded with trans fats) oil and served with chips fried from frozen something that may once have been potato.

    If you can find a place that uses FRESH fish, makes its own chips from real potatoes and deep fries in regularly changed good quality oil (but preferably beef dripping) then treasure the place.

    Fish and chips is basic food stuff and does not need to be a morsel of sustainably farmed piscatorial perfection hand-selected by a fifth generation fish-flinger that has been nuanced by some would-be celebrity chef and served up with nine chips artistically arranged to represent the meaning of life. This means get out of Sydney and go up or down the coast and start searching. Good chippies are out there waiting to be found.

    Commenter
    Spud Murphy
    Location
    Planet Earth
    Date and time
    October 03, 2013, 1:08PM
  • Overrated, overpriced, overcharged (by $120 for a table of 4 and only noticed when we brought it to their attention). Sums up my experience with Fish Face.

    Commenter
    Michelle
    Location
    Sydney
    Date and time
    October 03, 2013, 1:12PM

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