To get an idea of the kind of fish and chip shop Paper Fish is, look no further than the potato cakes. For starters, there's a choice: a sweet potato cake and the one you really want, the Japanese potato cake. A similar size to a regular potato cake but plump, it's made with mashed potato mixed with peas and diced carrot that's dunked in tempura batter and fried. The good-looking golden crust has a satisfying amount of crisp resistance before it shatters to reveal its creamy, comforting and well-seasoned insides. It's an ideal snack, especially after a dip in the bay.
Tempura fried fish with chips, seasoned crinkle cut chips, cucumber salad and granitas.
Tempura is the batter of choice across the menu at Paper Fish, the first part of the dramatic new Robert Simeoni-designed Stokehouse Precinct to open for business. Sitting kiosk-like on the boardwalk with its grey tiled counter, palm-shaded grass and blocky timber communal furniture, it presents as a thoroughly modern version of the beachside takeaway but does it without being annoying. Sure there are coconut prawn tacos on the menu but there's also straight fish and (excellent, crinkle-cut) chips too.
Paper fish kiosk.
Ollie Hansford, the Brit heading the kitchen at upstairs restaurant Stokehouse has overseen the menu which includes a choice of three fish, perhaps flat head, blue grenadier and gummy, plus king fish wings sprinkled with togarashi and a fritto misto served in a paper cone. Grilled fish is an option but purists will be happy with the frying here - the batter drains well and keeps its crunch around the impressively moist fish.
Sweet potato cakes.
Another advantage of this being a latter day fish and chip shop is that there's alcohol. Everything, including the wine, comes in cans, in the spirit of keeping glass away from the boardwalk and the beach. The beer, Balter XPA from Queensland, has suitably beachy connection, given that shark-punching surf legend Mick Fanning is a partner in the business. The queues, come summer and when construction at Stokehouse finally falls silent, will be lengthy. But for those who hate standing around, Paper Fish is in the midst of developing an app so that will enable punters to order from and then have food delivered to the comfort of their very own towel on the beach. It's that kind of fish and chip shop.
Paper Fish, 30 Jacka Blvd, St Kilda, Vic, open daily, noon-late, paperfish.com.au