The Fish Butchery review

Mr. Niland at Home is takeaway's Big Night Out.
Mr. Niland at Home is takeaway's Big Night Out.  Photo: Wolter Peeters

388 Oxford St Paddington, NSW 2021

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Opening hours Wed-Fri 11am-8pm; Sat 10am-8pm; Sun 10am-6pm
Features Food shop
Prices Moderate (mains $20-$40)
Phone 02 8068 0312

Terry Durack – he who eats out for a living – reveals how best to dine in, on the finest restaurant food in town.

OK, so the decor is homely, the wine list is limited and the service sucks. That's home, sweet, home for you. But eating in is the new eating out, and I can't think of a better way to love our restaurants right now than seek out those who are managing to survive by playing the takeaway game. Also – bonus points – it helps my own kitchen supplies last another day. So I've been playing the takeaway game, too, and here's what I've learnt.

Tip one: Stay as local as you can. That way, you support your own community, helping local business to survive so that they can reboot when we are all up and running again.

One of Niland's winning strategies is to approach fish as if it were meat.
One of Niland's winning strategies is to approach fish as if it were meat. Photo: Wolter Peeters

Tip two: Order stuff that will survive the delivery time, whether you pick it up yourself (my choice, not an Uber fan), or have it delivered. Put the oven on before you head out, in case food needs reheating when you get back.

Tip three: Avoid soggy pizza syndrome, and look for restaurants that offer the option of cooking all or part of it yourself. It could save you money, and help keep your hand in.

Tip four: Do your sums, set aside funds for necessities, and if there is anything left over, order take-home from The Fish Butchery in Paddington. Sydney's poster-boy for sustainable fish, Josh Niland, may have closed Saint Peter for now, but he's taking the high road to survival at his fish shop instead. There is a weekly take-home menu (fish and chips, char-grilled tuna burger with swordfish bacon), as well as ready-to-cook dinner packs (crumbed pink ling, yoghurt tartare, oysters), and a new range of Mr. Niland at Home dinners, which interests me the most. 

The old Saint Peter magic kicks in with Mr. Niland at Home.
The old Saint Peter magic kicks in with Mr. Niland at Home. Photo: Wolter Peeters

At Home could mean anything from fish pie with carrots and lentils, to coral trout laksa with chilled buckwheat salad, which you order online then pick up after 3pm on the day from the Butchery. This is takeaway's Big Night Out. It's Quay without the views, Rockpool without the wine list; it's birthday takeaway.

One of Niland's winning strategies is to approach fish as if it were meat, giving us a reference point so that things don't get too strange. So my At Home of Petuna ocean trout sausages ($45 for two people) comes with onion gravy, and a rather large pack of smooth, buttery pomme puree, and shaved cabbage with a buttermilk dressing, aka slaw, with toasty hazelnuts and marinated currants.  

Based on the "traiteur" take-home-and-cook system of France, it's cleverly designed to give you something to finish, without it being too daunting. I don't need to do anything except pour a glass of wine, cook the snags gently in a frypan, heat the mash and the onion gravy, toss the cabbage in its buttermilk dressing, drop the marinated currants all over the floor, sweep them up and toss them out, eat most of the hazelnuts destined for the cabbage, pour another glass of wine, and serve.

Raw ingredients for the pie with lentils, bean sprouts.
Raw ingredients for the pie with lentils, bean sprouts. Photo: Wolter Peeters

And that's when the old Saint Peter magic kicks in, with an intensity of flavour that has the kick of a tiger shark. Because there's always more to this food than the food. The sausages taste almost porky-sweet, because the ocean trout was "matured" (dry-aged) for at least 12 days, to minimise moisture, and because all the bellies, collars and tail cuts go into a "trim" that's minced into the stuffing. The gravy is made with roasted and smoked trout bones and vegetables cooked down and blended, bones and all, and the buttermilk is the whey from their own butter-making. This is food prepared the hard way, and eaten the easy way.

With Niland's evangelical approach to sustainable practices and radical ways of utilising the whole fish, this was always going to be interesting. But blow me down if a takeaway meal isn't THE most exciting dining you can do in town right now. Sort of makes up for the decor, the wine and the service.

The low-down

The Fish Butchery

Delivery? Pick up at store. Limited delivery, local only.

Pro tip: Add a serve of salt and vinegar onion rings ($8), just for fun.

Go-to dish: Fish Butchery sausages, potato puree, onion gravy, cabbage salad, $45 for two.