580 Darling St Rozelle, NSW 2039
|Opening hours||Mon - Sun 5 PM to 11 PM|
|Features||Outdoor seating, BYO, Accepts bookings, Wheelchair access, Licensed, Family friendly, Gluten-free options, Vegetarian friendly|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|Chef||Michael Milkovic and Patrick Ngai|
|Payments||eftpos, AMEX, Cash, Visa, Mastercard|
|Phone||02 9818 7777|
|Free wine for Citibank cardholders here|
Walk into Rozelle's hot new fish diner and you'll find a giant blackboard scrawled with a list of ''fish we love''. It includes Ulladulla flathead, Humpty Doo barramundi, NZ freshwater Aoraki salmon, Hiramasa yellowtail kingfish and Palmers Island Mulloway, and they're adorable, presumably, because they are sustainable.
What you won't find are the likes of Patagonian toothfish, orange roughy, swordfish, tuna, skate and blue grenadier. These aren't fish to be hated; it's more that we've loved them almost to death and need to transfer our affections to those in abundant supply either through ocean management or fish-farming.
So there's a lot to like about love.fish already, especially with Sustainable Seafood Day taking place on Friday. If you are genuinely trying to do your bit - turning off the lights when you leave home, walking instead of driving, avoiding endangered species when shopping, being kind to little old ladies - you don't want to undo all your good work when dining out. Increasingly, it's a matter of us having to trust chefs and restaurateurs to do the right thing in terms of provenance of ingredients, recycling, waste disposal and the rest, and them having to trust we will support them and pay a bit extra for a cleaner conscience.
This little fish bar looks like a genuine step in the right direction. Not only do love.fish owners Michael Milkovic and Michel Grand-Milkovic buy fish from sustainable and environmentally responsible fisheries, they also use biodegradable packaging and napkins sourced from plantation timber. They recycle paper menus, separate green waste to convert into green energy and organic fertilisers and send the old cooking oil off to be refined into biodiesel. Not bad for a little fish-and-chip shop, albeit one with a smart, minimalist make-over, Venetian plastered walls and one long counter separating dining from cooking. It even smells like a fish-and-chip shop, making the tables outside on the footpath the most hotly contested.
Main courses are mostly battered, grilled or crisp skinned, with a couple of burgers thrown in. Starters and sides get a little more whimsical, what with scallops with confit chicken wings and caramelised carrot, and a pulled pork belly salad with figs, baby spinach and balsamic dressing.
Things kick off well with salmon poori rolls ($14), a smartened-up spring roll encased in Indian flatbread, spiced with za'atar then deep-fried and served with dabs of sheep's milk yoghurt, salmon caviar and mango pickle that give the melting, pink, freshwater salmon a lovely, lingering, sub-continental twang.
Hiramasa kingfish carpaccio ($17) is ubiquitous around town, and this looks pretty and fresh with its micro cress, pink grapefruit and edible flowers but there's little seasoning to spark it up.
As part of its philosophy, love.fish is deliberately BYO; no hardship with the Sackville Hotel directly across the road, where you can pick up an organic Kawarau Estate 2009, a complex, elegant pinot noir from Central Otago.
With main courses, you get what you order and no more. Grilled Palmers Island Mulloway ($19) is just that, accompanied by a wedge of lemon, and Ulladulla flathead in beer batter ($21) is two long fingers of fish in a good batter (VB; soda water; plain, self-raising and corn flours; and salt). The mulloway is slightly oily and dark-skinned from the flat grill, while the flathead is steamy and translucent inside its crunchy, golden batter. The flathead wins. You need to pad things out with separately priced sides and sauces, such as a big bowl of skin-on, twice-cooked Sebago chips ($7) and a whippy horseradish mayo ($2). A side of silky smoked eggplant puree topped with tomato and mint ($8) again looks good but is unbalanced by its spicing.
A dessert of macerated summer berries with mascarpone and shards of crunchy hazelnut praline ''glass'' ($12) is no more than its parts, with its unadulterated quenelles of mascarpone and slightly watery berries. Service can get slow and things like bread can take an age to arrive but the after-work couples, families and single diners don't seem too fazed.
So, lots of good intentions and, as part of my new sustainable regime, I'm giving it an extra point for its philosophy and practice. The food's almost healthy and not swimming in salt; staff are casual and well-meaning; the atmosphere is very come-as-you-are; the fish and chips are decent. And even with the add-ons, it's not a huge bill. That makes it great for the 'hood but not the best destination for a long drive in a gas-guzzling four-wheel-drive.