Mud crabs and more at the Sydney Fish Market.
Mud crabs and more at the Sydney Fish Market. Photo: Peter Rae

Mark Eggleton

Last week at Sydney's Quay restaurant a selection of the country's leading food and tourism identities gathered to launch Restaurant Australia. An extension of Tourism Australia's “There's nothing like Australia” campaign, the initiative is designed to showcase the “people, places and produce” behind our diverse food and wine experiences.

Quay was an appropriate venue for the launch. Not only is chef Peter Gilmore one of our leading culinary ambassadors, but the restaurant's location at the Overseas Passenger Terminal, on the edge of the harbour, points to one of Australia's produce strengths – our extraordinary seafood.

Moreover, Gilmore is one of a handful of chefs who can be occasionally spotted frequenting the Sydney Fish Markets early in the morning. Another is Tetsuya Wakuda, who will often wander the auction floor with his specialist buyers in tow searching for something unusual or particularly fresh.

Eat a seafood feast at the Sydney Fish Market and keep an eye out for the visiting pelicans.
Eat a seafood feast at the Sydney Fish Market and keep an eye out for the visiting pelicans. Photo: Supplied

Sydney's highest profile restaurateurs often take advantage of the markets' proximity to the CBD, and their sheer size. Unlike some of Australia's other more diverse city produce markets, such as Melbourne's Queen Victoria Markets and Adelaide's Central Markets, the Sydney Fish Market plays to its obvious strength.

Sure, it looks a little shabby, but it's a working market – the largest of its kind in the southern hemisphere. With about 100 different species of seafood and more than 3000 separate lots traded on the auction floor daily, it's in the top three or four markets in the world.

Markets supply manager Gus Dannoun says only Tokyo's Tsukiji markets and Spain's Mercamadrid offer a larger variety of species. But what makes Sydney so special is the fact it is not just a wholesale market.

A feast of learning ... Sydney Seafood School offers classes ranging from the basics to dinner party menus.
A feast of learning ... Sydney Seafood School offers classes ranging from the basics to dinner party menus. Photo: Jacky Ghossein

“With the six retailers on-site you're ensured of getting some of the freshest if not the freshest seafood in the country,” Dannoun says.

For Dannoun, who has worked at the markets for 33 years, it's a wonderfully natural environment working with the freshest produce.

Asking him to nominate the best varieties to eat is like requesting a film buff to nominate a favourite film. He lists five species ranging from mudcrab to garfish, coral trout, prawns and cuttlefish but, as he says, “it's an ever-changing list”.

As for the best way to eat fish, Dannoun defers to the late restaurateur Peter Doyle: “Batter it, deep fry it and then strip the batter off and enjoy the moist, succulent flesh.”

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This content is produced by Good Food in commercial partnership with Tourism Australia.