87 Glenayr Ave North Bondi, NSW 2026
|Opening hours||Mon-Sun 12-10pm; Takeaway available 12-5.30pm weekdays|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
With Autumn equinox fast approaching, it's time to soak up what's left of our favourite warm weather things. This means more trips to the beach and, importantly, honouring the season of fish and chips.
I take nature's cue and stop by the newly opened Fish Shop in North Bondi, the latest project by the team behind the popular Japanese-inspired Fishbowl chain in Sydney.
Despite its name, this is no ordinary fish shop. One of the first clues is that chef Joel Bennetts (ex Pier, Bistrode CBD) has been enlisted to head up the kitchen. Bennetts trained under the late Jeremy Strode, and worked with him at Merivale's now defunct Potts Point seafood outfit of the same name.
While the two restaurants are unrelated – and you'll see Bennetts' creative flair come through in this bright, smart casual venue – fans will be able to spot subtle tributes to Strode in several of his signature dishes.
One gap Fish Shop founders Nathan Dalah, Nic Pestalozzi and Casper Ettelson hoped to fill was to serve market-fresh seafood in a polished, yet unfussy way. They imagined an eatery that has cocktails and natural wines; freshly shucked Appellation Oysters and killer sides.
What's more, there would be an abundance of options – a chance for diners to mix and match their own sauces and protein and accompaniments just like you could at Fish Bowl. Only here, everything would come with whip-smart service and technical finesse.
Bennetts brings to life a menu that satisfies this complex jigsaw. On the line-up you'll find hot and cold snacks; market fish mains; veg-forward sides; as well as classics such as fish and chips; burger and a picnic-friendly lunch box. (The team has custom-made rugs for those who feel like eating al fresco at the nearby park.)
If you're dining in, start with some plump, shucked-to-order oysters. Served with a merlot vinaigrette, the selection varies daily and might come from the coast of Wodonga one day, and Merimbula the next.
Snacks at Fish Shop aren't a distraction, but worthy headliners. This goes beyond obvious favourites such as the Italian-influenced, chilli-spiked tuna tartare (the sauce is an accidental creation made from slow-cooking green chillies and cherry tomatoes); but quiet heroes such as the salty Cantabrian anchovy on toast. Laced with a chunky salsa verde and tart eschalot hoops, it's Mediterranean daydreaming in a bite.
The whisper-soft calamari with herbs, chilli and garlic oil is a homage to Strode. "We had a similar dish at the Fish Shop at Potts Point," says Bennetts. Here, the lightly floured tendrils are scored, pan-fried and dusted with pangrattato. Mop up the lemony juices with hunks of Sonoma sourdough.
Like many young Sydney eateries, you'll find multicultural influences on its menu. A main might reference beachside Australia (tartar and lemon), have a Middle Eastern touch (almond and raison molasses) or a Northern Italian twist (caponata and olives), all depending on which sauce you choose with your fish. A grassy salsa verde pairs perfectly with our meaty swordfish.
Though next time I would be keen to try a tart sugo and capers with a crisp-skinned barramundi. A golden fish and chips – made with juicy red gurnard fillets – is as satisfying as we expected. Bonus points for the house-made tartar sauce, which is creamy and "could-eat-a-whole-jar" tasty.
And though you may not expect it of a fish specialist, Bennetts' mercurial spirits shine brightly in his vegetarian sides. This makes sense, given his recent stint at beloved vegan Italian Peppe's.
So save room for the freekeh with dried apricots and fermented chilli dressing; or a slow-roasted cabbage with a sesame-nori sauce and daubs of ginger and shallot for an umami kick. Who says simple, seasonal pleasures can't be surprising?
Main attraction: A mercurial seafood menu dreamt up by head chef Joel Bennetts. This fish shop isn't just about fried goods, but tasty sides and mix-and-match style condiments with all the polish.
Must-try dish: The whisper-soft calamari with herbs, chilli and garlic oil – an homage to the chef's mentor Jeremy Strode.
Insta-worthy dish: If the colourful yellowfin tuna tartare happens to be a "raw special of the day", you'll be guaranteed some Insta envy.
Drinks: Check the latest wine by-the-glass and drinks selection by scanning QR code at the venue.