The humble fishmonger is about to get a reboot. Josh Niland, the chef who transformed the way we think about seafood restaurants with his Sydney eatery, Saint Peter, has leased a space on the same block of Oxford Street to open a ground-breaking new fish shop.
Fish Butchery, which Niland and his wife, fellow chef Julie, plan to open in April, will turn the standard model of seafood retailing on its head. The way we usually see fish stocked in shops, argues Niland, piled en masse on ice, might entice the eye but does no favours for the quality of the fish itself.
Fish in Saint Peter's static coolroom.
At the new shop, a couple of larger species, which can stand up to a bit of exposure ("your albacores, your Spanish mackerel"), will hang in a case as eye-candy, but the display will otherwise be limited to what Niland calls a jewellery box of examples of the day's best catch - Mooloolaba broadbill on the bone, say, or fillets of Port Lincoln nannygai, or butterflied Nelson Bay garfish. The rest will be kept in storage and prepared as orders dictate. No epic piles of ice. "It'll look quite like the SP Fish Tray that I post on Instagram," he says. Fish will be handled dry, and kept in static fridges below two degrees Celsius, as per the protocols used by serious seafood restaurants.
Related: Listen to our podcast with Josh Niland, where he discusses how to select and store seafood properly at home.
Oysters will be stored in their own temperature-controlled cabinet, and the shop will also cure and smoke salmon, trout and tuna. It'll sell fish offal (such as the John Dory liver that's served on toast with butter and parsley at the restaurant) and serve as a new takeaway outlet for Niland's celebrated fish and chips.
Australian anchovies with olive oil and native thyme at Saint Peter.
The shopfront has similar bones to Saint Peter, and Niland wants to go for a similar stripped-back "convict brick" look. "No octopus-on-the-ceiling-and-nets-on-the-walls nonsense," he says. "Just something very simple." It'll also offer a small range of packaged products: the custom-made weights Niland uses to cook fish evenly, some sauces such as Saint Peter's yoghurt tartare, perhaps the likes of the fish-head terrines or potted seafood. If it's a technique used at the restaurant, Niland says, they'll investigate its potential for the shop. "But we don't want to get carried away with it being Josh's Jars of Stuff."
It's Niland's hope that Fish Butchery will revolutionise the way we buy and cook fish for home. "We're reimagining the cold cabinet and rethinking the fishmonger, with a diverse range of species, handled correctly," he says. "I don't think it's like anything anyone else is doing." Saint Peter be praised.
Fish Butchery, 388 Oxford St, Paddington, NSW, fishbutchery.com.au. Opening April.