Restaurant News

Josh Niland is cooking an all-fish affair at Melbourne’s Supernormal

The five-course set-menu lunch, and the launch of his first cookbook, further cement Niland's unofficial title as our national fish whisperer.

By Yvonne C Lam
Chef Josh Niland.
Whenever Josh Niland visits Melbourne, he has crumpets on his mind. "Julie [Saint Peter co-owner, and Josh's wife] and I get a cab from the airport and head straight to Cumulus Inc for breakfast," says Niland. "Their crumpet is the best ever."
It's a good call. The house-made crumpets at Andrew McConnell's all-day venue are legendary amongst Melbourne's brunch-going set, and were the inspiration for Niland's sea urchin-topped version on Saint Peter's weekend breakfast menu.
On September 11, the crumpets will make a guest appearance at Melbourne's Supernormal, the modern-Asian venture of McConnell's restaurant empire. There, Niland will hold the Melbourne launch of his seafood tome The Whole Fish Cookbook with an all-fish lunch to match.
The Whole Fish Cookbook. Photo: Rob Palmer
On the menu, five courses that further cement Niland's unofficial title as Australia's Fish Whisperer: a cheeseburger inlaid with swordfish bacon. Salt-and-pepper hapuka eye chip, with the fish eyes blitzed and fried to resemble a prawn cracker. A dessert of chocolate and caramel, with the latter confected from Murray cod fat.
And then there are those crumpets, this time topped with wild kingfish stomach XO sauce. The stomach is brined and steamed, transforming it into something tender, gelatinous and textural; then stirred through an XO sauce made from smoked and dried fish hearts, liver, spleen and roe. "It's like a traditional XO sauce, but the dried organs replace the scallops and abalone – it takes on a rich, complex umami flavour," says Niland. And, he adds, there's nothing like a hot, buttered crumpet to help distract diners from their initial discomfort of eating fish stomach.
Fish eye chip. Photo: Rob Palmer
In addition to the lunch, Niland will also join McConnell's Kitchen Sessions line-up, a masterclass series for the head chefs at McConnell's restaurants – previous guests include Gourmet Traveller's Sommelier of the Year Leanne Altmann and Tulum's Coskum Uysal. For McConnell and Niland, it's a rare opportunity to collaborate after first meeting at Sydney's Est some 11 years ago.
"I was 18 or 19 working with [Est's then head-chef] Peter Doyle, and Andrew brought a Cutler & Co dinner to the restaurant. Collab dinners at the time were rare," says Niland. Back then, the young chef was "blown away" by McConnell's organisation and creativity, and the pair has since formed a friendship and mutual admiration for each other's cooking.
"I admire Andrew a lot – I do seek to attain that same level of generosity and care that he has across all his venues," says Niland. "It's very flattering to be asked to be part of his Kitchen Sessions series."
Josh Niland's The Whole Fish lunch at Supernormal is on Wednesday 11 September, noon.
Supernormal, 180 Flinders Ln, Melbourne, Vic.
Tickets are $205, which includes a five-course lunch and a signed copy of The Whole Fish Cookbook. Tickets available at supernormal.net.au
The Whole Fish Cookbook by Josh Niland (Hardie Grant Books, $55) is out now.
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