Tommy Ruff

Tommy Ruff's interior channels seaside boathouses.
Tommy Ruff's interior channels seaside boathouses. Photo: Ken Irwin

3 / 1-3 Carre Street Elsternwick, Australia 3185

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Opening hours Tuesday-Sunday 11.30am-9pm
Features Licensed
Prices Cheap (mains under $20)
Payments AMEX, Mastercard, Visa, eftpos
Phone 03 9077 8815

If summer means anything it means fish and chips but they too often entail grease overload and lingering self-loathing. Tommy Ruff makes it easy to avoid the oil and the "oh no" with lighter, fresher options and an eat-in restaurant at takeaway prices. The owners are John and Helen Stamoulis, who have wrapped up about a million paper packets of steaming seafood and spud at South Melbourne institution Clarendon Fish and Chippers and Malvern's Red Mullet (they no longer have a stake in either).

Their new place is a smart, appealing update on a favourite fast food, with a focus on grilled fish, generous serves and a gentle nudge towards more sustainable options. Fish of the day (dory, trevally or blue grenadier, perhaps) is tricked up in various ways: there's Spanish styling with garlic, tomato and peppers, an Asian version with oyster sauce, ginger and spring onion and a Moroccan rendition, whereby fillets are rubbed with a vaguely north African spice paste and expertly grilled. Fish is served with either brown rice and steamed greens (love!) or salads, maybe Middle Eastern coleslaw or beans with haloumi. Daily specials reflect seasonal catches and popular cuisines like Mexican (fish tacos) and Thai (fried barramundi fillets with salad leaves, chilli, bean shoots and coriander).

I wouldn't call Tommy Ruff's globetrotting flavours transporting but they're decent gestures at international eating. It doesn't stop there, anyway: there's baked whole fish, mussel pots, oysters and skewered garlic prawns, which I would have devoured more eagerly if they'd been deveined. If seafood doesn't suit, there are burgers and souvlaki – oh, and mostly homemade Greek biscuits and desserts.

Moroccan fish with rice and vegetables.
Moroccan fish with rice and vegetables. Photo: Ken Irwin

Sometimes only the classics will do, so you can get pretty much everything battered and fried too. Calamari is coated with crunchy Japanese panko breadcrumbs, pineapple rings are battered to seal in their sweet-sour succulence and crunchy whitebait are served with aioli.

The design channels seaside boathouses with rope details, timber planking, fishing rod light fixtures and a mix of bright and bleached beachy colours. It's an easy place to hang out, so long as you can get a table and don't mind heading to the counter to order and pay. Otherwise, take away is easy and Elwood Beach is only five minutes away if you want to sit by the source.

Rating: Three-and-a-half stars (out of five)