International recognition isn't exactly new to Josh Niland. The Sydney-based chef has been fawned over by Jamie Oliver, Nigella Lawson, Matty Matheson and countless other chefs and writers of worldly fame, while his first book The Whole Fish Cookbook — reprinted in over a dozen languages — is the only Australian publication to win the coveted James Beard Book of the Year award.
But it's the opening of Fysh last week, the chef's signature restaurant in Singapore's extravagant new Edition Hotel, that marks Niland's official debut as an international restaurateur.
Pitched as a pescatarian steakhouse, Fysh not only marks the inventive chef's first fixed overseas venture, but his most scaled-up operation. From a fern-lined walkway off the hotel's minimalistic lobby, tall timber-lined doorways reveal the vast, bright ground floor dining room beset with candle-dotted booths and more ferns. A giant vintage Singaporean woodcut peers from above the bar at one end of the room, but otherwise this is the kind of grand, commanding room that could be home to any renowned chef anywhere in the world.
Though they boast fewer than 20 hotels, the Edition brand — a collaboration between Marriott International and Studio 54 creator Ian Schrager — has already partnered with a host of culinary heavy-hitters. Michelin star-wielding and World's 50 Best chefs Tom Aikens, John Fraser, Jason Atherton and Enrique Olvera are among the big names behind other Edition Hotel eateries, charged with pairing the singular personality of each hotel with a similarly boutique dining experience.
For Niland, of course, that means a journey under the sea. Even in its early days — GT visited during Fysh's opening weekend — the months of work the chef and his Saint Peter Paddington and Fish Butchery collaborator Luke Cawsey have done building the menu are evident in the smart, focused and fun fish trickery on show.
Clams showered in a coarse, deeply savoury XO crumble gather over al dente noodles made of Murray cod bones; trout roe pearls peek out of a pool of crème fraîche custard held in a crisp tart shell; and outstretched scampi halves float in a buttery fish bisque that's mopped up by sheets torn from a tightly coiled garlic bread croissant. All served on plates made from fish bones fashioned by Australian ceramicist Sam Gordon.
The steakhouse concept comes to bear through the mains; a list of smartly butchered, dry-aged fish wheeled out of the kitchen on a trolley for approval before being grilled, sliced and served with a collection of house-made condiments. Yellowfin tuna ribeye, spear-handled turbot chop and bone-in swordfish sirloin all showcase not only Niland's reverence for his produce and dab-hand at cooking aquatic proteins but also his legendary knack for drawing the most out of every ingredient.
To that end, the Murray cod fat washed gin in the house Martini gains complexity (rather than a piscine scent), just as the yellowfin eyeballs that bind the chocolate macaron-accompanying ice-cream bring creaminess without a hint of tuna.
In time, Niland says he hopes to incorporate a more localised set of ingredients, building a larder sourced from around the island, but for now he's using his Singaporean debut as an opportunity to showcase produce from some of his trusted Australian suppliers to a new global audience.
With his global attention, it seems unlikely that Fysh will be the chef's only voyage to distant shores. This confidently emphatic international debut already gives those outside Australia the chance to see what we've known since Saint Peter's opening in 2016 — that nobody is as good with a fish as Josh Niland.