Chef, restaurateur and now fishmonger – Josh Niland, of Saint Peter restaurant in Sydney, has reimagined the humble fish shop. Here's a day in the life of his new Fish Butchery, where the catch of the day is anything but ordinary.
"Retailing fish has always followed a similar formula," Niland says. "The challenge for my wife Julie and I to reimagine it was exciting. When you walk into Fish Butchery it feels luxurious. The offering changes every day, maybe more than once. We have cabinets to hold oysters at between 11 and 13 degrees, and we have fish hanging in static refrigeration in the front window. The glass cabinet has just one of everything we're selling on display. No great piles of flathead or garfish on ice losing their freshness. It's a boutique space showing off less commonly used fish, preparations and techniques, but still with great diversity in price."
"Fish Butchery will make Saint Peter better and more efficient. We can train more people and I can share as much knowledge as I can. Although the Butchery is a beautiful space, I don't want it to be uptight. The marble prep bench is a buzzy hive of activity."
"The refrigerated drawers underneath hold everything from tommy ruff, which we can butterfly or crumb to order, to spanner crabs that we can pick apart so everything's ready to go. One day, the King George whiting will be the best thing you'll ever have so we'll suggest that, and the next it might be Mooloolaba broadbill on the bone or leatherjacket."
"A lot of the time, chefs (like me) bang on about 'stop buying this or that fish and try giving this one a crack,' but there's not enough information out there for home cooks. We want people to have good experiences with fish they purchase, so we share recipe cards and instructions and talk about methods of cookery for different species, proper storage and preparation. Not everybody knows that you really shouldn't poach a piece of blue mackerel (it dries out and goes chalky) or pan-fry a red gurnard (you can, but it behaves better in batter or a crumb). These are the little things that we've been trained to do. And we want to share."
"Everything at Fish Butchery is handled dry and stored at the right temperature. It's the way we handle fish at Saint Peter. You might walk past and see a beautiful Spanish mackerel hanging in the front window; we'll take it out and cut a portion exactly how you want it, whether it's 500 grams or a kilo, on or off the bone.
"The way we store it means the flavour will be better and it'll be easier for you to get the skin crisp. Our goal here is quite simple: we just want people to have better experiences with fish. That's the bottom line."
Fish Butchery, 388 Oxford St, Paddington, NSW, (02) 8068 0312, fishbutchery.com.au