Sustainable Fish, Differently

02 May 2018 Sustainable Fish, Differently

Walking down Oxford Street, Paddington, Sydney, I must admit that a fish butcher isn’t exactly what I’d expect to see around here. Nonetheless, when I arrive at Josh Niland’s newest venture, Fish Butchery, it looks like it’s exactly where it should be, and it is pumping. Opening the glass door to the butcher, a wave of familiar deep-fried fish and chip smell washes over me, and I’m taken back to memories of fish and chips by the beach with family. However, looking around, this is a long way from the traditional family-run store. 

The shop is buzzing with customers, and the presentation is modern and minimal. The shiny and colourful fish contrast with the stripped back, simple interiors of the shop. Niland has set up his fish butcher just down the road from his popular and experimental restaurant, Saint Peter, and it appears to already be cementing itself as a staple stop off for locals and fans of his restaurant. 

The ”Fish Box” at Josh Niland’s Fish Butchery. Photo taken by Julia Curry.

Talking to Niland about the shop’s concept, he comments on the media attention Fish Butchery has received. They have been labelling it as a crazy new idea and the first of its kind in Australia – but he disagrees. It is rather what Australians have become used to as the norm within our community. We generally understand fish and seafood differently to many other countries and cultures around the world. Unlike our neighbouring Asian countries, where the creamy texture of a fish eye is a popular flavour, the standard Aussie is not going to know much about different fish species. Despite regarding myself to be a sustainable seafood advocate, I don’t hold much knowledge beyond the standard salmon, snapper and prawns, and the different flavours they possess - let alone knowing how to cook them at home. 

This is where the Fish Butchery comes in. Niland is ready and waiting for his customers to not be afraid to try something different and ask for cooking advice. The potential for education and a shift in societal perspective here is massive. Niland reflects on his time learning at TAFE, stating that it is standard practice to be taught that fish is a “40% yield” animal.  We both agree that fish shouldn’t be seen in this way. We need to learn – or ‘re-learn’ how to use and eat fish. It’s what they do in any other butcher for beef, lamb and chicken. As we push and squeeze our marine resources, demanding more from our oceans as populations continue to grow, we need to better utilise our produce. Working with MSC-certified* Walker Seafoods, and local producers Signature Oysters and Corner Inlet fisheries to source sustainable and seasonal produce, Niland is conscious of his environmental impact and also produces minimal food waste at his butcher.

Try take-away - Batter Fried Corner Inlet Rock Flathead or Fried Wallis Lakes School Prawns. Photo by Julia Curry.

I recommend you try the deliciously crunchy deep-fried whole school prawns from Wallis Lakes, with their homemade hot cocktail sauce, from their ever-changing takeaway menu. Niland’s Fish Butchery is a reminder that we are hunting wild fish – our seafood options are not endless. When we go to the shops what we choose for dinner should be dependent on what season it is, and what the weather was doing this morning.

"Let the oceans choose what you try for dinner tonight" - Josh Niland.

*MSC = Marine Stewardship Council.

Julia Curry - Fair Food Forager Sustainability Seafood Ambassador

Watch this space for our new Surfrider Foundation / Ocean Friendly partnership

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