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.
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