Our restaurant critics' picks of the latest and best eats around the country this week including Fish & Chips by Fish Face, Brutale, Chester Street Bakery & Bar, and The Daniel O'Connell Hotel.
Fish & Chips by Fish Face
This is not your ordinary chippa. The fish are bought whole, guts and all, as fresh as anything in the country, dry-filleted on the premises and cooked with rare finesse. Translation: pristine flavours, perfect texture. It's basically Fish Face stripped back to counter service, a pair of house wines and Murray's Whale Ale on tap, and plenty of punters popping in for takeaway. Josh Niland, the chef who runs the joint while Stephen Hodges, the Obi-Wan Kenobi of the seafood scene, readies the new Fish Face over in Double Bay, can't quite help slipping in a few flourishes, though. In addition to the battered, crisp-skinned, crumbed and grilled fillets (bluespotted flathead, sand whiting, red gurnard and ocean perch are among the respective options), there's also a sweet little piece of yellowfin, grilled on one side and seasoned with seaweed salt. The chips (Sydney's best) are complemented by outstanding, super-crunchy potato scallops (Sydney's best), and Josh pickles the onions before he turns them into onion rings, making them - yes - Sydney's best. This, me hearties, is fish and chips to be reckoned with. Fish & Chips by Fish Face, 132 Darlinghurst Rd, Darlinghurst, NSW, (02) 9332 4803. PAT NOURSE
With its posturing name, knuckleduster logo, cellar-like fit-out and décor that includes military helmets as lightshades and a whole pig hanging illuminated in an glass case, Brutale is not without a sense of humour. But there's more going on at this Croatian bar and restaurant than ironic clichés. Chef Daniel Dobra (ex-Aylesbury) is channelling his roots and dishing up family recipes from his dad's oxtail goulash to his grandma's raisin-bread-like doughnuts (served with a walnut cream). Flavours are big and often meaty but there's good fish and veg to be had too, such as a pickled and preserved fish platter, and a brilliant silverbeet, broccoli and potato side dish called blitva. A compact list of Eastern European wines plus plenty of rakija, the Balkans' fruit brandies, served in little glass bottles, keeps Brutale nicely on theme. Brutale, 18 Corrs Ln, Melbourne, Vic, (03) 9654 4411. MICHAEL HARDEN
Chester Street Bakery & Bar
An artisan bakery-café that becomes a bar-eatery by night, the latest hotspot from Damian Griffiths exemplifies the trend for hybrids perfectly. But then again you'd expect the owner of such pioneering venues as Limes Hotel, Alfred & Constance and Alfredo's Pizzeria to be in tune with the zeitgeist. Grab your mates and fill the communal table parallel to the bar, pull up a recycled garden-style chair on the deck, or settle on a Scandi-style stool in the white tiled bakery space. At night, a brace of market specials round out the core menu: a pork cutlet on a smoky white bean ragoût, say, or local goldband snapper with spring vegetables. Braised leek and bacon croquettes are a more-ish nibble for that first glass, while a cracking old-school duck and mushroom pie makes a compelling case for keeping it simple. Chester Street Bakery & Bar, 32a Chester St, Newstead, Brisbane, Qld, (07) 3852 4130. FIONA DONNELLY
The Daniel O'Connell Hotel
Adelaide has been slow to celebrate nose-to-tail dining, but new owners at The Daniel O'Connell Hotel have given the green light to its chefs Aaron Gillespie (formerly of Grace the Establishment) and Phil Whitmarsh to buy whole beasts from butcher Richard Gunner, break them down in the kitchen and use every last bit of them. Offal and secondary cuts cooked smartly feature all across the pub's many dining options, from bites at the front bar to à la carte in the dining room, and a five-course $65 kitchen menu. If you love meaty intensity, try the beef shin with mushrooms and bone marrow dumplings, or, for a snack with grunt, try pig's trotters on toast with egg, pickled onion and crackling. The Daniel O'Connell Hotel, 165 Tynte St, North Adelaide, SA, (08) 8267 4032. DAVID SLY
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