The "Bliss Fish" and chips and Newtown's latest vegan takeaway. Photo: Callan Boys
Newtown has cemented itself as the vegan and vegetarian capital of Sydney. Suzy Spoon's Vegetarian Butcher has been serving soy-based snags on King Street for a couple of years and Gigi's Pizzeria went plant-based and took cheese off the menu in September.
Now welcome to the neighbourhood, vegan fish and chips.
Seafood basket: But not as you know it. Photo: Callan Boys
Bliss and Chips, located on King Street at the site once occupied by Burgerlicious, looks like any other fish and chippery in Sydney. There's no in-your-face vegan or vegetarian signage and the whiteboard menu reads like every deep-fried seafood shack across Australia: battered fish, crabsticks, calamari, prawns, potato scallops, chips, Pluto pups, and burgers.
But Bliss and Chips is actually deep-frying seafood alternatives made with ocean-flavoured, soy-based proteins or konjac, a plant native to Asia and sometimes used as a vegan substitute for gelatin (ensuring those squid rings and crab sticks have the correct chewy bite).
Most products are also gluten-free and suitable for people with coeliac disease.
"I've spent three years researching products to make sure they are indeed vegan and gluten-free when they claim they are," says Liss Harry, who opened the doors to Bliss and Chips on Monday. "They've also got to taste absolutely delicious."
Harry, a vegetarian who has worked in the hospitality industry for 20 years, saw a gap in the marketfor vegan food "that's fun".
She may be onto a winning formula. A Facebook post by Glebe's vegan-friendly Cruelty Free Shop announcing the arrival of the store on Monday received more than 650 likes and 150 shares in 24 hours.
Not everyone is a fan of the concept, however. "My first customer actually cancelled their order," says Harry. "He ordered a seafood basket to take away, and I said to him, 'do you know it's made from vegan ingredients?'. He said that he didn't, turned around and walked out."
More fool him. I gave the $10 seafood basket a whirl on Tuesday night. It contains deep-fried vegan prawns, calamari, fish cocktails and a crabstick. While the food doesn't taste particularly fishy, it's totally edible, especially with lemon and vegan-friendly chicken salt. I'd rather eat a plant-based crab stick than one of the highly-processed versions made from who-knows-what available at traditional fish and chipperies.
Elsewhere on the menu, the "Bliss Fish" has a beaut crisp and golden batter, although the "fish" part is a little too spongy (Harry says she is working with the supplier to improve the texture). If you can eat gluten, the better option is the "Fishless" fillets (two for $10) with flaky white "flesh" reminiscent of the real thing.
In true fish-and-chip-shop-style, Harry says she also has a spin on the deep-fried Mars Bar coming soon that uses a vegan (and unofficial) version of the classic confectionary called a Twilight Bar. Not all vegan food has to be healthy, you know.
215 King Street, Newtown, open daily 11am-9pm