Two-hat Sydney restaurant Saint Peter is set to undertake the seafood equivalent of Victor Churchill, opening a luxe seafood butchery on Paddington's Oxford Street, in April, where dry handled fish will be cut to order.
"Obviously we don't have the budget of the Victor Churchill fitout, but the buildings in this area lend themselves to that sort of design, so there'll be raw brick and down lights," says Saint Peter owner and chef Josh Niland. "We've taken the site of the hair salon a couple of doors up. We want to make fish sexy again."
The chef and his wife and business partner, Julie, will apply the same standards to fish at the butchery as they do at Saint Peter, awarded New Restaurant of the Year in The Good Food Guide 2018.
"At Saint Peter all our fish is handled dry and stored at a very low temperature of zero to two degrees celcius in a static [no fan] coolroom," Niland says. "Storing and handling fish in this way extends the shelf life of most fish species, intensifies the flavour profile of the fish and offers a real difference in the final cooked product."
Fish will be dry scaled, gutted, filleted, pinboned and, when appropriate, dry aged.
The duo is keen to see the ubiquitous fish shop ice slurry put on the endangered species list and seafood will display in static refrigeration rather than mounds of ice.
"It's a model that's gone untouched for so long, says Niland. "Everybody does the same thing. It must work but maybe there's a slightly better way to sell fish on a smaller scale.
"I've done a lot of research and I can't find another fish shop doing this, hence the desire and need to do it when I thought of it six months after opening the restaurant."
"We're also trying to find a sustainable approach to our lives and a butchery seemed like a good idea because it's not self-saturating the restaurant. It's not rolling Saint Peter out to Bondi."
Fish processing workshops for both customers and chefs will be an integral part the Saint Peter butchery.
"We've had so many chefs ask if they can do a few days training with us in the restaurant but Saint Peter is such a small space, so those requests are challenging to accommodate," Niland says. "It will be great to have a larger space at the butchery to run industry training programs."
The Saint Peter team resisted the temptation to blend the new fish butchery with a bar or sushi bar, however Niland says there will be one cooked concession. "We'll move the fish and chip takeaway out of Saint Peter and put it in there."
Saint Peter's fish and chips are fried in a batter featuring honey, beer and vodka. The alcohol in vodka burns faster than beer, creating a lighter batter that stays crisper for longer, Niland says. "You can take our fish and chips from Paddington to Coogee and half an hour later they'll be just as crunchy."